How often have you been out with your drinking buddies when somebody has piped up “I’m sticking to just the beer tonight. Beer doesn’t get me drunk!” Okay, try explaining that to the police officer who pulls you over on the way home!
Many people believe they only get drunk once they hit the harder stuff, the shots, the spirits, or the wine. Some people even believe that beer won’t get them drunk but a hard cider will. Unfortunately, it’s the alcohol in the drink which makes you drunk, not the type of drink.
While drinking beer may get you less drunk than hitting the tequila shots on a night out, drinking enough beer will eventually get you drunk – some people quicker than others!
Just how much beer does it take to get you drunk? Why can some people drink 7 or 8 beers before showing signs of being drunk while for others it may only take 3 or 4 beers? And what is the legal definition of being drunk whether you think you are or not? Just when should you leave your car at the local pub?
How Many Beers Does it Take to Get You Legally Drunk?
When talking about how much beer would get you drunk and put you over the legal limit for driving, the CDC says an average man weighing in at about 160 pounds would need to drink 2.4 oz of alcohol or four standard beers (12 oz serving at 5% ABV containing 0.6 oz of alcohol) to be classified as drunk.
To measure whether you are drunk or not goes on your blood alcohol content (BAC). This applies to all alcoholic drinks, not just beer.
When a police officer stops you for a suspected DUI (driving under the influence) he may use a breathalyzer to measure your BAC. If this test shows a level higher than 0.04% allowed by US law you will be considered intoxicated which can lead to arrests, fines, or even more serious penalties.
Being drunk and being too drunk to drive however are two completely different things. At just 0.02% BAC (about 2 alcoholic drinks) you may experience some impaired judgment, a feeling of relaxation, and maybe a decline in visual functions, but by no means be what we would consider “drunk”.
When the BAC reaches levels above 0.04% you will also experience reduced coordination, a lowered level of alertness, and more of a reduction in your ability to track moving objects (sometimes the bar may start swaying!)
At this level, it definitely isn’t safe to drive but you still may not seem too drunk to others around.
The classic signs of being “drunk” appear when your BAC rises above 0.08% (about 5 alcoholic drinks for most) with a clearer deterioration of reaction times, slurred speech, and slower thinking.
Over 0.15% ABV and you will probably start vomiting, have a major loss of balance, and in extreme cases suffer alcohol poisoning.
Notice however there were many variables on the effects of alcohol in the original CDC statement, not just the weight of a person, but the sex of the person and the type of drink. So just how many beers does it take to get you drunk?
How Many Beers Does it Take to Get “Drunk” Drunk?
Most experienced drinkers will tell you they know exactly how much beer it takes to get them drunk, some may even claim they never get drunk on beer. However, the research below can be useful to many first-time beer drinkers or newbies in explaining the many different factors which can affect your levels of drunkenness.
Don’t however use it as a budget planner to work out how many beers you are going to need to get drunk – problematic drinking will often lead to alcoholism and may have serious health consequences.
In general, an average male will take four to five beers to get drunk, while a healthy female will only need two to four beers in the same hour to get drunk. Consuming alcohol and getting drunk varies from person to person too.
For example, those who drink craft beers with higher ABVs will normally get drunk quicker or more drunk than somebody drinking a standard domestic beer like Bud or Bud Light.
You should also consider the gender as it is known most women get drunk quicker than men (although there are some exceptions as I have found out when dating Scottish or Irish women when I was younger – those women are made of harder stuff!)
Other factors including weight, height, alcohol tolerance, age, and medications can also determine how much beer you can drink before being drunk.
Factors Which Can Influence How Much Beer gets You Drunk
Your Body Type
Your body composition is probably the biggest factor when you ask how many beers it takes to get drunk. The bigger you are, both in height and weight-wise will mean it takes more beer before you feel intoxicated.
People who weigh less will normally get more drunk with less alcohol as the body fat of a heavier person will reduce the alcohol resistance of their system.
An average person with a body weight of 100 pounds or 45kg can become intoxicated after just two to three drinks while a heavy person who weighs twice that amount may not even feel any signs of drunkenness after the first three beers.
Your height can also affect how quickly or how much you get drunk as the longer circulatory system of a taller person compared to a short person means the alcohol is better distributed in the blood and can delay the build-up of the blood alcohol levels. A shorter person will have the same blood alcohol concentration but it will be distributed much faster.
Science has confirmed that an average woman tends to need less beer to get drunk than your average man. Women have less alcohol dehydrogenase, the enzyme that breaks down alcohol in the stomach, which contributes to higher BACs than men drinking the same amount of alcohol.
Hormone levels also affect the body’s ability to process alcohol, and women will experience higher BACs drinking their regular amount of alcohol right before menstruation. Women tend to have a higher percentage of body fat and a lower percentage of body water.
I’m sure I’m not the only one who has got that elderly aunt who seems to get drunk on just one or two beers at Thanksgiving and Christmas. It can be quite amusing, but why can she not just hold her beer?
Unfortunately, as you age your tolerance for alcohol decreases too. Some put it down to a decrease in the muscle mass of elderly people while others argue your metabolism slows down as you get older and so too does the body’s ability to break down alcohol.
A slower absorption of alcohol and a slower breakdown will significantly increase your blood alcohol content.
Maybe that’s why at college parties I used to be able to chug beer like it was going out of fashion without ever getting too drunk. Instead, now I’m just getting old, or maybe I don’t actually remember how drunk I was in those days!
Other Health Factors
Drinking on an empty stomach can result in you getting drunk from fewer beers as your body will absorb the alcohol much faster. Lack of sleep, less physical activity, and higher levels of body fat can also reduce your alcohol resistance.
When the body is dehydrated you will also get drunk much quicker and with fewer beers as there’s less liquid in the blood to water down the alcohol content. That’s why many people will also ask for a glass of water in addition to their beer during a heavy drinking session.
Not all beers are created equal. Craft beers will generally have a higher alcohol-by-volume content than your mass-produced beers. The higher the percentage of alcohol in your beer, the more alcohol your body has to break down.
On average the human body breaks down just one unit of alcohol per hour which contains about 9 ml of pure alcohol. So drinking a 12oz beer with an ABV of 5% you would be ingesting 1.4 alcohol units.
If you don’t give your body enough time to break down and process the beer alcohol content you will therefore get drunk when drinking excessive alcohol.
Drink Strength (ABV) x Volume (ml)/1000 = Units of Alcohol
Light beers tend to have less of an alcoholic percentage than darker ales. You will need to drink more beer to get drunk if choosing a lower-strength one. A beer with 7 or 8% ABV will get you drunk much quicker than a beer with just a 4%ABV.
Different beer brands will vary in ABV as well as the taste, recipe, quality, and number of calories or carbs. Your body may react differently to two similar beer types from different manufacturers.
Tolerance for Alcohol
Have you ever noticed how some of your buddies never seem to get drunk, no matter how many beers they drink? Over time some people can build up a resistance to alcohol with more exposure to beer playing a major role in how many beers they can drink before getting drunk.
More experienced beer drinkers will basically be able to have higher levels of alcohol consumption before they feel tipsy than those who don’t drink too often.
However, be warned, most people who have a higher tolerance or increased alcohol capacity are more prone to problematic alcohol use disorders, including binge drinking, chronic drinking, alcohol dependence, and the severe consequences that come with excessive drinking.
Other factors which will affect how many beers it takes to get drunk include:
- Lack of sleep
- Genetic factors
- Rate of alcohol consumption
How Many Beers to Get Drunk FAQs
Now we have looked at some of the factors which may affect how many beers it takes to get different people drunk, let’s try to answer some of those more common questions every beer drinker may ask at some time or another.
Can Half a Can of Beer Get You Drunk?
Probably not. Even a full can of beer is unlikely to get most people drunk so half a can shouldn’t be a concern. My biggest worry would be how long that half could have been open – warm flat beer -yuk!
Could 3 or 4 Sips of Beer Make You Drunk?
Just taking 3 or 4 sips of a commercial beer shouldn’t affect your level of intoxication. Of course, it all depends on how big your sip is, or is it a gulp, but unless you are drinking a stupidly strong beer of 10% ABV or more you won’t even feel buzzed from a few sips.
Can One Bottle of Beer Make You Drunk?
No, most likely not. Working on the basis of a 12oz bottle of beer with an average ABV of 5% it’s highly unlikely one bottle of domestic beer will get you tipsy.
However lighter people who weigh less or have a lower alcohol tolerance may be unsafe to drive after 1 beer, especially within the hour the body is processing the alcohol.
With being drunk technically considered as having a blood alcohol level of over 0.08% most people won’t get drunk from consuming one bottle of beer.
Can Two Bottles of Beer Get You Drunk?
Depending on how quickly you consumed the two beers and your weight, height, and sex, there’s a possibility you could get slightly drunk from two beers, over the legal limit to drive definitely, and at least feel quite tipsy.
Will One Beer Get You Drunk First Time?
New beer drinkers often worry their first beer ever is going to get them drunk. Generally, it doesn’t but if it’s the first time you have ever drunk beer you may feel a little differently from how you normally feel drinking coke or other soft drinks. Especially if you chug the beer abnormally quickly.
Can One Beer Make You Legally Drunk?
As a rule of thumb, no. Since the legal definition of drunkenness is 0.08% BAC one bottle of standard beer, even a 16 oz is not going to push you over that limit. Obviously, the higher the alcohol content, the bigger the chance, but it would need to have an ABV of at least 20% or higher for a 160-pound person to become drunk from just one beer.
Do Spirits Make You Drunk Faster than Beer?
With their higher alcohol percentage in a smaller volume of liquid, spirits have the capacity to get you drunk more quickly.
A quicker rate of consumption will lead to the body not processing the alcohol as quickly as it is consumed, a higher blood alcohol content, and therefore a higher level of drunkenness. Most people may only drink 2 to 3 beers in an hour but when drinking wine or hard liquor that figure can easily be doubled.
Can Non-Alcoholic Beers Get You Drunk?
According to the CDC and NIAAA a standard serving of alcohol is a 12 oz bottle, can, or glass of beer with an ABV of 5%. Working on the basis that 4 – 5 regular beers are enough to make an average adult person drunk, at just 0.5% ABV you would need to consume 40 cans of low-alcohol beers before you got drunk.
One standard serving of beer is equivalent to about 10 servings of non-alcoholic beer.
This has even been backed up by science with German researchers in 2012 asking 67 volunteers to abstain from alcohol for 5 days and then consume 1.5 liters of alcohol-free beer (ABV 0.42%) in an hour.
From the blood samples that were taken throughout the experiment, only 20 of the participants had any detectable alcohol with the highest BAC being 0.0056% – about a 1/7th of the 0.04% when most people start to feel tipsy or the effects of the alcohol.
Non-alcoholic or low-alcoholic beer may have improved in recent years, but I still can’t see myself drinking 40 cans in a week, let alone one hour to get drunk.
How Many Bud Lights Can You Drink Before Getting Drunk?
it would take an average man 5 – 8 Bud Lights over a period of 2 hours to get drunk. A woman can get drunk on just 3 – 5 Bud Lights over the same period.
Can Root Beer Get You Drunk?
No. Your typical sweet and non-alcoholic root beer won’t get you drunk – there’s no alcohol in it! However, there are some root beers out there that are alcoholic so be sure you don’t get the two versions mixed up.
Can Ginger Beer Get You Drunk?
Again, no. Just because a drink has beer on its label doesn’t automatically mean it will get you drunk. Most ginger beers are alcohol-free, although some new alcoholic ginger beers are proving very popular in the ready-to-drink Alcopops market. These will get you drunk, and in my experience far too easily as they go down so well.
Will Drinking Beer in the Summer Get You More Drunk?
It can. When drinking alcohol in hotter temperatures you may get drunk quicker as your body will have less fluid in its cells in hot weather. This leads to a more concentrated level of alcohol in your bloodstream and the inevitable drunkenness that follows.
Can drinking Warm Beer Get You Drunk Quicker?
In some cases, drinking warm alcohol can make your body better able to absorb the alcohol which will make you drunk much easier and faster than drinking an ice-cold beer.
Yes, in answer to the question can beer make you drunk, it certainly can. It’s one of the things I like most about beer.
Just how much beer you need to drink before becoming intoxicated is harder to put a figure on. The number of beers will depend on your body weight, height, how much you drink, and how fast you drink. other factors even including your gender may come into play too.
Just remember to drink responsibly and never get behind the wheel of your car if you feel drunk or slightly buzzed from the beer you have enjoyed on your night out. Stay safe!