Ravens playoff games boost Maryland's beer industry

January is the slack season for beer between the holidays and St. Patrick's Day, but the playoffs can make a big difference. (Barbara Haddock Taylor / Baltimore Sun video)

Oh, 6.54 million gallons of beer on the wall, 6.54 million gallons of beer …

Even if they don’t have Maryland’s annual alcoholic beverage sales statistics handy, local liquor store owners, bartenders and beverage distributors might hum a drinking song this weekend.


The Baltimore Ravens will play at home Sunday in their first National Football League playoff game in four years — boosting beer sales statewide in January, which is typically the industry’s slowest month of the year.

“When the Ravens are in the playoffs, that’s huge for our business,” said Evan Athanas, CEO of Chesapeake Beverage Co, which holds the Budweiser distributorship in the city of Baltimore and surrounding counties and also sells such brands as Guinness and Michelob.


“Beer sales are very seasonal. They’re driven by temperature,” Athanas said. “Once we leave the busy holiday season, we’re usually counting the days until St. Patrick’s Day. But when the Ravens are in the playoffs, that can bridge us into March.”

What makes the Ravens offense difficult to stop — the novelty of the play calls, the threat of an athletic quarterback as a runner — is also what will force it to evolve.

Businesses throughout Baltimore boom when the Ravens are battling their way towards the Super Bowl once the regular season ends, and they benefit even more when the team plays at home. The postseason game brings extra customers to such businesses as restaurants and bars, parking garages, the mass transit system, hotels and motels, and T-shirt vendors.

Lester Jones, chief economist for the National Beer Wholesalers Association, provided a “ballpark” estimate for typical beer sales in January. When M&T Bank Stadium is dark, he said, beer purchases in Maryland account for roughly $21.5 million in retail sales a week. But during a January playoff week, when residents host football parties and flock to their neighborhood pubs to watch the big game, beer consumption will jump about 20 percent, or about an additional $4.3 million.

For instance, in January 2017, when the Ravens weren’t in the playoffs, 5.45 million gallons of beer were sold statewide, according to a report prepared by the comptroller of Maryland. A 20 percent leap in January 2019 during the postseason would boost the state’s beer consumption to roughly 6.54 million gallons.

As Jones put it: “These extra retail sales translate into more wages, more taxes, and more overall economic activity for the entire state.”

When the Ravens clinched their first playoff berth in four years, the game ball went to an understated 62-year-old who's about to leave his job of 23 years. That man, Ozzie Newsome, is widely admired as the chief architect of the organization.

The Bond Distributing Co. has been run by the same family for the past three generations and has operated in Baltimore for 68 years. Leslie Schaller, a vice president for the company, saw her 180 employees’ spirits lift visibly this past week as they prepared for the game.

“We’re all football fans and we’ve been running around like crazy trying to get beer to our customers,” she said with a laugh. “It’s been hectic and frenetic and fun.”

Bond distributes MillerCoors products as well as such specialty brands as Natty Boh, Sam Adams and Moosehead Lager.

“Fortunately, sports is a beer-drinking occasion,” Schaller said. “When Baltimore’s sports teams do well, we sell a lot more beer. The last several Januarys when the Ravens weren’t in the playoffs have been tough.”

Partly that’s because beer sales have softened during the past few years nationwide, she said, and that’s partly because Maryland isn’t a big beer-drinking state to begin with. The 20.1 gallons of beer a year downed by the typical Maryland adult each year amounts to the second-lowest consumption rate per capita of all 50 states and the District of Columbia.

Only in Utah, which has a large Mormon population and has passed some of the strictest liquor laws in the U.S. do adults typically drink fewer brewskis than they do here.

“We’re going to hope,” Schaller said, “that the Ravens win on Sunday and continue their postseason run.”

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