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To echo the sentiments expressed here by our friend, Pete Brown, many people assume that beer is “fattening,” or high in calories. It simply ain’t true.

Beer has calories, to be sure, which are based in carbohydrates, alcohol and some protein. However, beer contains NO fat, and it’s even considered “heart healthy.”

What you may not know is that carbohydrates & protein have 4 calories per gram and alcohol has 7 calories per gram. (For the record, fat has 9 calories per gram.) So most of the relative calories in beer (or wine or spirit) are due to the alcohol content. “Light” beer – which actually an FDA regulated term meaning “30% more adjunct” (usually corn or rice in most American lagers) in the U.S. – derives some of the caloric savings from a reduction in alcohol. Bud Light, for example, is about 4.2% ABV compared to a Budweiser at 4.8%.

By far, the greatest cause of “beer belly” and the perpetuation of the “beer is fattening” myth, is the propensity for consuming multiple servings in one sitting – high calorie intake – and the common pub or bar compliment to beer-drinking: fattening foods, such as nachos, pizza, cheese fries, burgers, etc. How often do we see the drive through lineup at the local fast food stop at the end of the evening? Heck, one chain advertises the “Fourth Meal” to capture this market! The entire experience adds up to a calorie bomb that can saddle all but the most active individuals with an excess of stored fuel.

In layman’s terms, an evening with 4 pints of pale ale, followed by a large #1 at McDonalds is 2200 calories and 54 grams of fat – 20% more calories than the USDA recommended daily intake for a 180 pound male. Only 880 calories and none of the fat were derived from the four pints.

While many craft beers are higher in calories than commercial beers per ounce, usually due to the higher alcohol content and the lack of adjunct, it may also interest you to know that many flavorful beers are actually somewhat lower in calories. A Guinness Draught, for example, has fewer calories (126 cal./12 oz.) and less alcohol (4.3% ABV) than a Budweiser (145 cal./12 oz. & 4.8% ABV). Often, one is drinking fewer craft beers in a single sitting than a typical macro beers drinker may. A nice evening with three pints may be common for a craft beer consumer, amounting to 600-900 calories, depending on the style, whereas a macro beer drinker may slug down 6-8 servings over the same evening, amounting to 900-1200 calories…and spend more money, I might add.

Other beverages can be more or less than any craft beer in terms of calories. A 12 oz. Coke is about the same as a Budweiser at 147 calories. Mountain Dew contains 165. Tropicana Pure Premium Orange juice has 168. Reduced fat 2% Milk has 190 calories for 12 ounces.

Bottom line here is: quality over quantity! …and don’t let “health concerns” scare you from enjoying your favorite craft brew. Most people can fit a few delicious beverages into their weekly diet without much trouble, so long as they’re aware of their behavior and other diet choices to accompany those fermented elixers. In fact, you may actually be doing yourself some good as much research continues to indicate that moderate consumption of beer & alcohol is part of a healthy lifestyle.

Auf dein Wohl!

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