Beware of Strong Beer

Connecticut's beer business is brewing and booming. Following a national trend and fueled in part by favorable legislation over the past few years, breweries keep popping up in Connecticut, which now has close to sixty in all parts of the state; with several around New Haven in Stratford, Hamden, East Haven, Wallingford and Branford. With so many in a small area, one can easily drive to two or three for a fun day or night of beer drinking. Drinking and driving however do not mix. As enjoyable as beer is, it is still an alcoholic beverage which impairs the ability to drive and subjects a driver to DUI (driving under the influence; operating while intoxicated) liability. It is legal to drink and drive, but it is not legal to be drunk and drive. It is good advice in life to know your limits. It is good legal advice as well. The legal limit for blood alcohol content in Connecticut is 0.08 for people 21 and over and 0.02 for individuals under 21. 

There are many ways to estimate a BAC, from charts to wheels to pocket breathalyzers and now phone apps, but the only device that truly matters is the Intoxilyzer which our state and local police use for official alcohol tests and often by then it's too late. There's also the conventional wisdom that alcohol metabolizes at the rate of one "standard drink" per hour. Many charts and other BAC guides are based on that concept. One of the biggest shortcomings of the conventional wisdom is in the measurements. A standard beer is 12 ounces of beer at 5% alcohol. Draft beer however is often served in pints (16 ounces) or even larger quantities, sometimes over 22 ounces. While a lot of party beers come in under 5% alcohol, the beer served at breweries is often higher. A local brewery I like has several beers over 6% and 7% alcohol with a few that approach 10%. The strong ones are usually poured in smaller quantities, but even then, a 12 oz. stout at 9.2% contains more alcohol than two cans of light beer.

Most DUI clients underestimated their own intoxication. Recently I've had some clients who went over the legal limit after drinking just a few beers. Although the police and I am often skeptical when DUI suspects say they've had "only two beers," it is possible, with pints of strong beer (and also a small stature) to eclipse the legal limit (it needs to be noted that a DUI can be proven by either an elevated blood alcohol content or by intoxication, which does not require a BAC level). The only advice I can give is to be careful and not take chances when it comes to drinking and driving. 


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