Just like his contemporary Sappho, Alcaios lived on Lesbos. It has sometimes been suggested that the two were lovers.
Alcaios wrote about war, love and wine, and he invented a new kind of verse called Alcaic. This kind of verse had four lines with the third being a little shorter, and the last one having a falling rhythm. In Latin his phrase "vino veritas" is often quoted, which originally translated "Wine, dear child, and truth".

Alcaios was an opponent of the tyrant Pittacus, and once tried to overthrow him. Pittacus, being a merciful tyrant, let him go, though.