As the popularity of craft breweries and small, craft-focused bars pop up around the Carolinas, you hear it a lot. “These snuck up on me!” “I can drink a whole case of beer at home!” While it may be obvious to some, the alcohol by volume in craft beer is usually much higher than that of a domestic. This means taking an extra step to watch your alcohol intake. The high ABV in craft beer creates a noticeable difference. Domestic beers are usually much lighter. But, what’s ABV anyway? And what does it mean for my beer?

ABV of Craft Beer: Heavier Than Domestic

What is ABV?

ABV is an abbreviation for alcohol by volume. Many wines are 13-15% but beers have a wider range. Budweiser is 5%, Miller Lite and Coors Light are both 4.2%, and Corona is 4.6%. These are the percentages of alcohol in each given container. The ABV of craft beer is important to note when drinking multiple beers in a sitting. In South Carolina, the limit is 17.5% for beer. That’s higher than most wines!

How do you determine ABV?

The measurement taken on unfermented beer shows the potential for a beer’s alcohol percentage. You cannot determine the ABV of craft beer until after the fermentation process takes place. Alcohol is basically sugar, so the amount of sugars that are left in the beer once brewing is complete determines the alcohol content. There is a simple explanation and we’re going to lay it out for you…

Big Beer, Small Glass

A general rule is to serve beers that are over 8% in smaller glasses. The bartender is not cheating you out of extra ounces, but simply taking the precautionary steps to serve responsibly. The ABV of craft beer usually requires this extra step so there is no over-serving. Pint glasses are 16oz, but the heavier beers commonly come in 10-12 ounce glasses.

In conclusion, it is your responsibility to know what you’re drinking. Most bars and breweries have the ABV of craft beers visible for patrons to see what they are consuming. Understanding your body and your beer will help you manage your alcohol consumption. As always, drink responsibly and be safe!