Beer Break

Beer Break Vol. 1, No. 36
Alcohol content and its effects

May 10, 2001

One of the questions we get most often at 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 world uses.


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%

Tasting notes

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.

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.