Underage Drinkers Are Not Interested in High Alcohol Gourmet Beer

As we have progressed in our campaign to bring better beer to Alabama, it has become clear to Free the Hops that the single biggest myth propagated by those who oppose allowing gourmet beer into Alabama is that raising the alcohol limit on beer will contribute to the problem of underage drinking. This page on our site is devoted to debunking that myth. Please reference the material on this page when preparing to talk to your legislators, and please print some or all of the materials to take with you if you're making a personal visit.

We obviously cannot say this enough: underage drinkers are not interested in high alcohol gourmet beer. Data from MADD (see links below) proves there is no link between the availability of high alcohol beer and higher rates of underage drinking. Remember, there are now 47 states where these beers are legal.

If making high alcohol beer illegal was the least bit helpful in preventing underage drinking then all the states with the 6% ABV limit on beer should have lower rates of underage drinking than all the other states that do not prohibit higher alcohol content in beer. Until 2004, the states with a 6% limit on alcohol in beer were Alabama, Mississippi, Georgia, West Virginia, North Carolina, and South Carolina. If the myth were true, then all of those states should historically have had the lowest rates of underage drinking in the country. The data below shows that this is indeed not the case:

2002 - Total Fatalities vs. Alcohol-Related Fatalities Among 15-20 Year Olds
2003 - Total Fatalities vs. Alcohol-Related Fatalities Among 15-20 Year Olds

To clarify, we have highlighted the states with 6% or lower ABV limits on beer. High alcohol beer was legal in all other states during the time period this data reflects. We have not altered the data in any way; we simply copied, pasted, and sorted it so that states with the lowest alcohol-related fatality rate among minors are at the top and states with the highest alcohol-related fatality rate among minors are at the bottom. They are ranked "best" to "worst."

If the myth is true, why aren't the 6% states all lumped at the top of the chart?

Because the myth is false. There is no link between high alcohol beer and underage drinking. There is no pattern at all in the data.

There are two reasons for this:

  1. High alcohol beers are very expensive. Underage drinkers are looking for a cheap "buzz".
  2. High alcohol beers have very strong flavors that make them extremely difficult to consume quickly.
    They are "sipping" beers, and the flavors are often described as an "acquired taste." In contrast, the mass-produced pale lagers already widely available in Alabama are light-bodied and very mild in flavor.

We have a chart that illustrates reason number one very clearly. Unfortunately, the only way to understand reason number two is to actually taste the beers themselves, something our anti-alcohol opponents have never done.

To drive home the point that high alcohol gourmet beer is much more expensive than the beer already on retailers' shelves in Alabama, Free The Hops has created the following chart:

Click Here for the full table

That chart demonstrates the difference in cost for a hypothetical underage drinker looking for a "buzz." Since the concern of our opponents is that kids will be able to get drunker easier and faster because a bottle of beer may have twice as much alcohol as Bud or Miller, we show you exactly how much the same amount of alcohol would cost if purchased in various forms. We calculated the cost per ounce of a variety of beers and liquors and then used the ABV to calculate how much 2.4 ounces of alcohol would cost. That's how much alcohol a person consumes if he drinks 4 cans of Bud or Miller.

As you can see on the chart, high alcohol gourmet beer is vastly more expensive than anything already legal in the state of Alabama. There is no reason an underage individual looking for an easy "buzz" would blow three, four, five, or even ten times as much money on gourmet beer. He'd rather spend that money downloading music for his iPod.

The only thing we can't prove to you on this page is the difference in taste between cheap beer and expensive, gourmet beer. That can only be experienced by tasting the products yourself.

If you're a teetotaler, or perhaps don't drink beer, then we suggest you contemplate the difference in flavor between Velveeta and Roquefort blue cheese. That's actually a very useful analogy, because the cost difference is also comparable. You might be able take a half pound of Velveeta, combine it with some salsa and eat the entire thing melted over corn chips. But there is no way you'd ever eat a half pound of Roquefort in one sitting. The flavor is much too strong, and it would be way too expensive.

Such is the difference between Miller and Rochefort 10 Trappist Ale.