Fermentation Riot All Grain Beer Brewing

Calories of Beer and The Light Beer Myth

Everyone out there has friends that likely drink light beer because they think that a light beer is a healthy alternative to a "fuller body" beer. Perhaps you are even one of these people. Due to my "always question everything" attitude I took it upon myself to dig into the data and determine how much the alcohol by volume content and carbohydrates affect the final caloric intake amount for that beer.

First off lets take a look at how calories are affected by alcohol by volume:

Calories of Beer Versus Alcohol Content
This shows a very linear trendline as alcohol increases the beer calories increase. This is expected as alcohol by itself has a certain number of calories. The only way to reduce calories then is to reduce alcohol content.

Calories of Beer Versus Carbohydrates
Again, a very nice trend upward in calorie content as carbohydrates increase.

The other factor that wasn't investigated was the protein content but for most beers this is relatively low (~1g) so this wasn't included in the analysis.

When we combine the alcohol and carbohydrates into a linear function the following formula emerges:

Calories = - 4.33 + (21.27 x %Alcohol) + (3.97 x Grams of Carbohydrates)
S = 7.35345   R-Sq = 97.3%   R-Sq(adj) = 97.2%

What does this mean then?...

For example if a beer has a an alcohol content of 4.5% and 4 grams of carbohydrates the following equation would look like this:

Calories = -4.33 + 21.27 x 4.5 % Alcohol By Volume + 3.97 x 4 grams
Calories = 107

And if you dont like math the following model makes it easier to comprehend.

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Now when a large regional brewery makes bold claims as being the lightest beer in the world. What does this mean in terms of alcohol content?

Lightest Beer in the World

When we look at Budweiser Select we see it has a bold 55 calories listed on the front of the bottle. It is also listed that this beer has 1.9 grams of carbohydrates per beer. So just how much alcohol content is in the beer then? Lets figure it out on our own based on the model above:

55 calories = -4.33 + 21.27 x (% Alcohol By Volume) + 3.97 x 1.9

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When we test our math skills or use the model we come up with an answer of 2.43%ABV. Is it a surprise alcohol content isn't listed in big bold lettering on the front of the bottle?

Lightest Beer In World
Is this more marketable, I think not!

My guess is that if and when the day comes that the government (TTB) requires nutritional information (alcohol content, carbohydrates, and protein) listed on a beer, many consumers will realize that alcohol content has been compromised in light beers.


Drink a beer based on your taste preference because in the end alcohol content will be what mainly dictates the overall calorie amount. If your looking for the lightest beer in the world based on calories drink water - ZERO calories! Alcohol alone has a set number of calories and if calories are limited so too is alcohol.

Until the general consumer realizes where this battle for the lightest beer is going, let the battle continue until light beers get to yellow colored water. Wait, they are already there!

Written By: Propagation Nation 4/10/2011


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