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Does Butterbeer contain alcohol?

Alcohol use isn't unheard of in Potterverse. As we know, Hagrid likes to imbibe, and so do Mundungus Fletcher, Professor Slughorn, and Winky the House-elf. In fact, Winky is able to become intoxicated on Butterbeer. J.K. Rowling has always stressed the differences between humans and house-elves, though.

Professor Slughorn breaks out the oak-matured meade for Harry and Ron in Half-Blood Prince. As well, in HBP, Harry is able to keep Hagrid and Slughorn's bottle of wine refilling itself, so apparently there's no underage restriction on the magical production of alcohol in Potterverse.

Everyone in the Order -- adults and teens alike -- at the Burrow has Firewhisky in honor of Mad-Eye Moody in Deathly Hallows.

Butterbeer is also served in The Three Broomsticks. This one might mean nothing, as a person can get a glass of Coke in a Muggle bar or pub just as easily as a mixed drink or a pint. Also, drinking laws are more liberal in Europe and the UK, I believe?

There are myriad Butterbeer recipes online, both alcoholic and non-alcoholic recipes. I also kind of poked around The Wizarding World of Harry Potter and The Three Broomsticks, but no official recipes are posted. Like Disney, Universal does not allow alcohol, so I doubt the theme park is a good resource for confirmation either way (as all their beverages would presumably be alcohol-free).

So does Butterbeer contain alcohol?

I will not make a Butterbeer tag.

  • 4
    By the way, Disney and Universal most certainly both serve alcoholic beverages, they just don't allow you to bring it in yourself. In particular, Universal serves Butterbeer but their version contains no alcohol except rum extract (which does contain a little alcohol). – Mark Beadles Jun 3 '12 at 23:42
  • Go to universalorlando.com/harrypotter and select Hogsmeade and travel to the Three Broomsticks, you'll see this non-alcoholic Butterbeer and pumpkin juice on the menu, in addition to alcoholic beverages. I'd give a link, but it's flash :( Of course, this does not answer whether CANON butterbeer contains alcohol.... – Mark Beadles Jun 3 '12 at 23:50
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    I read an article a while back on the development of Universal's Butterbeer (can't find it for the life of me now unfortunately) that indicated that the reason it's non-alcoholic is so they can serve it to children (obviously) without having to police alcoholic vs non-alcoholic versions. – dlanod Jun 4 '12 at 0:01
  • Btw the way, are the Professor Trelawny's 'Cherry' Bottles, Rosemerta's mead also some kind of alcoholic beverages? – Manik Sethisuwan Jun 4 '12 at 10:26
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    "Also, drinking laws are more liberal in Europe and the UK, I believe?" Correct. Although in the UK you still have to be 18 to order beer in a pub (16 if it's consumed with a meal), so evidently the wizarding world is less strict on these matters. – Royal Canadian Bandit Apr 19 '14 at 10:58
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Let's look back at the scene where we see Winky intoxicated:

"Winky is getting through six bottles a day now," Dobby whispered to Harry.

"Well, it's not strong, that stuff," Harry said.

But Dobby shook his head. "'Tis strong for a house-elf, sir," he said.

I find this to be very strong evidence that butterbeer is, in fact, alcoholic. especially Harry's comment: "it's not strong." That basically necessitates that it has some intoxicating effect, otherwise he'd have said something more to the effect of "how can she be drunk on sugar water?".

  • 1
    For examples of characters getting drunk off 'sugar water', Belldandy of Ah! My Goddess does, with some rather amusing results (vol. 15). – Clockwork-Muse Jun 4 '12 at 21:49
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    This is pure speculation, but I think of Butterbeer as being a low-alcohol beverage, similar to medieval "small beer" or a modern mild ale. It would have a low alcohol content (no more than 3%, perhaps only 1%) and in the medieval era (or the wizarding world) would have been considered a suitable drink for teenagers (en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Small_beer). It may be that a house elf's metabolism is much more senitive to alcohol than a human's. – Royal Canadian Bandit Apr 19 '14 at 10:56
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    It need not be that a house elf's metabolism is more susceptible, just that their body mass (3 foot, skinny) is a lot less than even an 11 year old human. – Dan Kelly Apr 28 '14 at 15:14
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    @DanKelly Harry was 14 at the time :) – The Dragon Rider who Lived Apr 28 '14 at 16:48
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    @BMWwurm, shandy a mixture of beer and lemonade has been popular in the UK since the 19th century, in its commercial version it has an alcohol content of less than 0.5%. One popular brand is Ben Shaws. benshawsdrinks.co.uk/our-drinks/bitter-shandy/#tab3 – Sarriesfan May 23 '17 at 13:18
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There are a number of indications that it is alcoholic, though never explicitly so:

  • As you noted, House-elves can get drunk on it.
  • Harry wondered what Ron and Hermione might do under the influence of Butterbeer (Half-Blood Prince):

“Although Harry watched his two friends more closely over the next few days, Ron and Hermione did not seem any different except that they were a little politer to each other than usual. Harry supposed he would just have to wait to see what happened under the influence of butterbeer in Slughorn’s dimly lit room on the night of the party.”

  • In the Prisoner of Azkaban movie, Hermione appears tipsy after drinking Butterbeer at the Three Broomsticks Inn.

As you probably found in your own search, buttered beer was noted as a real drink with a recipe in The Good Huswifes Handmaide for the Kitchin which, as it contained beer, was definitely alcoholic.

  • In the Half Blood Prince movie, Hermione seemed tipsy too, after drinking Butterbeer. She was walking, singing, arms around Harry and Ron, until Katie Bell was attacked by the Necklace, that is. – Manik Sethisuwan Jun 4 '12 at 10:24
  • It's hard to say if that reference indicates that Hermione was actually drunk of butterbeer, was drinking something other than butterbeer, or if this was some kind of joke to say that she's so tightly-wound as to become drunk from appearing to drink beer. – Gorchestopher H Jun 4 '12 at 16:51
  • Wonder what Pottermore says – DVK-on-Ahch-To Jun 16 '13 at 22:54
  • @ManikSethisuwan, well, maybe she is not sticking with only the butterbeer in HPB, since that would not really be a problem with Hermione, after all she's already of age by that time. In PoA I cannot recall her being tipsy at all. They heard Sirius all but killed the potters when they went in there... she was a bit giddy with Ron around the Shrieking Shack, but I wouldn't put that on alcohol..... – BMWurm Aug 8 '14 at 14:17

protected by DVK-on-Ahch-To Jun 17 '13 at 20:46

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