Beer Break Vol. 1, No. 36
Alcohol content and its effects
May 10, 2001
One of the questions we get most often at RealBeer.com goes like this: "Can
you tell me how strong (fill in the name of your favorite beer) is?" And one
of the best read entries in the Beer Break archives is the one titled How
strong is that beer?
So this week we'll take a break from discussing beer and flavor and talk more
about beer and alcohol. Before we list the alcohol content by volume of many
popular beers you might want to review the archives to make sure you are
clear about the difference between alcohol by volume and alcohol by weight.
We'll stick to abv this time around because that is the measure most of the
The biggest single reason people ask about alcohol content is because of very
valid concerns about driving while under the influence. The officials who
establish guidelines that provide an idea of the effects of alcohol define a
single drink as one 12-ounce beer of average (5% abv) strength.
They estimate that the average 160-pound man who consumes three drinks in an
hour will have a blood alcohol level of .07%, while four drinks would push it
to .09%. For a 140-pound woman, the numbers are .07% for two drinks and .10%
for three drinks. There is also recent evidence that women who want to match
men drink for drink should stick to beer.
Keep in mind that those numbers are for the first hour, and alcohol has a
cumulative effect. A man who drinks four beers in one hour need drink only
one beer in the next hour for his blood alcohol level to reach .10%.
Also, there are many variables beyond weight and sex -- if you are drinking
on a full or empty stomach, the altitude where you are drinking, your mood,
your metabolism, and so on. Any of these may be more important than small
variations between the alcohol content of one beer and another. But since you
asked, here is a list of popular beers and their approximate abv. Approximate
because not all breweries list that information and sometimes we've found
more than one number for a particular beer.
Anchor Steam - 5.0%
Budweiser - 4.7%
Bud Ice - 5.5%
Corona - 4.8%
Guinness Draft - 4.1%
Heineken - 5.2%
Miller Lite - 4.2%
New Belgium Fat Tire - 5.3%
Newcastle Brown - 4.5%
Pabst - 4.9%
Pete's Wicked Ale - 5.2%
Rolling Rock - 4.6%
Samuel Adams Boston Lager - 4.75%
Sierra Nevada Pale Ale - 5.3%
Stella Artois - 5.2%
BERLINER BÜRGERBRÄU MAIBOCK
Brewed by Berliner Bürgerbräu in Germany
Michael Jackson's tasting notes:
"... a creamy aroma; a relatively light body for this strong style; a faintly
buttery malt character; a grassy, herbal, hop finish. Its crispness of finish
is intended to add a refreshing edge to an otherwise quite powerful brew.
NORSKI HONEY BOCK
A maibock brewed by New Glarus Brewing in New Glarus, Wis.
Richard Steuven writes:
Golden amber, moderate carbonation and head. Big honey aroma, perfumey. Big
body, sweet, lots of honey and lots of malt. Very warming and tongue-drying.