Beer Break

Beer Break Vol. 1, No. 46
Counting calories

July 18, 2001

An entry from Webster's Unabridged Dictionary: beer belly, a protuberant belly from or as if from drinking large quantities of beer; potbelly; paunch.


So, considering the fact that beer has ZERO fat, why does this happen? We all know people who seem to always have a beer in their hand and are downright skinny. This isn't a health journal, and the answer can be complex. There are numerous factors, starting with how much exercise you get or how many bags of chips you consume while drinking beer.

Also, while beer doesn't contain fat it does have 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. Carbohydrates and fat affect your metabolism in other important ways, but that's something else we'll leave to the health journals.

Light beers contain 5-6 grams of carbohydrates, "regular" beers about 12 grams and maltier, more alcoholic beers even more. And, of course, more alcohol means more calories. That's why a dopplebock (perhaps 8% alcohol by volume) has considerably more calories than a session bitter (about 3.4% abv) or, to pick something dark since color has nothing to do with calories, a dark mild (maybe 3.2% abv).

Before we look at the actual calorie count of a few beers, here are more numbers to add perspective. A five-ounce glass of wine contains about 125 calories; one ounce of distilled spirits, 90 proof, 75 calories. Beyond the world of alcohol: an eight-ounce glass of milk has 160 calories, one ounce of potato chips 160 calories, a banana split 550 calories, and a Burger King Whopper 650 calories. Oh yeah, just six French fries have 12 grams of fat (about as many calories as a light beer).

As with alcohol content, not all breweries publicize how many calories there are in their beer. So a tip o' the hat to Sam Adams for providing information on each of its beers at A look across the family will give you a good feel for how many calories to expect in beers of similar styles. The numbers listed are for 12 ounces: Boston Lager 160, OktoberFest 165, IPA 175, Cream Stout 195, Double Bock 240, and Triple Bock 340.

Here are more 12-ounce servings and the approximate amount of calories in each (in some cases we've see more than one number for the same beer):

Anchor Steam - 145
Bass Ale - 140
Beck's - 140
Budweiser - 140
Corona Light - 105
Guinness Draught - 110
Miller Lite - 96
Sierra Nevada Pale Ale - 150
Sierra Nevada Stout - 185

One more thing to remember: Guinness Draught (be it on tap or in a can) has just one more calorie per ounce than Miller Lite, but if you drink it in 20-ounce Imperial pints at your favorite pub then each serving has 67% more beer, alcohol and calories than a 12-ounce portion.

Tasting notes

Brewed by the Grolsch brewery in The Netherlands

Michael Jackson's tasting notes:

A very pale, greeny-gold, colour; a fine head; a very flowery, sweetish, aroma; a subtle fruitiness, more like sweet lime than lemon; and a smooth, restrained, but persistent, late dryness. It has 5.0 per cent alcohol by volume. Both refreshing and appetising.

Brewed by the Sinebrychoff brewery in Finland

Roger Protz' tasting notes:

In spite of being labelled porter, it is actually in the style of an Imperial Stout. It is warm conditioned for six weeks, bottled without filtration but then pasteurised. It has a big, slightly oil and perfumy body, a deep roasty, vinous and bitter aroma, and a long finish packed with dark fruit, roasted grain and bitter hops.