If you are like me you heard most of your adult life the recommendations for how many drinks a person should have a week. It is hard to calculate drinks though when you are drinking higher ABV beers like the commonly available 8.5% Double IPA sold in 16oz cans, which is the equivalent of two drinks. I wanted to find an easier way to calculate this for myself and inspire others to do the same. I found the best alternative measurement is to count grams of alcohol in your drink. This method was inspired by a post from my fellow blogger, Craft Beer in San Diego.
This post includes some analysis of findings in a scientific study and discussion of recommended amounts an adult should consume of alcohol in a week. To be clear, I am not a scientist nor am I a doctor or a nutritionist. These suggestions are purely practical hacks based on my experience. Though some of them are echoed in some of the studies I reviewed preparing for this blog.
To calculate grams of alcohol per drink you need access to a chart, but to simplify things I calculated the grams of alcohol in the most common serving sizes I consume. It isn’t always exact but I try to be as close as possible. For example, a 12oz pour of 5% beer is 14g while a 16oz pour of 5% beer is 19g. The list of common amounts is included near the end of this article. While calculating tasters and smaller pours, I find it is easier to group together four pours and average the ABV because this is more a rough estimate than anything that needs to be exact.
Depending on how you read the studies, some would suggest you have less than 100g in a week. Official US government recommendations are between 98g and 196g per week. The way I read the studies, I decided to aim for the range of between 200 and 350g per week. Many weeks even with that in mind I ended up around 350g, sometimes higher, sometimes lower. This is above the recommended maximum of just under 200g per week but I am working on finding a level I am happy with. So why am I talking about drinking within the range of 200-350g per week when it is over the recommended range? That is where my drinking has been lately by my own calculations.
1) Among current drinkers, the threshold for lowest risk of all-cause mortality was about 100 g per week
2) Men consuming between 200g and 350g per week of alcohol have a shorter life expectancy of 1-2 years.
3) Men consuming over 350g per week have a shorter life expectancy of 4-5 years.
1) If I know I have had quite a bit in the past week, over my goals, then that helps me adjust and take a few days off at the beginning of the week. This mirrors recommendations by various studies. Taking one or two days off each week is recommended in the January 2016 guidelines from the UK Chief Medical Officers cited in the study linked above.
2) If I think about the goal of eventually going below 200g per week, that usually means keeping daily consumption under 30g and taking two days off each week. Practically speaking that means no more than one pint most days and maybe one day of two pints.
Example: the standard glass of wine is approximately 16g so two glasses of wine in one night would be 32g. A pint of 7.5% beer is 28g while a pint of 5 percent beer is 19g.
3) It is a good reminder to think about a single can of 8.5% DIPA as equivalent to drinking half a bottle of wine, and two in one night to drinking a whole bottle. This is part of why I purchase IPAs that land in the 6-7% range when possible. Those double IPAs are potent. It is also why I am starting to drink more wine.
One criticism I have of these various studies is that they include in reduced life expectancy various injuries that studies have shown are more likely with higher consumption of alcohol. Some of these include injuries related to driving while intoxicated, which I would hope most of my readers do not engage in especially now that Uber is prevalent. They also link drinking over 5 UK units (less than 3 glasses of wine) in a single evening to aggression and violence. While certain types of people get violent after drinking, I have never seen a fight break out at a beer festival where many present are consuming much more than that.
I also echo the conclusion of Craft Beer in San Diego that the beer industry as a whole should work on making available more low ABV beers, specifically those less than 5%. In San Diego encountering anything under 5% is a rarity. It is only when beers reach 4% that a full pint is equal to a glass of wine. And the difference between 4% beer and 5% beer is more than 25% according to an article in DRAFT Magazine. The industry should also put some efforts into educating people about the amounts of these high ABV beers that an individual should safely consume in a single outing. This should also mean not serving more than 8oz of a single DIPA at a time and reducing the sizes of these cans. If not that, some sort of public education campaign should be sponsored by the various brewers associations to consider the realities.
5oz – 9% – 10.5g, 10% – 11.7g, 11% – 12.8g, 12% – 14g
8oz – 9% – 16.8g – 10% – 18.7g, 11% – 20.5g, 12% – 22.4g, 13% – 24.3g
12oz – 5% – 14g, 6% – 17g, 7% – 20g, 8% – 22.4g, 9% – 25.2g
16oz – 5% – 18.7g, 6% – 22.4g, 7% – 26.1g, 8% – 29.9g, 9% – 33.6g
You can find the full chart at the Craft Beer in San Diego post linked above.
Helia is in that middle ground that sits right on the border of Carlsbad and Vista and is not far from where Toolbox brewery used to be. Helia stands out among the many breweries in the area with their unique feel that perfectly encapsulates the beach vibe even though being fairly inland. This is most obvious in their choice of seating, which has a nice laid-back vibe to it.
Beer wise, I was glad to see that they have simple pricing across the board of $2 per taster, $4 per half pour, and $6 per pint. I started with a half pour of their amber ale, the stronger of the two. It was crisp and dry with notes of milk chocolate and minimal bitterness. My husband enjoyed this as well. Next I tried their pilsner, made with Dos Desperados brewery. It was soft and easy-drinking with light floral hop notes and a light sweetness on the finish.
My husband had a taster of the porter while there and really liked it. I had a few sips of it and was impressed as well. The beer has notes of burnt toffee on the nose. Flavors are a nice mix of marshmallow and caramel with mild roast on the finish. After a few IPA filled days, I wasn’t in the mood to try their IPAs this visit. Helia stands out with their relaxing vibe and hopefully will find their niche and be around for some time.
I tend to not visit small breweries within the first year of operation unless I know the brewer well from where they brewed before. In the case of Jacked Up I was partially put off by the name, which to me suggested it might be run by a bunch of frat boys. After reading that the brewer had been home brewing for a while and won many awards, I figured it was worth a visit now that they had been open for 2 years.
The tasting room is just off the 15 freeway in Escondido and not all the way into central downtown Escondido. The tasting room had a nice community vibe to it and the bartender was happy to offer splashes to ensure that people like what they order. After a few splashes of various IPAs I ended up with a half pour of their hazy IPA. The more west coast style was too strongly bitter for my palate now accustomed to hazy beers. Compared to what I regularly enjoy even their hazy was strongly bitter. The beer nailed the hazy appearance and mouthfeel with notes of mango and orange under the initial bitterness. The beer nicely blends traditional West Coast style bitterness with the juicy flavors and creamy mouthfeel expected of a hazy.
My husband tried a few of the lighter malty beers before settling on the vanilla stout sitting just under 9%. I had a few sips of his beer and it was well made. The beer had notes of dark chocolate and vanilla without getting too heavy or sweet. I can tell that the base beer is also well done. Though Jacked Up isn’t offering anything that would entice people to drive up from North Park, it is a solid neighborhood spot with a stage that suggests they have the occasional live music. Despite being almost 90 degrees outside on the day I visited, the tasting room stayed comfortable with good ventilation, use of fans, and some air conditioning. It is worth a stop for those who find the modern style of IPA to have abandoned a bitterness that made the style interesting in the first place. The hazy IPA was even more bitter than the early hazy from Second Chance, which I found bitter for the style.
The Original 40 opened just East of North Park brewing company, not far from the tasting room where Chuck Alek was before they closed. They have a large indoor space with a full menu though at least initially the food is not available until 5PM. The brewery gives Chris Gillogly a chance to explore new styles after coming from a stint at Mikkeller San Diego and Groundswell before that. From the few beers I tried, it will be a welcome addition to a fairly crowded neighborhood.
I stopped by on a Saturday afternoon and it was quiet enough to be peaceful to enjoy a pint. But as it got later into the evening and the place started filling up, it became uncomfortably loud as many places in the area tend to get. Thankfully they didn’t have any loud music to make things even more intense. I started with their German style pilsner, which was crisp and well made. The beer had notes of orange blossom honey and a crisp dry finish with a light bitterness. This lager is offered along side a Mexican style lager that I didn’t try.
There were lots of hazy IPA options available but I went for one made along with Pure Project Brewing based on input from friends who had visited recently. The beer had a nice thick creamy body for 6% and tons of juicy papaya, mango, and orange peel to round it out. I hope they manage to add a similar beer to their rotation. They also had a big imperial stout when I visited that was made along with Horus Aged ales and so dosed with incredible amounts of cacao nibs and vanilla beans. Though delicious I don’t know if I would have ordered more than one at $7 for a 4oz pour. Other tasters were the now standard price of $3 each.
I was overall impressed by the beers I had and hope that The Original 40 is successful. Along their house beers they had a few guest taps including something from Burning Beard and Societe and a few alcoholic kombucha options. I didn’t eat any food during my visit because the kitchen wasn’t open yet and they didn’t seem to have a lot of vegan options.