The drink of choice for Canadians is still beer, but increasingly the beer of choice is imported, says Statistics Canada.

Beer accounted for 51 per cent of all alcohol sales at last count, said a new report.

Imported beer accounted for about 12 per cent of the beer market in 2003, up from just less than 10 per cent in 2002.

Domestic wines, at the same time, were grabbing a larger piece of the market away from the imports.

Nearly $7.9 billion was spent on beer across the country, an increase of 6.1 per cent over the year before. The increase in sales of imported beer outpaced domestic beer by a factor of 10.

"Consumers purchased $959.6 million in imported beer, up 34.7 per cent from the previous year and the ninth annual increase in a row," said the report. "During the same period, sales of domestic brands increased only 3.1 per cent to $6.9 billion."

Sales per capita were highest in Newfoundland and Labrador and lowest in Manitoba.

Nationally, consumers purchased an average of 85.6 litres of beer a person, 13.1 litres of wine, and 7.5 litres of spirits in 2002-03.

Among wines, red wines accounted for 56.9 per cent of the total wine market in terms of volume. And of the red wines, Quebecers bought 41.5 per cent.