Every time you enjoy a beer, a percentage of alcohol in your body will rise to a particular level. Still, there are certain situations where you don’t want the test to show the alcohol presence, whether it is a court-ordered test, a routine check at work, or a police officer pulls you over.
The answer to the question of how long does beer stay in your system depends on several factors. In fact, the right question is how long alcohol will stay in your blood, urine, and hair. Let’s see.
Beer ABV Value
Every beer contains alcohol, even those that breweries advertise as non-alcoholic. The only difference is in the ABV (alcohol by volume) value. The ABV number on a label shows how many milliliters of ethanol alcohol are there in 100 ml of beer at 68 F (20 C).
Some beers have only 2 or 3% alcohol, while others can be stronger than vodka or rum. Believe it or not, you can find beers with more than 30% ABV nowadays. Quite logically, the stronger beer means that alcohol stays longer in your body. The rule of thumb is that the average human body can process one standard drink per hour.
Talking about beer, one standard drink is 12 ounces (0.35 l) of 5% beer. If you drink stronger beer or drink more of them in a short time, you will need more time to sober up and remove alcohol from your body.
Plus, different beer types vary in ABV. For example, the average light lager has around 4% ABV, while the blond ale has between 4.5 and 6%. Porters and stouts are somewhat stronger than lagers, depending on the brand.
Typical porter has between 6 and 8% ABV, and stouts values go up to 12%. How long your body needs to deal with alcohol will depend on other factors, including your body type and whether you had dinner before drinking beer.
Beer BAC Value
BAC (blood alcohol concentration) is a unit of measure that is officially used to determine the drunkenness level and the detoxification degree. As long as beer stays in your system, you will have some alcohol level in your bloodstream.
For example, a police officer will use the breathalyzer to determine that alcohol level when they pull you over, suspecting driving intoxication. This device measures BAC over your breath. You shouldn’t drive with BAC above 0.08% in any US state except Utah, where an upper limit is 0.05%.
As your body breaks down alcohol, the BAC number will decrease. On average, one beer with 5% alcohol will raise your BAC by 0.02%. That means the alcohol in your blood will stay within acceptable limits if you take only one beer per hour.
However, having another beer means that alcohol will stay in your body longer. For instance, if you drink two beers between 8 and 10 PM, the beer will remain in your system past 11 PM.
Factors Affecting BAC
The time it takes your body to get rid of the beer you drank will depend on many factors. The crucial ones are:
- Body type
- Weight and height
- Food intake
- Number of drinks
All of these factors affect how much beer will stay in your blood. As you get older, your metabolism slows down, so your liver breaks down alcohol more slowly. Taller and heavier people tolerate alcohol better than short and thin ones, while men have an advantage over women.
Plus, people have different tolerances for alcohol. The less you drink regularly, the faster the beer will make you drunk, and the body will need more time to break it down.
Once you have a beer, alcohol spreads rapidly throughout the body via the bloodstream. There are only three ways for the body to excrete the alcohol you ingest with beer. These are sweat, urination, and breath. Your body will absorb the rest of the alcohol, which may lead to severe health consequences over time.
As soon as you sip a beer, your mouth and tongue’s blood vessels will absorb some of the alcohol.
Up to 80% of alcohol reaches the blood directly through the small intestine. If you eat before drinking, food in the stomach will slow down the alcohol transfer and give the liver extra time to break it down.
If you drink more than one beer per hour, there is an excess of alcohol in the blood that the liver can’t break down fast enough. This alcohol will circulate in the blood vessels throughout the body and negatively affects all your organs.
A healthy liver can absorb about 80% of the alcohol you ingest and break it down into water and carbon dioxide. The enzyme ADH (alcohol dehydrogenase) activity will break down an average of one standard drink per hour.
The kidneys’ role is to purify the blood and regulate fluid levels in the body. As a result, you will excrete some alcohol through urine.
Some people feel the effect of alcohol only ten minutes after drinking beer. The reason is ethanol entering the brain and affecting reflexes, mood, and speech.
When alcohol-contaminated blood reaches the lungs, a small percentage of the alcohol dissolves into the gas, and you will expel it through the air.
Every time you drink a beer, its alcohol component stays in your body for a certain amount of time. Nowadays, various tests measure alcohol levels.
Keep in mind that a few hours after drinking won’t be enough to become sober, which can be crucial if you need to take a mandatory alcohol test. It takes some time since you drink the last beer, depending on the type of test.
Alcohol will stay for the shortest time in sweat. Most tests can detect it no more than four hours after drinking the drink.
Alcohol stays in your blood until your liver entirely breaks it down. The time limit for alcohol detection depends on your liver health, the number of drinks, and your metabolism.
Assuming that driving limiting BAC is 0.08%, be prepared that tests can detect this alcohol level even after six hours.
Although officers typically use a breathalyzer to determine your current sobriety level, it can detect alcohol in your breath even after 24 hours.
As with the abuse of other toxic substances, alcohol residues remain in the hair for a long time. Just one lock of hair is enough to detect alcohol after as much as three months since the last beer you drank.
Urine accuracy, like blood tests, depends in large part on your metabolism speed. Modern urine tests are super sensitive and can determine the presence of alcohol metabolites even after five days.
The test used by swab on the inside of the cheek is not accurate. That is why officers rarely use it. Still, it can detect the presence of alcohol between 10 and 24 hours after consumption.
EtG Test and Its Results
The most common test to track down alcohol in your blood, urine, and hair is the EtG test. It traces ethyl glucuronide, the residues of alcohol breakdown. This test type is highly sensitive and can be used for up to 80 hours after consumption.
Unfortunately, its ability to find the slightest trace of EtG means that it happens relatively often to be positive. It can detect a beer you took a night ago, but it will also be occasionally positive if you use:
- Cleaning solutions
- Food prepared with alcohol
- Hand sanitizer
Any food or product containing alcohol can get you in trouble, considering most of these tests are court-ordered. They are also required before liver transplantation or at your job, depending on your profession.
Therefore, the EtG test can show a positive result even if there is no beer left in your body. Luckily, people using these tests are aware of its faults, so they make a distinction between several results categories:
- High positive
- Low positive
- Very low positive
Quick Alcohol Elimination
Unfortunately, there is not much that will help you get rid of beer faster from your body. Many myths are associated with quick sobering, from showering with cold water to various vitamin bombs and shakes.
Some may help you clear your mind, like a cup of strong coffee, but none will help with decreasing alcohol levels in the bloodstream. What you need is time to process alcohol naturally, so you should think in advance and:
- Drink plenty of water
- Avoid alcohol if you take any medication
- Count your beers
- Take some time between two beers
- Eat something before you grab a beer
- Get some quality sleep
The time it takes to get a beer out of your body depends on many factors. Beers with a higher ABV will stay in your body longer than light and non-alcoholic brews. Some of the alcohol is excreted in sweat, urine, and breath while the liver breaks down the rest.