Why Americans Are Buying Beer With Higher Alcohol Content

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There’s no denying that craft beer has quickly become the fastest-growing segment of the beer industry. In 2014 alone, sales of craft beer skyrocketed by 22%, reaching $19.6 billion. As a result, a major shift in Americans’ beer-drinking tastes is taking place.

According to an August 10 Fox News report, American tastes are gradually shifting from long-beloved light lagers like Budweiser’s Bud Light to hoppier, more flavorful craft beers.

A growing number of these craft beers boast higher alcohol by volume (ABV) to satisfy these shifting tastes, consumer research firm Mintel recently found. Throughout 2013 and 2014, one out of four new beers introduced worldwide had an ABV of 6.5% or higher. In 2014, remarkably, 12% of new beers had an ABV of more than 8%.

“Drinkers today have more sophisticated palates than drinkers generally did years ago and they’re constantly looking to explore unique, high-quality beers,” Jim Koch, founder of Sam Adams’ Boston Beer Co., told CNBC.

Because today’s beer drinkers view craft beers as more sophisticated and trendy, many people also view higher ABV as a sign of higher quality.

“There will be some people that will just look at the beer list and look for ABV,” said Bob Grande, a bartender at the Wurstkuche beer garden in Los Angeles.

The typical 12-ounce beer has a 5% ABV, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention reports. Moderate alcohol consumption is about one of these beers a day for women, and two for men — but with higher alcohol content, the number of beers it takes to reach this level falls significantly. As a result, these beer drinkers get buzzed much faster.

By drinking beers with higher alcohol content, Americans may be inadvertently putting themselves at risk for alcohol dependency and alcoholism, conditions that can often only be controlled by undergoing a treatment program.

“Higher content in alcoholic beverages could cause individuals with a genetic predisposition to alcoholism myriad issues,” says Arnold Hesnod, Clinical Outreach, Clear Sky Recovery. “Ibogaine treatment is remarkably effective for helping those suffering from alcohol dependence.”

Still, when enjoyed in moderation, there’s no reason why craft beers shouldn’t be a staple in any beer enthusiast’s fridge.

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