We all know that beer is bad for fitness, hence the term "beer belly," however, I'd have a hard time finding someone that doesn't drink a cold one at least occasionally. But how bad is it really? Are some styles better than others? I recently went to European beer bar in Toronto
that put the calorie count for each of their draught beers in the menu and I noticed that the caloric value has less to do with the style of beer and more to do with the country it's from. I figured that wheat beers would have more calories since they taste so heavy, and this is true for Hoegaarden which rings in at 13.33 calories per ounce, or 266 calories per 20 ounce pour. However, German pride Erdinger Weissbier has comparatively less at 10.8 calories per ounce, or 215 per pint. Both have the same amount of alcohol.
Lagers are lighter as a rule, however, there are significant discrepancies here as well. Oktoberfest lager Paulaner Helles carries 8 calories per ounce where Austrian lager Steigl packs 11 calories or 220 per 20 ounce pint. Pilsner Urquell from the Czech Republic - the first pilsner, and alleged first blond beer in the world - is a whopping 13 calories per ounce, boarderlining the caloric value of Hoegaarden. We expect sweeter beers to have more calories, so it's no surprise that Belgian beers were the highest in calories. Super-sweet strawberry wheat beer Fruili averages 12.5 calories per ounce, while trappist beer La Trappe Quadruple weighs in at 16.5, and bitter-sweet Triple IPA Houblon Chouffe carries a whopping 20.6 calories per ounce. It's no wonder these beers all come in 12-13 ounce glassware!
No matter what the beer style is, German beer seems to beat the others in every category. But German beer not only has less calories, it has less ingredients. Many breweries still follow the Bavarian Purity Law or "Reinheitsgebot
" which forbids brewers from using more than four ingredients in their beers. Each beer that abides by the Bavarian Purity Law has only water, barley, hops and yeast, with styles created by the quantity and timing of each ingredient throughout the brewing process.
The Reinheitsgebot was written about 500 years ago to prevent Bavaria from running out of food. Beer had become so popular that corn fields, wheat fields, and other grains that originally fed the people were all being bought out by breweries for their recipes. To keep prices reasonable for bakers, the government created the law preventing breweries from using adjuncts in their brews to prevent famine. Many German breweries use other ingredients today; however, older breweries such as Paulaner, Spatenbräu, Hacker-Pschorr, Löwenbräu and other original breweries of Bavaria stick to tradition. The lack of sugar, flavouring, and other adjuncts likely contribute to the reduced caloric value.
Even though German beers tend to be lighter in calories, they're not better than pure liquor. A 1.5oz shot of vodka, gin, or whiskey averages 96 calories, or 64 per ounce. Drink them straight or with soda and you'll be better off, but add four ounces of soda pop or juice and you've raised the calorie count anywhere between 100-400%.
If you can handle the taste of light beer there are plenty of North American "diet" beers such as Molson 67 that has only 5.5 calories per ounce, and Miller64 at 5.3. Coors light still has more calories than Paulaner however, adding up to 8.5 versus 8.
find more calorie comparisons between beer brands, liquor brands and wines.