New hope for the beer business?
According to recent survey by Consumer Edge Insight, 39 percent of alcohol-drinking consumers name beer as their favorite category.
Trailing beer was spirits at 31 percent and wine at 25 percent. Consumers named flavored malt beverages 4 percent of the time and alcoholic cider was last at 1 percent.
That's good news for the beer industry as the category has been beaten down in recent years. For the past three years, the category saw declines in volume, (which measures sales without regard to price or currency changes). However, some expect 2012 may be the year the trend is reversed.
(Read More: Craft Beer Industry Continues to Surge)
Still, there are some concerns. According to the study, among alcohol drinkers aged 21 to 27 years old, spirits beat beer as the favored beverage 36 percent to 34 percent.
The results are also mixed in terms of gender, with 50 percent of men naming beer as their preferred beverage and 29 percent preferring spirits. In contrast, wine grabbed the No. 1 spot with women, with 36 percent preferring wine, and 33 percent naming spirits as their chosen beverage. Beer finished third among women at 14 percent.
(Read More: The World's Best Beers)
"While beer is still the most-consumed and is the favorite alcoholic beverage of the most people, there are reasons for brewers to worry," said David Decker, president at Consumer Edge Insight. "The sizeable gender gap in preferences is not new, but is a key issue that needs to be addressed. And the bad news is that young adults aged 21 to 27 years old are more likely to prefer spirits to beer."
-By Tom Rotunno, CNBC Senior Editor