People chugging a bottle of beer at sunset near the beach
Chugging a beer | Photo by Rashid Khreiss

How do you shotgun a beer quickly?

If you plan on going to a party soon with beer pong and other drinking games, you might be wondering how to shotgun a beer so that you are prepared for anything.

You have probably seen it done in a movie or TV show, or maybe even in person, you know, if you've ever been to a college football tailgate, but never had the guts to try it yourself. And you probably don’t want to embarrass yourself by attempting it and having a mass spillage.

In short, shotgunning beers is a way to chug a beer can (not beer bottle) as fast as possible by drinking it out of the side of the can. Drinking beer fast like this can be intimidating for beginners, and to be honest, it is a pretty silly activity. You will probably smell like beer, and you will almost definitely burp.

But you are here reading this article, and so you probably have a pretty good reason to prepare some shotgun skills for your next bro barbecue, bachelor party, or whatever other silly reason you have to drink beer this fast - aka - playing drinking games.

So let’s review everything you need to know about shotgunning a beer for the first time. To note, less beer leaving the can won't have you winning the race if it's a competitive shotgun race.

What Is Shotgunning a Beer?

When you first see somebody shotgunning a beer, you might have to rub your eyes and make sure your eyes aren’t fooling you. Yes, the person is drinking from the side/bottom of the can, and yes, they did finish their beer in less than five seconds. You probably even saw multiple guys shotgunning simultaneously and racing to see who could finish first.

Let’s leave the logic of why you would shotgun for a different article and first just explore how it even works. Between the atmospheric pressure and the fluid dynamics, there is some fascinating science explaining how shotgunning works. But you’re reading an article on shotgunning, so let’s keep the science to a minimum.

The short of it is that drinking from the bottom of the can allows the beer to flow out without any resistance. Normally, when you try to drink beer fast from the top of the can, it flows out in awkward pulses that make it next to impossible to chug. And awkwardness aside, you will never win a race against someone who’s drinking from the bottom.

When you drink from the bottom of the can and open up the top, the air bubble remains on top of the liquid and helps push it out of the hole you make in the bottom. Instead of the beer having to negotiate with the pockets of air to flow into your mouth, shotgunning allows the ice-cold beer to flow out at whatever speed gravity will allow.

Once you have mastered the art of puncturing a hole in your beer can, the only remaining skills you should build—that is, if you want to win a shotgunning race sometime—is how to breathe and open up your throat for the beer. The most experienced shotgunners can open up their throats so much that the beer flows down without them even having to swallow!

Here's a video from Howcast

How to Shotgun a Beer: A Step-by-Step Guide

When you see an experienced beer drinker quickly shotgun a beer, they make it look fast and easy. But the truth is that if you approach it wrong, you can end up spilling beer everywhere and making a fool of yourself.

And in terms of safety, you also want to be safe about how you cut a hole in the side of the can so that you don’t leave any sharp metal exposed that could cut your lip. So let’s work through a step-by-step on how to shotgun a beer.

1. Turn Can Sideways

There is an air bubble in a sealed can of beer that moves around depending on how the can is oriented. When the can is upright, the air bubble naturally sits on the top where you open the can. But since you will be drinking from the bottom/side of the can, you want to move the air bubble there.

If you try to puncture a small hole into the can before moving the air bubble to the correct location, you will start spraying beer out as soon as you break through the metal.

2. Mark the Hole

Once you have moved the air bubble to be on the side of the can, you should mark the spot where you will puncture the hole. Marking the spot with a slight scratch or indent will make it easy to cut in the perfect place when you are ready.

And it turns out that the perfect location for your shotgunning hole is about one inch up from the bottom of the can. The aluminum can is not the same hardness in all locations, and you want to choose a sweet spot that is close to the bottom but also on the soft part of the metal. Around one inch up from the bottom is where the metal starts to get softer.

Beware sharp edges

3. Use Sharp Object or Shotgun Tool to Puncture a Hole

Once your hole is marked, and your air bubble is right underneath the hole, you can now safely puncture your can without beer spraying everywhere. Use a sharp object like a key or a knife to pierce a hole through the metal. Also, bottle opener may work in a pinch. No matter how well you have prepared up until this point, you will likely have some beer spillage.

Once you break through the metal, adjusting the size of the hole should be easy as that part of the aluminum is soft and bendable. Using your key or knife, push around the sides of the hole until it is about the size of a dime. If you use your finger, be careful not to pull it out of the hole too quickly. The aluminum edges can be sharp enough to cut your finger, something that will damper the fun mood of the upcoming beer-drinking race!

You can make the hole bigger than a dime, but make sure that you will be able to fit your entire mouth around the hole. A large hole will allow more beer to flow out, which means you have a chance at drinking the beer faster (assuming you can swallow it fast enough). But if the hole is too big and your mouth does not fit around it, you will end up with beer all over your shirt.

Order some Beer Shotgunning Tools from Amazon

4. Place Mouth on Hole

Once you correctly make the hole, keep the can horizontal until you are ready to shotgun. The hole should be facing up, and the angle of the beer can should also be pointing up enough to keep the air pocket in alignment.

Before drinking, it is a good idea to position your mouth around the hole and make sure your lips make a solid seal. If you try to turn the can vertical and try to find the hole after, you might miss it a bit and end up spilling.

5. Turn Can Vertical

When you are ready to start drinking the beer, you will be turning the can completely vertical so that all of the beer rushes out of the bottom. In fact, with your head tilted back, the can will technically have an angle sharper than true vertical. And as you drink, you can also adjust the angle to speed up the flow.

Once the can is vertical, beer will immediately start flowing out. So these last two steps are worth rehearsing in your head as they will happen all at once. You can think of turning the can vertical and opening the top to drink as one fluid motion.

6. Tilt Your Head Back and Open the Can

Your mouth made a solid seal with the hole, and you are turning the can vertical. As you begin this motion, you also need to open the top tab of the beer can so that air can flow through. This air channel is the secret to the fast flow of a beer shotgun. Without it, you will have to suck the beer out of the can slowly.

And you should be aware that once the can is vertical and you pop open the tab, there is no turning back. Beer will flow, and it will flow fast. So be ready for this moment. Take a deep breath to relax (especially your throat muscles) and tilt your head back slightly to help open up your throat and prepare for the sudden rush of beer you feel glugging down your throat.

Now it is just a matter of staying relaxed and letting the beer flow down. Some people prefer to open their throats and take in all the beer at once. But not everybody can do it like this, so you might have to instead make a series of fast swallows as the beer flows. These last two steps happen fast, and it’s all about coordination.

So if you want to avoid embarrassment at a party in front of other people, it is worth practicing these last two steps until they feel smooth and second nature.

The Beer Bong

The above steps take you through a traditional method of shotgunning a beer, but there are now devices on the market called beer bongs that take out some of the guesswork and messy spillage.

There are a few different designs out there, but most beer bongs wrap around the beer can in some way to make shotgunning faster, easier, and spill-free. All you have to do is pop on the beer bong, and it automatically cuts into the can.

There’s even a spout attached that makes chugging your beer as cast as possible!

How to Choose a Beer to Shotgun

Besides knowing the above steps about how to shotgun a beer, there is also some strategy in choosing the right beer. So unless you're brave, no Hazy IPAs.

Some of this choice will be a personal preference about what beer tastes best and goes down smooth, but the main idea is that you want to choose a light beer - hint: cheap beers work best. After all, why spend a lot of money on a beer that will be gone in five seconds?

Light Beer

Describing a beer as light beer originally came from the 1940s when the Coors Brewing Company began selling the now famous Coors Light.

Describing beer as light is now a ubiquitous term in the beer world for beers with fewer calories and lower alcohol content. Light beers are usually pale in color—sometimes they can even look watered down—and you brew them in the lager style.

And some of the most popular beers in America—the ones you see in every supermarket and dominating the display cases at the ends of aisles—are all light lagers that fit this category.

Beers like Bud Light, Miller Lite, Coors Light, and Natural Light are all classic light beers that people use for shotgunning. They have less alcohol content, and aside from causing you to burp, they don’t fill up your stomach as much as a darker lager or IPA.

IPAs And Darker Beer

And speaking of IPAs, the craft beer world is exploding in popularity, and it seems like almost every city is seeing new breweries pop up all the time.

And with the growth of craft beer also comes a growing number of hyper-intense IPAs, stouts, and other heavy beers whose alcohol content can range from 7-9% for IPAs to as high as 14% for some stouts. You should not attempt to shotgun with high ABV beers.

Not only will you risk getting way too drunk, but you will also be wasting the delicious taste and hard-earned money you spent to purchase your craft beer.

Conclusion

Well, you now know just about everything you need to know about how to shotgun a beer. Despite how silly the activity can look, it can be a fun way for a group of people to bond and enjoy a twist on their drinking games.

So hopefully, you will be more relaxed and more skilled next time you attempt to shotgun a beer. Having fun with this activity goes without saying, but please also remember to be careful and drink responsibly. Like, don't shotgun a beer while playing waterfall. That's a surefire countdown to inebriation and we don't advocate for that.