A Good Beer Blog

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Have you read The Unbearable Nonsense of Craft Beer - A Rant in Nine Acts by Alan and Max yet? It's out on Kindle as well as Lulu.

Maureen Ogle said this about the book: "... immensely readable, sometimes slightly surreal rumination on beer in general and craft beer in particular. Funny, witty, but most important: Smart. The beer geeks will likely get all cranky about it, but Alan and Max are the masters of cranky..."

Ron Pattinson said: "I'm in a rather odd situation. Because I appear in the book. A fictional version of me. It's a weird feeling."


Comments

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Barm -

The unit isn't obscure at all. It's 10mL of pure alcohol. It's just that the government thinks we are too stupid to deal with this simple bit of information and refuses to explain it in its publications, preferring to use vague phrases like "half a pint of standard-strength beer" instead.

Alan -

It does remain obscure because it is not stated to be 10mL of pure alcohol on the label. It is also obscure in that there is no explanation - let alone supporting evidence - that 10mL of pure alcohol is at all significant.

Jon K -

The "unit" isn't used in the UK as a measurement of alcohol strength. We use alcohol percentage by volume (alc % vol). The "unit" is, as Barm points out, equivalent to a quantity of alcohol. I suppose the idea is that this helps people to keep an eye on their intake without having to do a load of maths. So it's an option for the producer to label units per "serving" and per container, or both. Or neither.

Me, I stop when I'm drunk, and don't start again until I've shifted the hangover.

Alan -

I am touched by your concern as to my personal grasp of the concept but it was more in the nature of a literary device - but I was not aware that this labeling is optional. Which is interesting. If it is optional is there anything to read into which brewers do and do not include it in their packaging?

Jon K -

Use of "unit" implies that the producer is probably paying attention to the Portman Group guidelines (pdf), or to the British Retail Consortium, or something.

Alan -

Ah, so they are complicit.

Gary Gillman -

As applicable to Canada and I would say the U.S., the concept of the alcohol unit derives I believe from the practice, still current but changing in certain areas, of selling beer in 12 oz. containers at 5% ABV (Gay Lussac system), the standard for many years in Canada and still applicable to a large degree. As all beer fans know, the U.S. calculated the alcohol content by weight and its 4% when translated to GL came out to about 4.8% ABV, an odd-seeming level you sometimes see in Canada too now. I still think in Imperial measures, and the old unit system here was derived from that, so I'll stick with that. So, .6 of an ounce of that amount was pure alcohol. 5 ounces of wine was ditto (5 X 12% ABV) and 1.5 oz. spirits at 40% ABV the same. Two of any such drinks was two units. Many people informally used that as the basis to determine consumption ("two is my limit" or whatever). Of course, that approach does not reveal any medical system or value. At one time, I believe two units did not put you over the limit for the Criminal Code's breathaliser limit, but I think that has changed in recent years. Three units in the sense indicated seems to equate to four in the U.K., but I did not check the numbers on this. I believe though I've seen similar medical advice given here, i.e., 3 drinks per day or 21 per week should not be exceeded. Just based on the effects that amount of drink has on one's overall sobriety, I would say that is reasonable advice (if perhaps too generous), but that is just my opinion. As for whether it reflects good medical advice, i.e. in terms of whether the human organism can physically take that safely over time, I just don't know. Everyone must decide for themself but it is good to have this guides I think because many people don't think of it, a drink to them might be a pint of 6% ale or two ounces of U.S. proof bourbon (50% ABV, thus one ounce per alcohol), and a limit must be drawn somewhere.

Gary

Gary Gillman -

It's early in the morning (after a Sunday which did not exceed the 3 unit per day level!)) and I need my coffee. I meant in my last remarks to state that a unit system such as Britain has is a useful guide, and of course 2 oz. of 50% ABV bourbon would come out to 1 oz. pure alcohol.

I should add that accordingly, when I count drinks, I always convert to the unit system I mentioned. And so 20 oz. of 5% ABV beer is just short of two standard drinks. 12 oz. of beer at 10% ABV is two drinks, and so forth.

Gary

Alan -

All that math - and you follow my same shorthand for converting to a 12 oz 5% beer! But is the question really not this one:

"...whether the human organism can physically take that safely over time, I just don't know."

but this one

"...whether the human organism is bothered over time, I just don't know."

See, I get the beer makes you fat thing but that is a net result. Too many calories and not enough exercise. But what the "units" and other forms of analysis promotes is thinking in gross. I am a very large person - and not only in terms of overweight. How does the "male" "female" division apply when me at very big drinks next to my pal who is a foot shorter and half my size? Do the 4 units a day really apply to the tiny? Or are the tiny being sacrificed to the median?

Gary Gillman -

Safely, bothered, I'd read these as similar or at any rate I didn't mean anything really different to bothered.

Point well taken re the issues of average application. These systems are guides and we all have to adapt them to our weight, our other habits and frankly our proclivities (some are more risk tolerant, some less..). But overall I think these systems have values. Looking now too at that PDF, I think the British system is less generous than ours, i.e., our 3 units per day would be their 4.8. But anyway, I use the Canadian system as a rough guide, I find it helpful.

Gary