Sam Adams University: U.S. vs. Canada

Cold, Hard Football Facts for Jan 17, 2007



By Cold, Hard Football Facts contributor Lew Bryson
 
Ever had a beer in Canada? Ever talked to a Canadian about beer? Ever mentioned Canadian beer to a buddy watching the game? If you have, chances are good that you've heard that Canadian beer is stronger than American beer. You may have even heard some loon talk about how all the beer in Germany has 10 percent alcohol!
 
Sorry, not so.
 
It's a common misconception that American beer is weaker in strength than beer in Canada or other countries. But we're actually about normal, maybe even a bit stronger. The folks who drink the most beer in the world per capita are the Czechs. Their "normal" beer is about 4.5 percent alcohol. Here in America, it's closer to 5 percent. Canadian beer is mostly 5 percent, too.
 
Certainly, some beer brands are stronger than others. But overall, American beer is as strong as the beer in Canada or anywhere else in the world. 
 
Our inferiority complex stems from the way each country measures alcohol.
 
Alcohol content is measured one of two ways: alcohol by weight (ABW) or alcohol by volume (ABV).
 
For example, if you have 1 liter of beer with 4 percent ABV, 4 percent of that liter (40 milliliters) is alcohol. However, because alcohol weighs less than water, that same beer is only 3.18 percent ABW.
 
And that's what the Canadians do. They have traditionally measured alcohol content by volume ... which comes out a little higher. American brewers have measured it by weight ... which comes out a little lower. People who don't know the difference hear lower numbers and – ta-da! – the myth of wimpy American beer is born.
 
The fact of the matter is, you can't sit at a bar and drink 10 percent beers all day. The most popular, every-day drinking beers around the world run between 3.5 percent to 5 percent alcohol for a reason: It's so you can have more than two without falling over and drooling. Our British friends call low-alcohol beers, those in the 3-something range, "session" beers. It means they can drink a lot of them in one "session" without getting wasted.
 
No matter how you measure it, beer has always been a drink of moderation, something to enjoy with friends and families. Or even Canadians.
 
Past lessons at Sam Adams University:
 
Jan. 11, 2007 - Tiny Bubbles in the Beer
Jan. 5, 2007 - All About Malt
Dec. 28, 2006 - India Pale Ale
Dec. 21, 2006 - Ale vs. Lager
Dec. 14, 2006 - Dark Beers

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