How Many Units of Alcohol Are in Beer?

Almost every beer drinker in the UK will have heard about units of alcohol, but how many people know how many units are in a pint or truly understand how they may stack up over a week or month?

It’s a shocking stat, but in the last decade, only one in 10 people in the UK knew how to calculate units of alcohol. However, it’s likely that the nation’s collective understanding has improved since the government published a full review in 2016 around alcohol consumption.

The Alcohol Guidelines Review contained a set of recommendations to help people reduce the risks that come from drinking alcohol, which we have summarised as follows:

  • Men and women should avoid drinking more than 14 units of alcohol per week (previously men were told to stick to 21 units or less)
  • Alcohol consumption should be evenly spread across a week with no more than 5 units consumed in one session
  • Moderate or heavy drinkers should have “several drink-free days each week” to cut down on alcohol consumption

Units aren’t everything, but it’s certainly healthy to know how much alcohol you are consuming to understand its potential impact.

WHAT IS AN ALCOHOLIC UNIT?

A unit is a metric that calculates the amount of pure alcohol in a drink. In the UK, one unit of is equal to 10ml or 8g of pure alcohol. It's a little different in the US, where they deal with "standard" drinks that contain around 14 grams of alcohol.

The reason that a single unit of alcohol is equal to 10ml in the UK is because it's the amount of alcohol that the average adult can process in an hour. After the hour is up, there should be little to no alcohol left in their bloodstream.

While the UK government recommends keeping your alcohol consumption below 14 units a week, guidelines vary a lot in other countries. In Spain, for example, the limit is almost more than double, as men may consume 33 units of alcohol in a week. The limit - at least for men - is also higher in other countries, including the US, Ireland, Denmark and New Zealand.

If you want to work out how many units of alcohol are in beer, you can calculate it like this:

Units of alcohol = (ABV X volume in ml) ÷ 1,000

For example, if you wanted to calculate the number of units of alcohol in a bottle of beer, you’d look at the label to find out its overall volume as well as its ABV. A typical calculation might look something like this:

4.5% ABV X 330 ml ÷ 1,000 = 1.5 units

HOW MANY UNITS OF ALCOHOL ARE IN A PINT OF BEER?

A pint of standard-strength lager or ale with a 4.5% ABV contains 2.5 units of alcohol.

However, not every beer is made equal and figuring out the number of units in a serving of beer depends on two factors:

  • The strength of the drink, which is measured by alcohol by volume (ABV)
  • The quantity of liquid you are consuming, which you will need to know in milliletres to use the formula above

This means that a 4% beer contains more units of alcohol than a 330ml bottle of the exact same beer. But there is more pure alcohol in a pint or 568ml glass of beer that is 5% strong.

TYPICAL UNITS OF ALCOHOL IN BEER BY VOLUME AND STRENGTH

Next time you’re at a pub or enjoying a beer at home, the following tables can help you quickly estimate how many units of alcohol are in a beer.

Beer Strength Units in a Pint (568ml) Units in a Bottle (330ml)

Lower Strength
(2.8% ABV)

1.6 units

0.9 units

Medium Strength
(4.5% ABV)

2.5 units

1.5 units

Higher Strength
(5.5% ABV)

3.1 units

1.8 units

Looking at these tables, you can see that it's quite easy to reach the government’s recommended limits for weekly alcohol consumption - especially if you're drinking stronger beers.

For example, drinking five pints of higher strength beer over the course of a day, which comes to around nine units, is more than the government recommends in an entire week.

By contrast, you could drink 15 bottles of lower alcohol beer in a week and stay comfortably within the government’s guidelines.

YOU CAN ENJOY BEER WITHOUT LIVING AT THE EXTREMES

At Small Beer, all of our bottles and cans of low alcohol beer contain no more than one unit of alcohol. That means you can still enjoy several refreshing lagers, IPAs, or pale ales, without having to worry about units and feeling like you back in a maths lesson at school.

Browse our world-class range of low alcohol beers and enjoy all the flavour and benefits of beer, without taking any unnecessary health risks.

Tags: balance