“Officer, I only had two beers.”
In the United States, the rule of thumb for how our body processes alcohol is cemented into our brains. Saddle up to the bar and ask any random patron, and you are sure to get the reply: “one drink an hour.” One drink is understood as one beer, one glass of wine, or one shot.
Unfortunately, this rule of thumb is completely misguided. Why? There has been a dramatic shift in how Americans consume beer. The “one beer an hour” rule of thumb is based on drinking a bottle of Bud–12 ounces of a 5% alcohol by volume (ABV) beer.
What Has Changed?
The beer we are consuming is getting stronger, and it is often delivered as a 16-ounce American pint as opposed to a 12-ounce bottle. We are often consuming beer from pints at a brewery or brewpub, which are at their highest point since 1870.
While we often overlook the pint-versus-bottle distinction, three pints is the same quantity as four bottles–a major difference that adds up. The rise of craft brewing, which has doubled its share of the US beer market in recent years, has brought with it a major uptick in the strength of beers. Our rule of thumb, however, has not adjusted.
How much has beer strength changed? A lot. While our definition of a standard beer has been 5% ABV, a 2014 study by consumer research group Mintel found that the average craft beer is 5.9 ABV. In 2014, one out of four new beers launched were 6.5 ABV of higher. The number of beers that were higher than…