Although operant ethanol self-administration can increase accumbal dopamine activity, the relationship between dopamine and ethanol levels during consumption remains unclear. We trained Long-Evans rats to self-administer escalating concentrations of ethanol (with 10% sucrose) over 7 days, during which two to four lever presses resulted in 20 min of access to the solution with no further response requirements. Accumbal microdialysis was performed in rats self-administering 10% ethanol (plus 10% sucrose) or 10% sucrose alone. Most ethanol (1.6 ± 0.2 g/kg) and sucrose intake occurred during the first 10 min of access. Sucrose ingestion did not induce significant changes in dopamine concentrations. Dopamine levels increased within the first 5 min of ethanol availability followed by a return to baseline, whereas brain ethanol levels reached peak concentration more than 40 min later. We found significant correlations between intake and dopamine concentration during the initial 10 min of consumption. Furthermore, ethanol-conditioned rats consuming 10% sucrose showed no effect of ethanol expectation on dopamine activity. The transient rise in dopamine during ethanol ingestion suggests that the dopamine response was not solely due to the pharmacological properties of ethanol. The dopamine response may be related to the stimulus properties of ethanol presentation, which were strongest during consumption.