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The ABV of Craft Beers

Insight on Drink Strength

Carlsberg Elephant. It’s the name of a beer that I sometimes like to drink – sometimes as on special occasions and when I can find it at my local beer store. It’s been special to me ever since my wife and I toured the Carlsberg brewery back when we were twenty-something traveling through Denmark. Apparently, other people think it’s special too, because I notice that’s it’s available more often during this special time of the year.


The holidays are a special time for celebration, but in my line of work I often see the disastrous effects of over-indulgence, specifically as it relates to alcohol.  Most of us are aware of the age old adage of one beer is equal to one glass of wine, which is equal to one shot of alcohol.


1.5 oz Spirits = 5 oz Wine = 12 oz Beer


For those of you who have already been celebrating and would benefit from imagery:



The one beer in that equation refers to a 12 oz domestic beer – typically 5.0% alcohol. Most of what I refer to as domestic beer (e.g., Budweiser, Coors, Miller) has somewhere around 5% Alcohol by Volume (ABV). As a comparison, the alcohol content of Carlsberg Elephant is 7.2% – sold conveniently for my nostalgic enjoyment in six packs of 11.2 fluid oz bottles. Many craft brews are available today, especially around the holidays, which have an ABV of 9% or above. What this means is that you may have enjoyed two pints of beer during your holiday revelry, but you’re fooling yourself, and possibly endangering yourself, if you think you’ve only had two drinks. Let’s do some math to illustrate the proportional points;

  • Domestic Beer = 12 oz of beer at 5% ABV
    • alcohol per beer  =14 grams
    • two beers =28 grams of alcohol
    • ~5 beers for a 6’ 200 pound male to achieve a BAC of 0.08% after an hour
  • Carlsberg Elephant = 11.2 oz beer at 7.2% ABV
    • alcohol per beer = 18.8 grams or 1.35 domestic beers
    • two beers = 37.6 grams of alcohol
    • ~3.7 beers for a 6’ 200 pound male to achieve a BAC of 0.08% after an hour
  • Pint of Craft Beer =16 oz of beer at 9% ABV
    • alcohol per beer = 33.7 grams
    • two beers= 67.4 grams of alcohol
    • ~2.1 beers for a 6’ 200 pound male to achieve a BAC of 0.08% after an hour

As a result of its higher alcohol content, a bottle of Carlsberg Elephant (even though it’s a slightly smaller volume) equates to about 1.3 domestic beers. In-other- words, if I think that I’ve had three beers, I’ve actually had the equivalent of four standard drinks during those special Carlsberg Elephant occasions. Does it make a difference? Sure it does, for a 6’ 200 pound male it could be the difference between a blood alcohol concentration of ~ 0.06% and 0.04% after an hour. At a 0.06%, you’re below the current per se limit for driving while intoxicated, but you’re only one drink away from going over it for the remainder of the night for each additional drink per hour that you consume