Bartenders are always saying, “Be careful with that [enter your strong beer here] it will really mess you up!”
Of course, my reply is: “They are all session beers to me!”
Who is correct here? Let’s do some math…math is fun!
A nice barley-wine comes in at, lets say, 12%. So 16 ounces times 12% equals 1.92 ounces of alcohol in the pint of Old Drunkenface Barley-wine (not an actual beer as far as I know!).
Most of my friendly bartenders at our local hangouts pour me a bourbon on the rocks at about two ounces. Your mileage may vary, usually proportionally to your tipping habits… At ninety proof, the alcohol content is just under an ounce.
At first glance it appears that strong beer and wine have a slight edge over hard liquor in terms of alcohol content. There are some other things to consider.
First, volume – or how much are you going to drink? Many craft beer drinkers like to switch around between the offerings available and try different styles of beers. The beers will have different levels of alcohol, and that could reduce the total intake over an evening. How many beers do you drink? Hell, how many beers do I drink? If I had to say, on a regular night out sampling a few delicious craft beers, I would average 5 beers. That would be 9.6 ounces of alcohol. If I were drinking Woodford Brothers Bourbon at a gathering of friends, it would not be out of the question to have 5 two ounce drinks which would bring me to just under 5 ounces of alcohol. A bottle of good vino has about the same alcohol content as the barley-wine, so a bottle has around 3 1/2 ounces of alcohol. Most people split one or maybe two, max. If you split two, that’s 3.5 oz alcohol.
So apparently, strong beer is the winner, at least in the amount of alcohol consumed in an evening.
What about the nature of alcohol? Is there a difference in the alcohol in beer and the alcohol in liquor or wine? My research shows no, not really. There is some evidence that liquor makes you more aggressive, but it’s easier to drink more liquor in my opinion. Maybe aggressive people drink liquor. Also, we beer folks are much more laid back.
My take on this is that the problem with strong beers is not that they are really strong; they are about the same as wine. It’s just that they are stronger than what most people usually drink. We seem to drink more beer than wine or liquor in a session. Guess I should let the bartenders of the world go ahead with the warning even though many of us aren’t really paying attention.
Go strong beer!
Lassaiz les bon temps rouler.