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ABV on Bottles? Your thoughts.

What do you all think of the idea of beer labels having the ABV number? Is it something that might determine a purchase? Would a higher or lower ABV help make the choice between two similar beers? Do you assume a certain ABV range if the number isn't listed? Is there an obligation on the brewer's part to let the customer know what the beer is packing? Thoughts?

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  1. I quite liked seeing it on a beer bar menu and would therefore like to see it on the labels as well.

    1. I like to see an ABV number on bottles as well as on bar menus. It helps inform my purchase decision as sometimes I'm looking for a low alcohol beer and sometimes in the mood for something a bit more potent.

      If one is not listed then I tend to assume that it falls in the general range for the style. A higher or lower ABV does not generally cause me to make a choice between two similar beers, but price would.

      If a beer was being sold for $9.99 / 4 pack and listed a low ABV I would not be inclined to purchase it unless there were a good reason that a beer with a small grain bill cost a lot to make (long cellaring - 3 year old gueze, etc.).

      2 Replies
      1. re: joshekg

        I'd disagree that high ABV = better value necessarily. Allagash White is only about 5.2% abv and it's an excellent beer, Victory Prima Pils, too. I would not say Victory Hop Wallop (8.5% abv) is intrinsically a better beer than Victory Prima Pils (5%), though they're both very very good. I actually believe that it's harder to make a great low abv beer than one with high abv.

        1. re: chuckl

          I'm not saying that high ABV = better value. I'm saying that I think that the price of a beer should have some correlation to the cost of manufacturing it.

          If the Hop Wallop and the Prima Pils were priced the same at the market I wouldn't be making my decision based solely off of ABV. I know there is extra work/cost that goes into making a good pils (cold fermentation & maturation) that is not necessary in many ales.

          When I purchase a beer value is important so I consider the amount of grain, hops, special conditions (aging/maturation, barrels, etc.) that have gone into the beer. I generally purchase beers that I'm not inclined to brew at home due to space / equipment limitations (no lagers, sour beers, barrel aged, etc are brewed at my house, but I'll happily purchase them).

      2. I definitely like having it on the label, basically because I want to know if it is going to hit me hard (so I won't have too much). For me, it has little bearing on the actual purchase decision, except that I know that I personally do not like most of the styles that tend to get in the 8-10% range.

        In Canada the ABV is on all labels (I'm pretty sure) by law. My understanding is that in some or all US states, it was the opposite, brewers weren't allowed to put it on, possibly out of fear that people/kids would just seek out high ABV. I have some US bottles on hand now, and some show ABV and some don't, so it is allowed now, apparently.

        1 Reply
        1. re: maple99

          Until several years ago it was illegal to put alcohol content on a US beer label, although it was required for wine and spirits. Coors took the issue to court and won.

              1. re: Td61

                Why do you want to know? And why do you think that justifies a law?

                1. re: Jim Dorsch

                  I already have a wife jim. :)
                  Okay, the great swings in alcohol content, and my desire to "know what I'm drinking" drives my need for this information.
                  I feel a law will protect society from beer makers that would not aquiesce to the demand.

                  1. re: Td61

                    Given that one's personal safety is at stake, and that there are laws that penalize you based on the amount of alcohol in your blood, I would agree.

                  2. re: Jim Dorsch

                    I personally like to know what I'm drinking and eating. If wine & booze can have their alcohol info on the label shouldn't beer?

                    1. re: MOREKASHA

                      It's required for wine and spirits, also required for cider (by the FDA, which is why it has a nutrition panel), used to be prohibited for beer and is now optional.

            1. I don't look for a higher abv and in some cases I might shy away from a beer with a high abv. These days to many beers are extreme, imperial or whatever. I'm looking for balance, tastiness, a great aroma, and body. Sometimes, the imperials are just about strength, nothing else. That said I can enjoy a high abv, it depends on the beer, brewery and season, i.e. Bells 3rd Coast Old Ale on a cold, cold night.

              1. I wish the ABV was required by law on every bottle in every state, for the simple reason that I drive and I don't want a DUI. I can't always tell by the taste what the ABV might be, and I don't want to drink one or two before driving, only to find out later they were 9 or 10 percent.

                2 Replies
                1. re: juantanamera

                  Yeah, one big bottle of Chimay Tripple and I'm not wanting to drive. Gotta watch out for the 10% stuff.

                2. I love that many beers have the ABV on them. I'm a fan of the IPA style and happy that many brewers have come out with lower ABV IPAs (there's a TON of them out there now compared to 2 years ago). I will generally avoid buying a beer if there's no ABV on it. I like to be informed and not get WASTED if I can avoid it.

                  1. I believe it was in the 1980s that Coors sued the government to allow ABV on beer labels. Before then it was illegal on beer and required on wine and spirits. Now it is optional on beer packages.

                    I would think any brewer would want consumers to know the alcohol content. I recall getting really drunk one time years ago when I drank a six-pack of, I believe it was ABC stout from Malaysia, which, unbeknownst to me, had 8% alcohol.

                    5 Replies
                    1. re: Jim Dorsch

                      I'm not sure when the suit was originally filed, but the Supreme Court decision was in 1995: http://www.law.cornell.edu/supct/html...

                      1. re: TVHilton

                        Thanks for that. It's amazing that you have to go the Supreme Court for what would seem to be an obvious right.

                        1. re: Jim Dorsch

                          An Obvious Right is a great way to put it. I say put the ABV on the label, and if I don't want to know it, I will avoid looking.

                          1. re: Tripeler

                            I often oppose government regulations and mandates, but one could claim people have the right to know how much alcohol they are consuming, and I would hesitate to disagree.

                            1. re: Jim Dorsch

                              I'm actually in favor of fairly strict regulation of commercial "speech" (in general), but in this case I think the public interest falls on the side of the right to know.