Beer is one of the most popular beverages worldwide. Nowadays, you can find many types with various flavors. However, be prepared that all these drinks contain a certain amount of alcohol, even the non-alcoholic ones.
If you occasionally drink it, you will probably want to know how much alcohol is in beer. After all, most people want to enjoy the flavor without getting drunk. So, let’s see.
Brewers need to state the percentage of alcohol in their beer, and you can find this value on the label. Typically, it varies between 5% and 7%, depending on the beer and brand.
This figure can vary significantly in both directions. Some beers, with over 40% alcohol, are stronger than vodka or rum. At the same time, so-called low alcohol beers can contain a maximum of 1.2% alcohol.
Unfortunately, there has been a tendency for the percentage of alcohol in beer to increase in recent decades. Back in 1994, the strongest beer in the world was Vetter 33 at 10.5%.
Nowadays, that record is held by Snake Venom from Brewmeister Brewery with an incredible 67.5% alcohol. Luckily, the sale and serving of this drink are limited to one bottle per person.
Beer Classification by Alcohol Level
Up to 1996, breweries couldn’t emphasize the strength of beer on the label. The most common method was to print the percentage of alcohol, but you could also see ABV (alcohol by volume) and ABW (alcohol by weight) on the label.
Nowadays, different states have different methods of classifying beer. In the US, manufacturers use ABV and ABW numbers, but you can buy light (schankbier), medium (vollbier), or strong (starkbier) beer in Germany, for example.
Typically, light beers have up to 5% of alcohol, medium 5 to 8%, and the strong beers more than 8%. You can also see the light and strong labels next to alcohol percentage on some domestic beers.
Beer ABV and ABW Values
If you buy a beer in the US, you will probably see an ABV number printed on the bottle or can. This value defines ethanol percentage in 3.4 ounces (100 ml) of beer at 68 F (20 C) temperature.
Beers with an ABV higher than 4% are sometimes referred to as high-point beers in regulations. Until recently, you couldn’t buy such beers in grocery stores in some states. There were sold in liquor stores only and served in bars. Nowadays, Minnesota is the only US state with such regulations, while you can get 4+ ABV beers in all others.
The vast majority of domestic beers have between 5 and 14% ABV. Craft beers usually have an ABV greater than 8, which classifies them as strong beers with a lot of alcohol.
That means 12 ounces (354 ml) beer with 5% ABV contains 0.6 ounces (17.7 ml) pure alcohol. If you want to determine ABW (alcohol by weight) value for the same beer, you should multiply ABV by 0.8. In this particular case, an equation is:
0.05 x 0.8 = 0.04
Therefore, the ABW number is always lower than ABV, which is exactly why some brewers in the US (in Utah, for example) and India put it on the label.
If you want to convert ABW to ABV number, multiply it by 1.25. That way, you can compare how much alcohol is in two beers with different alcohol labels.
Average ABV by Beer Type
A particular brewery can produce several beer types, and you can choose between the various products with different alcohol percentages. Thus, lagers have an average ABV between 3 and 6%, while stouts are stronger with about 10%.
|English pale ale|
English brown ale
|American amber ale|
Herbed and spiced beer
Most commercially produced beers have 4 to 7 ABV. On the other hand, the special edition craft beers with seasonal flavors can have up to 20% alcohol.
A favorite children’s beverage, root beer, has the alcoholic variant with 5 to 10 ABV, depending on the brand. However, Small Town Brewery offers limited edition ‘Not Your Father’s Root Beer’ with a high 19.5%. You can enjoy this drink but keep it away from kids.
Alcohol unit is another measure for pure alcohol content in beer. If you are an average build type, your body will process one alcohol unit or approximately 0.3 ounces (9 ml) per hour.
If you want to calculate alcohol units quickly, you can use the equation:
Alcohol by Volume (ABV) x Volume (ml) / 1,000 = Number of units
Drinking one 12 ounces (350 ml) beer with 6% ABV means you will have 2.1 alcohol units in your bloodstream. If you don’t drink strong beers often, you will soon feel the first signs of alcohol. On the other hand, you will risk the consequences of excessive alcohol use if you drink more than 14 alcohol units a week.
According to the WHO, over 3 million people die every year from the consequences of alcoholism. Plus, excessive alcohol intake may cause many health conditions, such as heart disease, indigestion, and cancer.
The level of alcohol in your body depends on the amount of beer you drink. It will stay in your blood for over six hours and in your breath, urine, and saliva between 12 and 24 hours. Indicators of drunkenness depending on BAC (blood alcohol content) levels include:
- Poor coordination
- Stuttered speech
- Memory problems
- Reduced pain sensitivity
- Alcohol poisoning
Blood Alcohol Concentration
If a police officer stops you from drunk driving, they will measure your BAC. Regulations on the lawful amount of alcohol in the blood vary from state to state, but a person with BAC over 0.08 is considered legally drunk. However, for underage persons, the allowed limit is 0.01 BAC.
Whether you are drunk after a certain amount of beer or not will depend on your physique, beer ABV value, and your tolerance to alcohol. The BAC level decreases over time, but coffee, showering, or sleeping won’t speed up blood alcohol breakdown. Crucial factors that affect your body’s ability to absorb alcohol include:
- Body type and weight
- Food and water intake
- Alcohol tolerance
- Standard drinks number
Standard Drink Definition
There are numerous beer sizes, depending on whether you prefer beer in a glass, bottle, or can. Tracking your alcohol intake can be challenging without understanding the standard drink definition.
In the US, a standard drink contains approximately 0.5 ounces (14.7 ml) of alcohol. Therefore, a 12-ounces (355 ml) beer with 5% ABV is one standard drink.
According to the Dietary Guidelines for 2015 to 2020, a moderate drinking limit is one standard drink for women per day. A recommendation for men is a maximum of two drinks a day, but it doesn’t mean that you are sober after drinking two beers during one evening.
On the contrary, you can count two light beers as one standard drink. If you prefer a heavy craft beer, you will take more alcohol after drinking it than when consuming the same number of standard drinks.
All beers contain alcohol, and the only difference between alcoholic and non-alcoholic beers is in the percentage of alcohol. According to US law, a brewery can state that beer is non-alcoholic when it contains less than 0.05% ABV.
Nowadays, you can find four categories of beer available on the market, depending on the alcohol level they contain:
- Alcoholic beers – They have more than 1.2 ABV.
- Low-alcoholic beers – This type is with 0.5 to 1.2 ABV.
- Dealcoholized beers – They have less than 0.5% ABV.
- Non-alcoholic beers – Even this beer type has some alcohol, but it is always less than 0.05 ABV.
The term non-alcoholic is a synonym for alcohol-free beer, and brewers can choose which of these two labels to use. Be aware that alcohol is a natural result of yeast chemical reaction on sugars, and it is an unavoidable beer ingredient.
Luckily, brewers have methods to lower the alcohol percentage in their products. Some filter beers pass through various filters that partially separate alcohol. For producing others, manufacturers use the boiling process to lower beer ABV.
That means healthy drinks like boza, kefir, or kvass contain more alcohol than non-alcoholic beer. The same goes for rye bread or a piece of rum cake. Plus, one alcohol-free beer has fewer calories than the mentioned products. If you drink alcohol-free beer, you won’t get drunk since your body process alcohol faster than you ingest it.
The yeast fermentation creates alcohol in beer, but its level depends on a few factors, including the brand. Some breweries produce beers with a minimal ABV, while others offer high-point ones.
Be careful with drinking more than 14 alcohol units a week. In such a case, you will feel the effects of alcohol overuse that may permanently damage your health.