Photo by Iulian Ursu (Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivs 2.0 Generic (CC BY-NC-ND 2.0))

Apparently all natural phenomena are normally distributed. If that’s the case we can now officially state that Belgian beer is a natural phenomenon. Aside from a few massive outliers (Black damnation beer at 39% ABV, anyone?), Belgian beers are as normally distributed as trees.

I know from the Belgian beers I’ve drunk they tend to be on the heavy side, but I wanted to know if the whole population would be drawn to the heavier beers. I decided to gather some data on the subject and visualize it for exploration.

Just to clarify, ‘on the heavy side’ means an average of above 5% alcohol for me. I consider that the norm for beers. If that’s the case then Belgian beers are on the heavy side indeed. The average alcohol percentage is between 6 and 7. Aside from that average, beers tend to fall below and above that alcohol percentage evenly.

Distribution of alcohol percentage in Belgian beers
Distribution of alcohol percentage in Belgian beers

The vast majority (400+ beers) has between 6 and 7 % alcohol. The slopes of this distribution gently fall down towards the beers under 1.6% (21 beers) and those above 11% (76 beers), which I consider extremes.

Gathering this information makes me wonder about a couple of other things. I assume the norm for a beer is 5%, but is it? With this craft beer revolution you might assume alcohol levels are above 5% everywhere where craft beer is on the rise. What does it look like in those countries?

Alcohol levels in all beers for sale doesn’t say much about what the most popular beers are. What’s the alcohol level that’s drunk most? What does that distribution look like? To be continued.

P.s. In my quest for information I stumbled upon a fine list of recommendations for Belgian beers to try. The list contains some of my favorites, but there’s plenty stuff I never tried and would seriously consider.

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