Does Wine Have More Alcohol Than Beer? [How to Compare]
Enjoying a glass of wine or a beer has always been the best way to decompress after a long day’s work.
But, have you ever wondered how much alcohol you’re really consuming in that five-ounce or ten-ounce beverage?
How Alcohol Content is Determined
Alcohol content is measured by volume, also known as ABV (alcohol by volume). This helps us determine within a single ounce or bottle how much alcohol we’re really drinking.
For instance, the standard serving size in the US is based on a drink containing 6 ounces (or 14 grams) of pure alcohol.
Using the volume of alcohol being consumed and it's ABV, we can calculate how much 'pure alcohol' is being consumed. This enables us to make a direct comparison between two different alcoholic drinks.
For example, we can calculate how many beers are in a bottle of wine.
Alcohol Content in Beer vs Wine
Typically, wine starts at around 5 percent ABV extending all the way to twenty-five percent ABV.
On the lower end of the scale, something like a sweet Moscato wine may have an ABV of just 5%.
Sweeter wines generally have lower alcohol content as the fermentation process is halted early to preserve residual sugars. Though this isn't always the case, as sweet fortified wines can be very strong in alcohol.
On the high alcohol side of things, fortified wines like Port can be above 20% ABV.
While beer starts as low as 3% ABV it can be as strong as 13% ABV.
But, don’t let the alcohol by volume fool you. Just because you have twenty-five percent, ABV doesn’t mean you’ll automatically get drunker than the twelve percent ABV counterpart. It is really all in the way you ration it out. Proportions matter!
There are many factors that can affect how alcohol affects you. It's a really complicated subject. Here are a few:
How to Compare Alcohol Content of Beer vs Wine Accurately
You can only truly compare two different alcohols accurately if they have the same ABV.
That makes them equal in terms of alcohol content.
But how do you accurately compare a beer to a wine when they usually have very different ABVs?
Actually, it's very simple and just requires some basic math.
For example, here's how to compare a regular can of 4.2% ABV Bud Lite to a bottle of 13% Cabernet Sauvignon:
Bud Lite = 4.2 x 358ml (can size) = 1503
1503/1000 = 1.5 units of alcohol
Cabernet Sauvignon = 13 x 750ml (bottle size) = 9750
9750/1000 = 9.75 units of alcohol
9.75 / 1.5 = 6.5
Therefore, there are 6.5 cans of Bud Lite equal to a bottle of Cabernet Sauvignon.
This formula works for any types of alcohol. Just be sure to work with milliliters not ounces.
Types of Beer
There are a variety of beers out there, and it can get to be overwhelming if you’re just beginning to drink them and not sure what you like. The main types are:
To help you out we will give a description of each and their typical alcohol content or ABV.
Ale is known for its light fruity taste with some spice. It is very rich in flavor and aroma to match. The slightly bitter taste makes it perfect if you don’t want anything too sweet yet like a fruit and spice flavor. The average alcohol by volume for ales is going to be four percent to seven percent.
Bock is normally associated with special religious occasions such as Christmas. Don’t let that fool you though.
This dark, lightly bitter, and malty beer can be enjoyed at any time. It is brewed in Autumn and ready to drink in the Spring. The standard alcohol by volume for bock is six percent to eight percent.
You are probably really familiar with lager beer. It is the most popular with its crisp and refreshing taste. One of the smoothest beers, it has three percent to six percent alcohol by volume.
If you like a sweet, nutty, and caramel or toffee taste, malt is the beer for you. Generally dark in color this beer is perfect for those with a sweet tooth.
Plus the alcohol by volume is only between zero point five percent to three percent. This makes it the perfect low-alcoholic beverage on the market.
Stout and Porters
These two beers differ in flavor, and both share a rich, dark color. Stout is going to be your bitter and thick beer. While porters are still dark but have a fruity flavor to them.
Stouts have more alcohol by volume at a whopping five percent to ten percent and Porters only having four to five percent alcohol by volume.
Types of Wine
White wines can be made from white or red fermented grapes. Unlike its red counterpart, white wine is separated from the skin of grapes leaving you with a clear, white color and a decadent fruity to earthy taste. These wines have an alcohol by volume amount stretching from five to twenty percent.
Red wines have a variety of different taste and styles ranging from full-bodied to thin and musky to clean.
There are more than eighteen different kinds of red wine, so you get why we can’t specifically describe them all.
They are made from red grapes that are fermented to create these classic dinner companions. The alcohol by volume, however, is going to range from five percent to twenty-one percent.
The Fermentation Effect
What part does fermentation play in alcohol by volume?
To answer this question, let’s start with the formula for fermentation.
That is yeast plus glucose (sugar) creating ethanol (alcohol), plus carbon dioxide, and oxygen.
If we start with more sugar and allow fermentation to complete, then we will finish with a more alcoholic product.
This is what happens with wine.
Wine grapes are very sweet and when all the sugar is converted into alcohol (like with dry wines) then we have a higher alcohol product.
Beer is a derivative of fermented malt and usually uses less sugar, therefore creates a lower alcohol product. However, there are very strong beers that ferment for longer with more sugar involved.