Most countries have a legal drinking age of about 18. That’s almost universal to reach legal drinking age in your teenage years, save for our own US of A and a few others. While the drinking age used to be 18 in America, up until 1986 with the passing of the National Minimum Drinking Age Act, it wasn’t that much different from European drinking laws. Just what are those alcohol laws in Europe and how do they compare to alcohol laws around the world?
European Drinking Laws
Drinking age in Europe
In most places in Europe, the legal drinking age is pretty standardly 18. There are a few countries, however, that bend this trend just a little bit.
Germany, for example, allows consumption of non distilled alcoholic beverages like beer and wine at the age of 14. But what most people get wrong about this law is that these teenagers have to drink around their legal guardian. Yes, it is illegal for them to sip or purchase alcohol away from their parents.
Speaking of buying, most countries in Europe have limits to what kind of alcohol minors can buy. Take Denmark, for example: there is actually no drinking age here. But there is a purchasing age of 16. However, you are only able to purchase alcohol that’s less than 16.5%, which includes beers and wines. In Denmark, you’d have to be 18 to purchase anything greater than that.
Similarly, Belgium allows for purchasing weaker alcoholic beverages at 16 and harder ones at 18—but they do, in fact, have a legal drinking limit of 16. The same also goes for Austria.
Now, most European countries implement the strict 18 and up drinking policy… with the exception of Iceland, who is right behind us by one year—20.
Alcohol content in Europe
Everyone knows Europe for their drinkers. Generally, the continent has a great attitude about alcohol in general. With that being said, European drinking laws typically make room for a little more alcohol by volume.
That’s the key phrase, though: alcohol by volume. Almost everywhere on Earth measures liquid contents by volume—but when it comes to alcohol percentage, the United States differs greatly. We measure alcohol content by weight instead.
So, it’s a little harder to determine whether European alcohol is stronger than ours, or if it is, by how much. Luckily, science has already figured this one out for us.
If you take a standard mass produced beer like Budweiser, we can see that it has 4% alcohol content by weight. But in Europe, it’s 5% by volume. You’d naturally assume, without thinking too much about it, that European beer is quite a bit more, since one percent is a noticeable difference.
You’d only be half right, though. You’d be right to assume that the alcohol content is higher, but that wouldn’t be accurate for every single beer. You see, with all the different brands, the volume/weight equation will start to vary greatly the higher the percentage gets. Any percentage lower, in fact, you’d start to see the percentage in weight contain more than by volume.
Confused? Let’s just assume that European alcohol, on average, contains about .5% more alcohol than American counterparts. So if you’re looking to get a buzz on while visiting Europe, it would take about one beer less to get you there.
But it could cost you about three beers more…