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Sunday, January 22, 2012

United States Beer Labeling: Alcohol Content

For some time now, I have wondered why many US beer labels do not contain alcohol content information, particularly since so many other countries' labels contained this information.  It seems to me that this information is extremely important for the consumer since the alcohol content of beer can vary greatly.  Common mass produced American beers vary from 3%-5%.  Craft beers, however, can be anywhere from 4% to 18%, with some extremely special beers having up to 20% alcohol by volume (ABV).

So I did a little research.  See:
It turns out that a lot of countries, indeed, do require the ABV content of beer be printed on the label.  Here's a list of the countries: Australia (if over 1.15%); Brazil; Canada (if over 1.1%); Chile; China (only if under 10%); Columbia; All European Union Countries; Japan; Mexico; New Zealand; Philippines; Russia; South Korea; Switzerland; Taiwan; and Thailand.  In the US, however,adding the alcohol content to a beer label is optional:  Of course, state laws could require this, but this is not the case in Michigan where I live.  I can think of no valid reason against putting ABV on beer labels.  In a country where drunk driving is an all too common occurrence, people should have the information they need to make good decisions. Furthermore, knowing the ABV helps the consumer purchase beers that fit a particular occasion or taste.  Some breweries put out so many different beers each year, that one should not have to research each new beer's characteristics in order to decide if they want to purchase them.   I appeal to all brewers to put the alcohol content on your labels voluntarily.  It is just common sense.


1 comment:

  1. I have seen it argued that a reason for not labelling is to prevent a 'strength war' between the breweries. I don't much buy that, however.

    As a UK citizen visiting the USA, it was impossible to know what you were buying when purchasing beer from shops and supermarkets.

    The situation is very surprising, for a country that otherwise insists on quite stringent labelling. It certainly stands out as an idiosyncrasy.