Apr 23, 2024


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Is there maltose in your beer?

Editor's Note: Bob Skilnik wrote this story for a professional brewing audience, but we thought the subject would also be of interest to readers.

By Bob Skilnik

Perhaps as a brewer, you find the whole idea of counting carbs as nonsense — that you brew your beers for flavor, not nutritional benefits. But what about your customers, especially the regulars who are now on a low-carb diet? Think they'll drink your beer without knowing the carb counts in your products? I suspect they'll walk right pass your 50-case displays and perhaps pick up the beer of a competitor that has seen the advantage of making this information available to their valued customers — or watch helplessly as they pick-up a six-pack of light beer with a nutritional analysis statement emblazoned on it.

Drink Beer, Get Thin

There is also the overall effect of carb-watching, in general, to contend with. Bread and pasta makers are bemoaning a fall-off in sales. Fast-food franchises are tweaking their recipes to keep their dieting customers happy — and coming back. Food manufacturers like Heinz are rolling out reduced-carbohydrate products — and yet some in the craft brewing industry continue to stick their heads in the sand over this issue.

Have you noticed that the No. 1 selling book in the New York Times Book Review is now The South Beach Diet by Doctor Arthur Agatston. Go out and spend $15 and read this book. Know your enemies. It's this book, Fast and Easy by Suzanne Sommers and The G.I. Diet by Rick Gallop that your customers are reading. These three books attack beer — all beers, both light and regular-brewed, as something to be avoided. Why? Because of maltose, a sugar in beer that normally shows trace or no discernible levels in most beers.

The confusion stems from a distorted train of logic that equates malted barley with maltose and the high "glycemic index" (G.I) of this sugar. These diet books use the glycemic level as a guide in making food choices, separating the "good" carbohydrates from the "bad." The G.I. is intended to measure how fast and high a specific food increases blood sugar — with an accompanied rise in insulin levels. With glucose used as a control substance and a point of reference, maltose measures a high 110 on the glycemic index, 10 points higher than glucose. It's at this point in the argument that logic seems to fly out the window. Although beer consists mostly of water, hop oils and trace amounts of sugar, it is equated by these authors as containing the same glycemic index as pure maltose.

The result? No beer in their diet plans — no light beer, no regular-brewed beer. Forget about carbs, beer is evil —pure and simple. Here's some examples of anti-beer statements in The South Beach Diet

- p. 12 "I gave up bread, pasta, rice, and potatoes. No beer."

- p. 56 "At the other end of the spectrum is beer. As discussed, it has a high glycemic level thanks to its main component, maltose, which is worse than table sugar."

I find the last statement particularly disturbing. Beer shows little or no maltose content and therefore would have little bump on the glycemic index. I believe we'd also all agree that the main component of beer is water, not pure maltose.

From Suzanne Sommers Fast and Easy, Suzanne Sommers, Crown Publishers, 2002:

- p. 86 "[Glycemic Index Chart] Beer = 110"

Pure maltose has a G.I. of 110. To make the jump from maltose to beer and retain a G.I. of 110 is a very false assumption.

Where did this beer "urban legend" originate? Possibly from this 1999 book, Eat Yourself Slim, Michel Montignac, Micel-Ange Publishing:

- p. 38 [High GI Carbohydrates] "Maltose (beer) [=} 110"

Still not convinced that these books are anti-beer? Think you're immune to the same sales drop that bread and pasta makers are experiencing? A representative from a major American brewery doesn't think so.

"Beer sales are dropping and it's not just the cannibalization of our core brands by our low-carb entry. It's the demonizing of beer by certain diet books on the market today that's causing this," he said.

How can you fight this bias? At a minimum, subject one or two of your beers to a lab analysis. The Siebel Institute of Technology Laboratory Services division offers a test that will give you an accurate measurement of the carbohydrates in your beer for only $48 per sample. Also ask about a possible maltose reading, making sure you can get the maltose reading pulled separate from any isomaltose in your sample for higher accuracy. Contact James Murphy by e-mail at or by phone at 847-272-8700, ext. 313.

Start doing some research on your own about the argument of maltose and beer. Educate your customers if they ask about carbs or maltose contents in your beers, even if you think all of this is hogwash. The bread and pasta industry didn't listen. Now it's your turn.

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