There are statistics which can both support and refute this. As now, there was a substantial portion of the population that seldom drank. A rural farmer who was drunk all the time would lose his farm. In the city it was often true that drinking at the tavern was the only recreation available for some men, especially if they shared a tenement and really had no place to go home and relax. The newspapers of the time are full of stories of drunken brawls, but, of course, they didn't publish many stories about the men who went home to their families. Probably the most impressive stories of consumption are from some of the old brewery workers. One hears or reads about workers who had 20-30 beers a day and still managed to do their jobs safely.