You know one of the worst things about craft beer?
The best of it has even more calories than sugary soft drinks. A lot more.
A 12-ounce can of Coca-Cola has 140 calories. A 12-ounce can of Two Hearted Ale from Bell’s Brewery? 212 calories.
Or how about Breakfast Stout from Founders Brewing Co.? 270 calories.
Those are two of enthusiasts’ most beloved beers in America. They’re loaded with flavor and made with quality ingredients. But if a New Year’s resolution has you watching calories, it’s now harder than ever to pretend beer doesn’t count.
Pop cans, bags of chips and candy bars have long included mandatory nutrition-fact labels. Soon, the country’s biggest beer brands, such as Bud Light, Miller Lite and Corona, are expected to join them voluntarily. The beer aisle until now has been a place you could easily suspend judgment; the federal government doesn’t require the same labeling for alcoholic beverages.
Perhaps this helped give bigger, bolder craft beers a leg up in the market. Make beer more flavorful, even if that means double or more calories – Bell’s Expedition Stout (383 calories) is about four times as caloric as than Miller Lite (96) per 12-ounce serving – and a lot of people will go for it.
Bud Light packaging in February is to include serving facts labels and ingredients. (Photo: Anheuser-Busch Inbev)
Lower-calorie beverage options are making strides. Last year, low- and no-calorie seltzers such as LaCroix were forecast to have nearly tripled the amount sold in 2008, the Wall Street Journal reported. And Michelob Ultra (95 calories per 12-ounce serving) had the biggest gain for a beer brand in 2017, with sales growing by 23.6 percent over the previous year to $1.6 billion.
Now here we are at the start of 2019, with Bud Light announcing serving-facts labels on its boxes starting in February.
Smart move. It has 110 calories. Combined with the brand’s mead-drinker-disparagingTV advertisements, perhaps this can help Anheuser-Busch InBev stem sales-volume declines the brand has experienced while craft breweries gained market share.
What’s more, you may have noticed more restaurant menus posting beer nutrition facts. That’s because, as of last year, the Food and Drug Administration requires chains with 20 or more locations to publish calories contained in menu items, including beer as well as food.
The rest of the big breweries, including others under AB Inbev as well as MillerCoors, Heineken USA and more, also plan to voluntarily publish serving facts and more on packaging by the end of 2020, according to the Beer Institute trade association.
Whether independent craft breweries do the same is yet to be seen. Of course, much of the calories in stronger craft beers come from alcohol – Two Hearted Ale has 7 percent alcohol by volume; Bud Light has 4.2 percent – and there’s a good chance people don’t drink as much of the former as the latter in one sitting.
Two Hearted Ale, an IPA from Bell’s Brewery in the Kalamazoo area, was named the No. 1 commercially-available beer in America by the American Homebrewers Association in 2017 and 2018. (Photo: Bell’s Brewery)
But it’s notable that Founders last year started selling its Solid Gold Premium Lager (4.4 percent ABV, 140 calories) in 24-packs, displayed and priced not far from Bud Light in a number of stores.
Estimated daily calorie needs vary based on factors such as height, age, weight and activity, but generally range from 1,600 to 2,400 calories per day for adult women and 2,000 to 3,000 calories per day for adult men, according to the U.S. Office of Disease Prevention and Health Promotion.
It makes a difference whether calories come from, say, alcohol or sugar, but among the risks with over-consumption: obesity, heart disease, diabetes and even cognitive impairment.
The beer on tap at Founders Brewing Co. in Detroit on Friday, Dec. 1, 2017. (Photo: Mandi Wright, Detroit Free Press)
Spirits of Detroit columnist Robert Allen covers craft alcohol for the Free Press. Contact him: email@example.com or on Untappd, raDetroit and Twitter, @rallenMI.