That Microbrew Might Be Stronger Than You Think

Beer has always been plentiful in the US – even when it was outlawed – but the beer landscape has changed in the past two decades. For most of the 20th Century there were national brands – the Budweisers, the Michelobs – and regional brands: Genesee in New York State, Olympia in Washington, National Bohemian in Baltimore, Stevens Point in Wisconsin.

beers have different alcohol contentsAn explosion of craft beers has changed all that. There are no less than 3000 craft breweries in the US today, brewing specialized beers for specialized tastes: IPAs, hefeweizens, bocks, stouts, and others, crowding supermarket and convenience store shelves with a dizzying array of choices.

Aficionados note that quality has risen. But so has alcohol content. And that matters because beer drinkers usually judge their ability to drive based on how man beers they’ve had.

A Miller Genuine Draft has a 4.7% ABV (alcohol by volume). A 170-pound man might be able to drink a few cans and still be under the .08 limit.DUI-Meter

But what if that person, confident he can still drive after three beers, orders three Samuel Adams Imperial Whites (ABV 10.3)? That’s the equivalent of over six Miller Genuine Drafts.

And there are stronger beers still, a single glass of some whose ABV equals three supermarket beers. So a drinker could be getting behind the wheel after “two beers” that are really six.

Craft beer fans are not ready to give up their favorite brews, so we recommend the alternative: do not drive after drinking. The fact is that even one beer impairs judgment and coordination. You need to wait for alcohol to metabolize, and that will take longer if you are drinking stronger craft beers.

The next time you order a beer, glance at the ABV number and do the math. As with taste, so it is with alcohol: every beer is different.