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Cheers to Cheap Beer: Illinois Brews Won’t Hurt Your Wallet

Katie Anthony | The PhoenixIllinois took first place for 2019’s cheapest beer, beating Michigan — whose average beer prices jumped by nearly $1.50 from 2017. The most expensive state for 2019 is Alaska, where a 24-pack will cost $31.21.

Many college students might say booze is what breaks their bank account, but students in Illinois are better off than their peers in other states. Illinois has the cheapest beer prices in the nation, according to a new study.

A study by the website Simple.Thrifty.Living, a consumer-driven finance site, concluded Illinois is the cheapest state to buy beer. In Illinois, the average price of a 24-pack of the nation’s most popular beers, Bud Light and Miller Lite, is $15.20 without tax, according to the study.

Illinois’ average beer price jumped $0.20 from when the same study was conducted in 2017 but still took first place from Michigan, where beer prices went from an average of $14.62 in 2017 to $16.07 in 2019.

Illinois residents can expect beer to cost almost half as much than a pack in Alaska — the most expensive beer-buying state — where a 24-pack will cost $31.21, according to the study. South Carolina falls just behind Illinois at $15.32 and New York trails at $15.98.

At Bruno’s Lounge, a popular booze stop for of-age Loyola students on North Sheridan Road across the street from Loyola’s Lake Shore Campus, a 15-pack of Bud Light or Miller Lite costs $12.95 — with tax. Manager Tim Roti, who’s been at Bruno’s for 30 years, was surprised by the results of the study and said he thinks the results would be much different had the prices included tax.

Roti said what matters is the “out the door price,” which is why most of the beverages he sells are labeled with tax included.

“The price I get it at is the price you get it at,” Roti said. “There’s no games.”

Illinois has the 28th highest tax rate on beer  in the nation, at $0.28 per gallon, according to Tax Foundation, plus Illinois’ 6.25 percent sales tax also applies to beer. That means, for a $15.20 average case of Bud Light or Miller Lite, Illinoisans also must consider almost $2.00 in tax at checkout.

Bruno’s stopped carrying 24-packs, the case size the study was based on — Roti said they were too expensive for students and more difficult to handle.

Anthony Terenzio, a 21-year-old English and Italian literature major from Hanover Park, said he has experienced higher beer prices in the city than in other parts of the state, which is why the results might be surprising for a Loyola student.

“I feel like beer prices in Chicago aren’t that cheap, but I guess the rest of the state must make a difference,” the senior Loyola student said.

Terenzio said he expects to spend about $20 on beer when drinking on the weekends, typically reaching for Busch Light, a brand of cheap beer popular amongst college students.

Anthony Valentino, a junior studying accounting and information systems, said he thinks it’s important to keep beer prices low because students might begin choosing a bottle of liquor with a high alcohol content over a case of beer if the prices become too similar.

“If you’re going to have to spend $20 on a case of beer, you might as well spend $20 on a fifth of vodka, and that’s when you start to get into more trouble,” Valentino said.

Valentino said he didn’t notice a much of a difference between buying beer in Illinois compared to his home state of Ohio, where the average cost of a 24-pack is $19.04, according to the study.

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