Check your B.A.C.!!!

Words: Callie Maritz

It is best I start with the disclaimer that drinking and driving is just plain stupid. Take a cab for goodness sake or join one of the plethora of driving clubs operating around town. Onthou, papa wag vir jou!!

This article looks only at those times you stop for a quick beer or two with a friend on your way home and ensuring that you are cognizant of driving home then well within the legal Blood Alcohol Content limits, currently set at 0.05 grams of alcohol per 100grams of an individual’s blood.

Some years ago, when this was still at 0.08% I believed that drinking 3 regular lagers kept me within the limit, but with the lower limit and hundreds of new beers on the market, (all with wildly ranging alcohol content), I was hoping to find some easy way to calculate my BAC.

Not that simple it turns out. The Widmark Equation, (quoted above), proved too much for me. My math skills usually improve the more I drink, but no amount of the amber liquid could help me make sense of the calculations involved. I then found a useful little app called Drinktracker from the aptly named that helps to simplify the process.

No BAC calculator can ever be accurate as there are just too many factors involved. Sex, age, weight, metabolic rate, medication, drinking speed, time elapse and amount of food in the stomach all play a role, but it is still interesting as a rough estimation and quite a fun thing to do.

While most wines range in ABV (alcohol by volume) between 12% and 14.5% and most hard liquor is set at 43%, beer ranges quite wildly – anything between 2% and 11.5 % for the beers I included in my sample. I kept my test to drinking 1 or 2 beers and then seeing what my BAC would be after 1 hour.

It was quite notable how serving size along with ABV lead to vastly fluctuating readings and it is certainly something to be aware of when stopping for a quick beer.

The formula: %BAC = (A x 5.14 / W x r) – .015 x H

Formula applied here:

Porcupine Quill Dam Wolf – 550ml @ 9% ABV – 1 beer = 0.052%, 2 beers = 0.116

Valley Brewery London Ale – 440ml @ 4.5% ABV – 1 beer = 0.014, 2 beers = 0.040

Camelthorn Fresh Weizen – 340 ml @ 2% ABV – 1 beer = 0.0, 2 beers = 0.006

Triggerfish Titan – 340 ml @ 10.2 % ABV – 1 beer = 0.033, 2 beers = 0.078

Birkenhead Pils – 340ml @ 3.6% ABV – 1 beer = 0.004, 2 beers = 0.02%

Erdinger Weissbier – 500ml @ 5.3% ABV – 1 beer = 0.023 %, 2 beers = 0.057%

It is clear that not all beers are equal then and different ABV`s make a huge difference. It is very necessary to check the label before drinking.

Just as important to remember is that there is nothing you can do to speed up the process of your body breaking down alcohol. This always happens at roughly the same pace – one that leads to a reduction of about 0.015% of B.A.C. per hour.

Drinking coffee might make you feel more alert, but just like water it only serves to faster flush the alcohol from your stomach and into your bloodstream.

Eating before a big night does have benefits though. It helps to regulate the absorption of alcohol into the bloodstream, giving your kidneys and liver the opportunity to play catch-up. This in turn goes a long way towards preventing the dreaded hangover.

Bread is a good option, as is dairy, food high in proteins and oil content. See my recipe for French Toast with Tomato and Ginger Relish for the perfect night-before meal.


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