To determine whether the effects of drinking pattern (predominantly weekend versus daily drinking) have differential effects on serum lipids, 55 healthy male drinkers were recruited on the basis of a regular alcohol intake, 210-500 ml absolute alcohol/week (approximately 3-6 standard drinks/day), with more than 60% consumed as beer. Fourteen subjects were categorised as predominantly weekend drinkers, while 41 subjects regularly drank on a daily basis. After maintenance of their drinking pattern during a 4-week familiarisation, subjects were randomised to either consume low alcohol beer (0.9%, v/v) only, or to maintain their usual drinking habit consuming full-strength beer (5%, v/v) for the next 4 weeks. They then switched to full-strength or low alcohol beer, respectively, for a further 4 weeks. Their drinking pattern remained constant during the study. In both weekend and daily drinkers, a reduction in alcohol intake (i.e. from 387 ml/week to 88 ml/week for weekend drinkers and from 418 ml/week to 95 ml/week for daily drinkers, respectively, P < 0.001) resulted in a similar 0.12 mmol/l fall in HDL-C (P < 0.01) with a concomitant significant fall in both apolipoproteins A-I and A-II. In daily drinkers total cholesterol fell by 0.28 mmol/l (P < 0.001) and triglyceride by 0.22 mmol/l (P < 0.01) with a reduction in alcohol intake, but no change in LDL-C was seen. In contrast, weekend drinkers total cholesterol was unchanged while triglyceride decreased by 0.26 mmol/l (P < 0.05) and LDL-C increased by 0.25 mmol/l (P < 0.01). Lp(a) increased with a reduction in alcohol intake in both daily (9.1 U/l, P < 0.05) and weekend drinkers (27.6 U/l, P = 0.07). Previous reports of a more atherogenic lipid profile with episodic versus regular daily drinking were not confirmed in this study and potentially favourable effects of alcohol to increase HDL-C and decrease Lp(a) were shown to be independent of drinking pattern in these moderate to heavy drinkers.