Craft beer is the future, we all love the little guy, quality trumps quantity every time but alas there is one downside to this explosion of craft beer culture.
Much like mass market beer craft beer contains …wait for it … (insert ominous music here) calories and not just a few of them.
No one could argue that beer quality and taste has not improved immeasurably thanks to the efforts of the small scale breweries but sadly the ugly truth of the matter is our body does not discriminate when it comes to the source of our caloric intake. Our bodies cannot and do not appreciate discerning palates by magically flushing all the calories away when we reach for a Deschutes Abyss instead of a Bud Light (stupid bodies). In the end we may all have to come gut-to-gut with the dreaded beer belly.
So just how bad is our craft beer habit on our waistlines?
Oddly (or maybe not so oddly if you are the skeptical sort) the answer to this question is not readily available and in the few cases where nutrition information is accessible it is usually in conjunction with the promotion of a ‘lite’ product or hauled out as an ambiguous justification to assure you that of course beer is good in moderation. Some articles herald the vitamin B content of beer while others suggest beer has no fat so it really can’t be that considered a poor nutritional choice.
Beer bad or beer good? Well you can convince yourself either way but the irrefutable fact remains that beer contributes to our dietary allowance and as such we must be cognizant of what (and how much) we are ingesting.
The internet tells me the most popular beers weigh in at between 140 and 180 calories per 12oz serving; in this instance most likely referring to a lager style beer with a fairly low ABV. There is no shortage of tables listing calories and carbs for various beer brands but there seems to big a rather large shortage of accurate and consistent information.
The problem is most craft beer drinkers tend to consume beers of all different styles, sizes and strengths meaning one day we may have 4.5% pale ale but the next we may imbibe in 12% barley wine. A general statement like a 12oz beer has 140 calories may be waaaayyyyy off the mark in the craft beer world affording us a distorted sense of how much we could and should drink.
If there is so much arbitrary information out there why are there no nutrition labels on beer?
Turning once again to the great-and-powerful Google I learned that in 2007 the United States decided that beer, wine and liquor would have to include the familiar nutritional labels on their packaging. A three-year window was allotted to provide businesses with time to implement the packaging changes. Well 2010 has come and gone and a quick look through my fridge reveals that my assortment of Canadian, American and UK beers are not providing us with nutritional content and the question of why not remains visibly unanswered.
It seems more than a little condescending to me that consumers cannot be trusted to continue to enjoy their favourite beers if we are presented with cold hard truth that beer, like everything else we ingest, will have an impact on our diets.
For years, the fast food industry lobbied to not provide nutritional information to customers in fear that we may learn the shocking truth that fries, soda and burgers are not the most nutritionally sound foods on the market. Well duh, people are not quite as unaware as we may appear.
Personally, I would like to know just how many calories I may be consuming if I reach for a second stout. Knowledge will not force me to shun craft beer but it will create a better informed beer drinker one who can make choices based around the other foodstuffs I consume. It will also continue the push forward for craft breweries to turn their attentions to session and lower alcohol beers that we their patrons can enjoy with more regularity without the ugly trade-off of no longer fitting on the bar stool at our favourite tap room.
*Thanks to Avery Brewing for the Mephistopheles Badge image, Irish Taxi for the image of Homer Simpson’s Beer Belly, Beeriety for the diagram and Drinking Beer fir the conceptual alcohol nutrition label.