hist-brewing: Different Alcohols

D. Butler-Ehle ulfin at portup.com
Sun Jan 6 07:45:52 PST 2002


Martyn Cornell writes:

>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.

A couple things here.  The article is purposely misleading. By
refering to "a 10% beer", it implies that such a thing is at all
common.  Most people have never even *seen* a beer that strong.
Almost all beers that people actually encounter are about half
that (4-6%).  Budweiser is about 5% abv; Guinness (not the watery
4% stuff in the can) is about 5.5%.  Hardly the 10% (12%abv?) the
article mentioned.  Sure...Old Ale, Doppelbock, Barleywine, and
Belgian Trippel exist, but I kinda doubt that it was referring
to them.

American beer strength has traditionally been express by weight
(although that has changed a lot recently).  This has been one of
the major contributors to the myth that common American beers are
extremely weak (when, in fact, they're only *somewhat* weak).
Flavorless yellow water, yes...but (roughly) full strength nonetheless.

It's possible that that's what they meant when it said they
were different alcohols.  A 10% beer (abw) is indeed stronger
than a 10% wine (usually measured abv in the US).  But a
common 4%abw beer only has half the alcohol of a 10%abv wine.

>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

Also, American beer isn't served in pints.  Cans and bottles
are 12oz US.  Beer on draught is usually 8-10oz US.  Brewpubs
frequently serve what they call a pint, but the glass capacity
is measured to the rim whereas in practice it only holds 12-13oz US.
(Some do use imperial pint glasses, marked with the Queen's line
and all that, but they're quite rare.)

And martinis are served in half-gallon buckets. (Er, maybe I
better find a different reference for that last part.  I think
my mate might be having me on about that one.)

Dan





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