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How Much Alcohol is in Beer, Wine, and Other Liquor?

Bar patrons lined up with their alcoholic drinks.
Although the average alcohol content of a Bud Light is 4.2%, the average alcohol content of craft beer is often much higher.

You’ve probably heard it said that a shot, a glass of wine and a beer all contain the same amount of alcohol. That used to be (mostly) true, but then the craft beer market exploded.

These days, your beer could have an alcohol content of anywhere from 2 to 20 percent—or even higher.

How Much Alcohol is in Beer?

Most drinkers don’t understand, or even care, what percent of alcohol is in beer. And while Bud Light comes in at 4.2 percent alcohol, craft beer usually has a much higher ABV (alcohol by volume).

The consumer research group Mintel found that the average alcohol content of craft beer is 5.9 percent. However, that doesn’t mean that craft beer you’re drinking is 5.9%: there are many heavyweight beers that can have as much alcohol as 20 percent alcohol per serving. If you’re drinking a 17.5 percent Samuel Adams Triple Bock, a 12–ounce serving clocks in at way more than 14 grams of alcohol. So, while you may think you’re drinking one beer, you’re actually drinking the equivalent of 3.5 drinks.

It should be pointed out that the amount of liquid in your beer glass, can, or bottle does not necessarily add up to how much alcohol is in that drink. Different types of beer can have varying amounts of alcohol.

In the US, a standard drink is about 14 grams of pure alcohol. This amount of alcohol can be found in 12 ounces of regular beer, usually 5% alcohol.

The amount of alcohol in a beer is given in terms of ABV (alcohol by volume), usually printed on the bottle or can. This is the ethanol percentage found in 3.4 ounces (or 100 ml) of beer at 68 degrees (20C). This means that 12 ounces of beer with 5% ABV has 0.6 ounces of pure alcohol in it.

Most commercially produced beers have an ABV of 4 to 7, while as we have seen, craft beer has much more.

ABV By Different Style of Beer

  • American Pale Ales are golden brown to deep amber with a medium body and moderate hop flavor. The average American Pale Ale has an ABV of 4.4% to 5.5%
  • India Pale Ales are newer and quite popular in the US, having a slightly darker color and higher concentration of hop flavor. IPAs typically have an ABV of 6.3% to 7.5%.
  • Double IPAs or Imperial IPAs have a stronger flavor than regular IPAs, a more bitter taste, and a higher alcohol content, usually between 7% and 14% ABV.
  • Stouts are very dark and can vary widely in how they taste. Their ABVs can be anywhere from 4% to 9%.
  • Wheat beers utilize wheat as their malt and have a lighter color and less alcohol content. Their ABV can range from 3.5% to 5.6%.
  • Pilsners are a certain type of lager that are often pale gold and clear. Pilsners will have an ABV of anywhere from 4% to 5.3%.
  • Amber ales have a maltier and caramel-forward flavor with an ABV of 4.4% to 6.1%.
  • English Pale Ales have a milder and more maltier flavor than American Pale Ales. These have an ABV of 4.5% to 5.5%.


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What is the Average Alcohol Content of Wine?

In the United States, a standard serving of alcohol is considered to be 14 grams. When it comes to wine, which is usually about 12 percent alcohol, that’s roughly the equivalent of 5 ounces.

Although the alcohol content of wine doesn’t vary as much as beer, there are definitely differences. A California white zinfandel, for example, is usually about 12% alcohol, while a port could come in as high as 20%. That’s why a serving of port is usually only about 3 ounces. If you were to drink a “standard” 5 ounces of port, you’d actually be consuming 1.7 drinks.

What is the Average Alcohol Content of Vodka and Other Liquors?

Most types of liquor have an alcohol percentage of around 40 percent, which means that a standard serving is 1.5 ounces. Unlike beer and wine, there’s not a whole lot of variation.

Don’t Risk It: Use an Alcohol Calculator to Monitor Your Drinking

If that’s all getting a little confusing and you’d rather not do the math, the National Institutes of Health provides this drink size calculator. In the United States, if you have a blood-alcohol concentration (BAC) that meets or exceeds 0.8%, or even as low as 0.5% in some states, you could be at risk for a DUI.

According to the National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism (NIAAA), the serving size of a standard drink is 14 grams of pure alcohol. Now, that doesn’t mean that every drink will contain 14 grams of alcohol, but it’s a general rule to follow for measuring alcohol content.

Are You in Control of Your Alcohol Consumption?

Knowing exactly how much you’re drinking, after all, is the first step in staying in control of your drinking. Especially because the average beer alcohol percentage can change from drink to drink, it can be hard to know how much alcohol you are consuming until you stop and think.

Instead of worrying about what percent of alcohol is in the beer you’re drinking, consider the alternative. If you or a loved one have begun to lose control of your alcohol consumption, it’s time to speak up.

Treatment for Alcohol Use Disorders in Colorado

Don’t be afraid to seek help. Over time, alcohol can change the brain, making it difficult, if not impossible, for some people to stop drinking alcoholic beverages without help.

At The Raleigh House, we take a whole-person approach to recovery. That means we don’t just get the alcohol out of your system: we work with you to help you recover psychologically, mentally, spiritually and socially, as well.

Learn more about our alcohol addiction treatment program at The Raleigh House.

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