2014 Pulitzer Prize Winner

What five beers account for most emergency room visits?

Published: August 20, 2013, 9:08 pm, by Scott Rappold

Answer: Not a single craft beer.

The New York Times reported on a study at Johns Hopkins Hospital in Baltimore, analyzing how many patients in the emergency room had been drinking and what they had been drinking.

Not surprising, the top five were Budweiser, Steel Reserve, Colt 45, Bud Ice and Bud Light.

Surmised the Times:

“Three of the brands are malt liquors, which typically contain more alcohol than regular beer. Four malt liquors accounted for nearly half of the beer consumption by emergency room patients, even though they account for less than 3 percent of beer consumption in the general population.”

The author, David H. Jernigan of the Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health, told the newspaper the  findings could have policy implications, potentially influencing labeling requirements and marketing for higher-alcohol beers.

But here’s my problem with this.

The alcohol content by volume for these beers is 5 percent for Budweiser, 8.1 percent for Steel Reserve, 6 percent for Colt 45, 5.5 percent for Bud Ice and 4.1 percent for bud light.

Even Steel Reserve barely scratches the surface of the strength of many Colorado craft beers. ABVs of 8, 9 and 10 percent are common. Barleywines can hit the 12 to 15 percent mark. Heck, even Colorado Springs’ Bristol Brewing Co. made a beer that checked in at 18.4 percent. What good would a warning label do on these lovely brews, that most people buy not to gorge themselves on, but to sip and enjoy?

Local taste to Baltimore was undoubtedly a factor in the study, in a town not exactly known for its craft beer industry. If you’ve ever had their National Bohemian beer, you’ll understand why. But my guess on why these beers were so common in the study is they’re cheap.

You can buy a lot for a little, and that means maybe you drink a lot. And maybe the sort of people who drink a lot of cheap beer in a night are the sort who are more likely to wind up in the ER.

Maybe instead of a warning label on strong beers, there should be a warning label on cheap beers.