Beer Break Vol. 3, No. 3
Oct. 17, 2002
The question we receive most often at Realbeer.com used to be one that goes
like this: "I've got an unopened 6-pack of Billy Beer. How much is it worth?"
(The answer is that it worth only a few bucks -- that we get the question so
often tells us how many bottles must have been saved.)
Now, the most frequently asked question is along the lines of this one from a
person named Dee: "I've heard that beer is generally high in carbohydrates
... which turns into sugar. How many carbs are in beer? Is there an average
or does it truly depend on the type of beer?"
So, it's probably time to revisit the topic of beer and calories, beer and
fat and, now, beer and carbs. The early success of Michelob Ultra, which was
rolled out nationally less than a year after being tested in four markets,
has cast new attention on the subject.
Let's start with some facts. First (and we love saying this over and over):
Beer has no fat. Unfortunately, it can have plenty of calories, because it
contains carbohydrates, protein and alcohol. A gram of carbohydrates has 4
calories, a gram of protein 4 calories, a gram of fat 9 calories and a gram
of alcohol a little over 7 calories.
And then there is the carb issue. Followers of Robert Adkins ("Dr. Atkins'
Diet Revolution") and other low-carb advocates now count carbohydrates more
carefully than calories. The Atlanta Journal-Constitution recently quoted
Adkins spokeswoman Colette Heimowitz as saying while Atkins discourages the
use of alcohol in the beginning phases of the diet (the "induction" phase),
"if somebody doesn't mind slowing down their weight loss it's fine to add the
lower carb beers, as long as they add it into the total carbs for the day and
don't go beyond their critical carb level."
Although Ultra's carb numbers aren't really much different than Miller Lite,
which has been around since 1974, Michelob struck a chord by marketing to the
low-carb crowd. Ultra advertising carefully stays away from making health
claims, but the ads feature images of joggers, bicyclists and other healthy
role models and the phrase "Lose the Carbs. Not the Taste."
"We're not after the hard-core dieters," Dave Peacock, Anheuser-Busch's vice
president for high-end brands, said a while back. They're aiming at the
exercise-intensive, health-conscious types who want to count carbs.
Pittsburgh Brewing jumped on the bandwagon earlier this year with an ad
campaign that promises I.C. Light doesn't cause beer bellies. Just in case
people didn't get the message from the slogan -- "More Taste. Less Waist." --
or the infomercial-style radio spots touting the new liquid diet, the company
put up billboards with can't-miss views of well-developed stomachs. The hard
bodies were adorned with plastic six-pack rings.
We'll leave most the discussion about how brewing light beers is different
than other beers (despite rumors you have heard, it is not as simple as
taking regular beer and adding water) for another time. Just know that in the
case of Michelob Ultra, A-B says a longer mash is employed to hold down
carbs. It's also interesting that in creating non-alcohol beer many breweries
end up with beer a little longer carbs than your average beer (14-15 for the
NAs versus 10-12 for regular beer). O'Douls is 0.4% abv, has 70 calories and
15 grams of carbohydrates. Coors NA is .5%/73/14.2.
More often than not, when you look closely at a beer label you won't find
information about alcohol content, let alone calories or carbs. However, grab
a bottle of Sam Adams Light or Edison Light and the numbers are all listed on
the label. That tells you something about how these beers want to be
perceived, and also makes it easier for us to answer some of those questions
While we work on a longer list, here are 10 popular light beers with the
calorie and carb counts (for comparison purposes, Budweiser and Heineken both
have about 145 calories and 10-11 carbs) for 12-ounce bottles:
Amstel Light - 95 calories/5 grams of carbohyrdates
Bud Light - 110/6.6
Corona Light - 105/5.0
Edison Light - 109/6.5
I.C. Light - 96/2.9
Keystone Light - 100/5.0
Michelob Light - 134/11.7
Michelob Ultra - 95/2.6
Miller Lite - 96/3.2
Sam Adams Light - 124/9.7
We realize that many of you find this silly. You are resigned to the fact
that fuller bodied beers contain more calories and carbs. You probably agree
with a bar owner quoted in the Atlanta story. Robert Holland, co-owner of the
Universal Joint tavern in Oakhurst, said, "If any of our customers were
interested in a low-carbohydrate beer they ought to consider quitting
Brewed by the Náchod brewery in the Czech Republic
Stephen Beaumont writes:
A deep burnished copper colour, this 9% alcohol by volume lager has a
whisky-ish nose so pronounced that it almost seems the beer could have been
aged in wood. Its very sweet start shows brown sugar notes and leads to a
sweet and sugary body with notes of fresh grass and toasted malt. The warming
finish left me acutely aware of having just sampled a strong beer, but the
taster in me longed for more complexity and flavour.
URTHEL HIBERNUS QUENTUM TRIPEL
Brewed by the De Leyerth Brewery in Belgium
Roger Protz writes:
A 9% beer from Flanders, Belgium, it comes with a cradled cork that blew
right out of the bottle and nearly took my head off. A hazy gold color, with
a dense, rocky head; it has a delicious sour and fruity (sour pears?
peaches?) aroma. The palate is tart, slightly sour, with hints of almonds,
and is wonderfully refreshing. The finish is dry and the fruit is now
decidedly of the apricot variety. Sour and quenching, a beer that bows in the
direction of both West Flanders sour red and Senne Valley lambics.