What Is ABV or Alcohol by Volume

Alcohol by Volume, or ABV for short, measures the amount of alcohol present in an alcoholic beverage. It is calculated as a percentage of the total volume of the drink.

But what is abv? What is alcohol by Volume?

Even if you are a big drinker, cutting back on ABV or alcohol by Volume is like the handbook for liquor.

While most alcohol descriptions make the strength an afterthought, if you are clocking how much you drink well, ABV should be top of your list.

Now, as an alcohol-free drinker, please be patient with me as I am a 0.0 per cent ABV kind of a guy. And if you choose to keep your alcohol limit in check, this number is better. 

I will break down ABV and how to measure it to use this information whenever you are drinking beer or wine.

If you are knocking back a high strength drink, you need to know what abv is.

And given the confusion on the alcohol-free market, you need to know ABV even if you drink what you think are zero beers and wines when it comes to alcohol.

Yes, it kind of gets obsessive.

But that is a good thought as ABV matters to our health.

Where do I find ABV?

If you are in any doubt, please ask.

Most laws around the world are different, but many have to carry the abv level on drinks as part of the licensing laws.

Where Do I find ABV?

You may be wondering where the Alcohol by Volume (ABV) number is on beer labelling.

It is generally on the back of the beer bottle. But you can ask, or if you are on a website, just click for nutritional information and keep your fingers crossed.

Not All Alcohol is the same.

And you thought it would be simple, right?

It is important to note two classifications for alcoholic beverages, “fermented” and “distilled”. 

Fermenting is defined as producing alcohol by adding yeast to un-hopped wine, beer or cooked fruit juice.

Distilling, meanwhile, is the process of producing solid drinks like whiskey or vodka through heating fermented beverages to eliminate water and concentrate ethanol (like moonshine).

Seriously does anyone drink that stuff? You badass!

Many people get confused between the weight of an alcoholic drink and the amount of alcohol in it.

It is a bit complicated, and as a new alcohol-free drinker, I had to learn from the beginning.

Honestly, they do not make it easy.

Here’s a simple way to remember ABW and ABV: ABW stands for the approximate amount of the alcohol by weight, and ABV stands for the approximate amount of the beer that is Alcohol by Volume.

Simply put, then, ABW = ABV X 1.25.

And I get if you hated maths at school, you might zone out at this point. I don’t blame you!

It is simple to calculate the Alcohol by Volume of a fermented beverage. 

Excuse me while I cough quietly.

Divide the ABV given by the brewer or distillers by 0.79, and you can get the approximate per cent alcohol in your beer, wine, or liqueur.

Although this is a reasonably basic definition, diving right in and exploring what Alcohol By Volume is essential.

From there, we can continue to see just how it may hold value for you as a consumer.

And an alcohol-free drinker or just someone who is cutting back.

Forget ABV and Absorption.

Alcohol by Volume measures the amount of alcohol in any given beverage, not the amount of alcohol absorbed by the drinker.

OK, don’t go making it up.

While it’s true that you can’t drink more alcohol than what’s in your glass, there are other factors at play.

For example, tea contains caffeine which has a diuretic effect on your body. This means that it makes you urinate more frequently.

What Is ABV?

If you drink beer or wine, your drink will contain carbohydrates, further irritating your bladder if you don’t consume enough water.

Along these lines, it is essential to note that different types of alcohol have different effects on your body, so it is tough to say the effect one will have over the other.

For example, eating a big meal before a binge drinking session could slow down the alcohol release in your blood.

For more information on how alcohol limits, visit the Drinkaware website.

Get to know your ABV – Alcohol by Volume.

Maybe you’re looking to cut back on how much alcohol you have, or perhaps you’re looking to learn a bit more about beer in general.

Whatever your reason for reading this article, it doesn’t hurt to take a few moments and get familiar with the ABV that’s printed on every beer label.

You can read my story on why I gave up social wine drinking in Stop Drinking Alcohol Now by Philip Roberts on Amazon or Audible.

Stop Drinking Alcohol Now - Philip Roberts


While the idea of an ABV check-in may seem as silly as singing while sober, hold that thought!

It is a beneficial habit.

There are several ways to determine the alcohol content in your beer with an ABV calculator, albeit in your head.

One is to read the label on a bottle or can. 

Another way is to call your local beer distributor and ask them the alcohol content of a particular beer.

A third method involves using a secondary constant, such as calling liquor or off licence stores in your area for information about the ABV of a particular spirit.

Bottom line, if you are in a bar, ask them. And do not be fobbed off by asking for alcohol-free with anything less than 0.0% if that is what you choose.

You are the customer, right?

They will think you are mad but don’t let that put you off, and it is their job to know their products.

Summary and Takeaway for What is ABV?

In summary, the ABV of a beer is a measurement of its density relative to water.

In other words, ABV considers the amount of alcohol present in a beverage that acts as a solvent.

The higher the percentage, the stronger or more potent that beverage will be for the consumer—and the greater the risk for overindulgence.

ABV is quite literally the amount of alcohol in a given drink. 

Similar to the measurement for degrees in temperature, ABV uses the Greek symbol β (beta) to represent “volume” where “malt beverage” is represented by the Greek character for alpha (α) and “alcoholic strength” is represented by the Greek letter omicron (ο).

I am so cultural me!

Alcohol by Volume, abbreviated as ABV, is the percentage of alcohol in a volume of liquid. 

While alcohol by Volume is the standard measure in the United States, it is more common in other countries to use the metric measurement, the percentage of alcohol per 100 millilitres.

Alcohol by Volume is a less accurate measure of alcohol concentration than alcohol per Volume, also known as alcohol content. 

Alcohol per Volume is a more accurate measure of alcohol concentration than alcohol by weight, also known as alcohol by mass.

  • Alcohol by Volume is commonly used in the United States, but alcohol by weight is most widely used in countries sold in volume measures such as litres.
  • Alcohol by Volume measures the amount of alcohol present in a volume of liquid, including water. 
  • Alcohol by Volume is typically used when measuring alcoholic beverages, such as beer, wine, and spirits. 

It is less commonly used in non-alcoholic beverages. However, alcohol by Volume is also widely applied when measuring wine, beer, and other alcoholic drinks sold in bottles.

How Big Is My Alcohol-Free Beer?

Alcohol by weight is a measure of the importance of alcohol in liquid.

The Essentials

It’s also essential to realize that alcohol by Volume (ABV) is not a measure of alcohol content. Instead, it measures the alcohol content relative to the Volume of the liquid.

It makes sense, right? I guess it is all relative.

And that is where it can get confusing.

But having some knowledge of ABV is an excellent start to cutting back on alcohol and being aware of your alcohol intake.

It is also a crucial measurement if you are going alcohol-free or 0.0 in beers, wines and spirits.

Some beers are low alcohol, not alcohol-free. Some have a trace. But don’t panic, as so does some orange juice.

Has abv been around forever?

No way!

Quite the opposite.

Alcohol is such an essential part of modern culture that it is easy to take it for granted. But alcohol, as we now know it, is a relatively recent invention.

Alcohol use is as old as human history.  Ask any ancient landlord of a pub!

Maybe not!

The earliest evidence of alcohol is 4,000 years old, in a tomb in Mesopotamia.

But alcohol doesn’t appear to have any other valuable properties. It is too volatile to be a proper fuel.

I mean, you don’t put it in your car, right?

So it must have other properties, including being addictive. Yep got it in one.

The first people to make a habit of drinking alcohol were probably hunters and gatherers, who could use alcohol without making their own. 

But as societies developed, those who grew the crops needed something to help them remember which crops were ripe.

So over time, as more people settled down into permanent villages, they started making alcohol, usually from rice or grain.

Although alcohol is easy to make, alcohol is not functional. Once it has been distilled, it evaporates quickly.

So it could only be used locally or in minimal quantities.

Egyptian Beer Anyone

The ancient Egyptians, who figured out how to distil beer from barley, were the first to develop a way to make alcohol use on a large scale.

But the beer was a low-proof drink, which made it easy for people to drink it.

Has ABV Been Around Forever?

Ancient China first exploited alcohol as a fuel, making it from rice in the early 2nd millennium BC. But it was a prolonged process, and by 1000 BC, the Chinese were already drinking wine.

Alcohol was an important trade commodity in the ancient world. 

The Romans used wine as currency, and the Greeks used oil.

See, it is all about the money.

The first recorded alcohol use as a medicine was in 2 AD when a Greek doctor named Dioscorides used it for disinfecting!

The Main Take away

ABV  or Alcohol by Volume is a critical measurement of how strong your drinks are, regardless of how you drink or don’t drink ABV or alcohol.

But of course, knowing what abv is never going to replace common sense. What is ABV? Take the facts and use them to keep educated about choice.

Sounds like a plan right? What is abv to you?



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