hist-brewing: Different Alcohols

Martyn Cornell atrectus at blueyonder.co.uk
Sat Jan 5 15:59:35 PST 2002

Of course the alcohol in any properly-produced alcoholic drink is exactly
the same chemical be it wine, beer or spirits, and I would agree that this
"warning" about "different alcohols" appears to be a garbled and
misunderstood message not to underestimate the punch that a pint of strong
beer packs compared to a glass of wine. But is it accurate to say strong
beer is as powerful a hit as a martini? My rough-ish calculation suggests
that, if you look at them measure for measure, they are not that far apart.

All these figures are based on British measurements and habits and alcohol
by volume - sorry, can't handle the translation into American pints etc. I
guess the original statement was referring to alcohol by weight, so "a 10%
beer" would be a 12% abv beer, more or less. An Imperial pint of 12% abv
beer contains a smidgin over 6.8cl of pure alcohol. A standard British wine
glass contains 17.5cl, and with a wine of 12% abv that means 2.1cl of pure
alcohol. The classic cocktail glass contains about 6 fl oz (Imperial), and a
measure of a classic dry martini, six parts gin (at 40% abv) to one part dry
vermouth (at 18% abv) in a 6 fl oz glass comes in at just under 6.5cl of
pure alcohol. 

So - measure for measure, yes, if my estimates and calculations are right, a
pint of "a 10% beer", even a smaller US pint, contains a comparable amount
of alcohol to a glass of martini, and both are roughly three times as much
alcohol in total as a regular (British, at least) glass of wine ... thus the
warning, while inaccurately presented, seems to be based on a truth
somewhere back down the line.

Martyn Cornell

³Beer is a popular subject, and the literature abounds in unsupported
statements, misleading or inaccurate quotations and inaccurate references.²
D Gay Wilson, 1975

More information about the hist-brewing mailing list