As throats begin to open with the festive season on the horizon, it is important to know the alcohol percentage of your favourite drink. It will determine how quickly you become intoxicated and if it’s too high, it may be dangerous.
As you probably know, beverages like beer, wine, spirits and champagne contain alcohol, the ingredient that gets you drunk. But it is not something that grows on a tree or in the ground. It is created by a process called fermentation, explains South African brewmaster, Aphiwe Nxusani.
Alcohol by volume is the metric used to determine the alcohol content of beverages. Nxusani explains that this measurement shows what percentage of the beverage’s total volume is pure alcohol.
“In beer brewing this is a level of alcohol produced by the yeast during fermentation. The percentage varies for various products. The level is linked to the number of sugars present in the wort,” says Nxusani. (The wort is the liquid that is mashed from the grain, that is then used to ferment beer or whiskey.)
Some people prefer it lighter
Many brands have drinks with low alcohol levels, and it comes as no surprise that these more health-conscious beverages are having a moment, Nxusani observes.
Beers with the lowest percentage on the market include Heineken 0.0, Castle Free and Devils Peak Hero, including a few microbrewers that have also launched their own versions.
Beers with a high percentage include commercial beers like Castle Milk Stout, which has the highest alcohol at 6%, and on the Craft brewing side Triggerfish is known for making 9% alcohol beers, says Nxusani.
She believes it is important for consumers to always check the level of alcohol as it influences their level of intoxication after consumption.
Drinkers weigh in
Mzansi ranks the sixth highest as per capita booze consumers on the globe. Health for Mzansi spoke to some socialisers to assess their knowledge about the alcohol percentage in their favourite drink.
Marona Seekane (27) from the south of Johannesburg says all she knows is that the higher the percentage, the quicker she will get intoxicated.
She adds that her choice of beverage is first determined by taste, experiences and then the alcohol percentage.
“The highest percentage I have consumed was 34%, which is a Lupini sambuca. I’m not sure if it’s important to know the alcohol percentage before purchasing your beverage, I think taste should be the biggest deciding factor. I enjoy a good mimosa or a good old cold beer,” she says.
Meanwhile Kwena Seema (25) from Ormonde in Johannesburg says checking the percentage of her drinks is second nature to her. Checking is important for your safety, she believes.
“The highest alcoholic percentage I have drunk is 75.5%. I think it’s important to check the alcohol percentage before consuming any drink, because one must know how much alcohol they are taking and what percentage is being ingested per serving for an individual,” Seema adds.
Mmangaliso Khumalo (23) from Braamfontein shares her sentiments. “My favorite drink is wine, because it has every flavour to help you relax and they blend swiftly with different meals prepared.”
Nxusani explains that a hangover is not really caused by the level of alcohol percentage one consumes. She says for one to avoid a hangover, the key issue is to drink on a full stomach and have enough water to keep hydrated.
“Spirits have the highest alcohol content and beer is actually the lowest. An alcohol percentage does define a particular beverage – by legal definition certain products have to have certain level of alcohol content.
“The Liquor Products Act gives definitions for the various alcohol products per alcohol type. The higher the alcohol percentage the more alcohol gets absorbed into blood stream and more drunk a person becomes versus drinking low alcohol beers,” Nxusani concludes.