You don't have to sacrifice flavor when you're on a diet. The following suds are all under 200 calories, and not a single “light” in the bunchBy: Greg Presto
Whether you’re just working to drop a few pounds or you do more yoga than Madonna, all that sweat equity means you’ve earned a wind-down brew in the evening. Unfortunately, a night cap can be the difference between being a hard body or a Fat Tire (more on that later).
But the low-cal options you’re left with are usually flavorless—and most of them end with “light.” (Search: The best beers for weight loss.)
No longer. These 8 offerings have a few more calories than traditional “lights,” but they’ve got a lot more flavor. And that flavor can mean you’re more satisfied with one or two brews, says Lucy Saunders of beercook.com, meaning you’re less likely to blow your diet. So raise your glass…for fewer than 200 calories.
Are liquid calories making you pack on pounds? The truth about popular beverages is revealed in Drink This, Not That!
The Beer: Fat Tire Amber Ale
A beer’s “gravity” refers to its alcohol content—and, because alcohol has calories, more gravity means more calories.
But alcohol content can also denote taste in a beer, says Matt Simpson, of TheBeerExpert.com and creator of The Beer Expert app. To keep calories down, many light beers are made with less gravity—and thus, less taste.
For just 160 calories per 12-ounce bottle, Fat Tire provides maximum flavor at a respectable 5.2 percent alcohol. This Colorado brew has garnered cultlike status in the United States, and a flavor that the experts at BeerAdvocate.com call “very tasty,” with a “good focus on the malt.”
Just beware: Fat Tire is often served in supersize portions—the 22-ounce bottle can make your middle resemble the name on the label.
The Beer: Anchor Steam
Calories are the last thing most beer reviewers consider, and it tends to follow that the higher a beer’s review, the higher its calorie count. At 155 calories, Anchor Steam is an exception. It’s a microbrew legend, and the reviews indicate that it’s with good reason: BeerAdvocate.com gives it an A-, and the reviewers at RateBeer.com give it an 82 out of 100.
What makes it so good? A kick of citrus and a shot of bitter hops—an ingredient Simpson says can provide beer flavor without packing in calories.
The Beer: Sierra Nevada Wheat
If you’re used to watered-down light beers, a heavy infusion of flavor can be kind of jarring. But wheat beers can help you broaden your repertoire of brews without blasting your palate or overloading the calories.
Wheat brews aren’t hoppy—they get their flavor punch from the yeast and wheat combination, Simpson says. This “lends to a very spicy, floral character.”
The American versions of these suds are sometimes called “blondes,” and they pack more citrus kick than their European counterparts, hefeweizens. Simpson suggests finding a local brewery that offers one for a low-cal starter: “Local, fresh stuff will be much more flavorful and robust, even for a potentially lighter beer,” he says, “meaning more flavor for your lighter-beer buck.”
If you can’t drink a local, try his other suggestion: Sierra Nevada Wheat. For 153 calories, this offering from the Chico, California, brewery travels well, Simpson says, and is full of flavor.
The Beer: Victory Prima Pils
Beer pairs well with vegetables, says Saunders, meaning a pint of suds can make your calorie-scrimping salad more satisfying.
Sip a pale ale with “a salad of baby spinach, sliced strawberries, and toasted pecans with a lemon juice and olive oil dressing,” she says. Pale ales are often calorie-dense. But hoppy pilsner “goes well with a salad of artichoke hearts, avocado, tomato, lettuce, and garlic vinaigrette.”
A good pilsner to try: Simpson suggests Victory Prima Pils, at just 150 calories per bottle.
The Beers: Brooklyn Brown Ale and Newcastle Brown Ale
To make lighter desserts more satisfying and filling, Saunders suggests—you guessed it—beer.
For a sweet treat, Saunders says to grill pineapple or other fruit to bring out its natural sugars, and pairing it with a brown ale. Two classic options for 150 calories: Brooklyn Brown Ale and Newcastle.
Try one, or take Saunders’s more-flavor tip to try both: “If you are dining with someone who likes beer, use two glasses to share each bottle. That way, you’ll get the satisfaction of two different beer flavors but consume the calories of one.” (Discover more perfect beer and food pairings here!)
For another dessert trick, check out beer number 7.
The Beer: Flying Dog Tire Bite
Kolsch beers are rarely made. They’re tough to do right and they don’t travel well, explains Simpson. It’s a shame, though, because the style—drunk by Germans in their local taverns—is a refreshing, flavorful brew with only a few more calories than a typical light beer.
“Rarely made” doesn’t mean never made, though: At just 129 calories (and 5.1 percent alcohol), Flying Dog Tire Bite is a solid kolsch, Simpson says, and it’s made here in the United States—so it doesn't have to travel to far to your favorite pub.
The Beer: Guinness
It’s no secret that Guinness is low in calories—the company advertises its calorie count of 126 pretty often. But it still seems surprising. Here’s the skinny on why Guinness won’t make you fat:
1) Dark doesn’t mean malt-packed, just roasted. To make a beer dark, Simpson says, a brewer can add a relatively low ratio of a roasted malt to darken the entire batch and give a hint of coffee flavor.
2) As you’ve probably noticed, the head is different. Unlike most beer, Guinness is enervated with nitrogen bubbles, not carbon dioxide. Nitrogen bubbles are smaller, Simpson says, and give a creamy mouth-feel to the beer’s velvety head. Strip away the creamy head, though, and the beer tastes lighter than almost any other pint.
3) The style demands it. Dry stouts are the lightest substyle of the stout category of beers, Simpson says, and they’re brewed as a “session beer”—meaning they are designed to be drunk one after another in a single session. So if it feels like you could drink Guinness all night long, that’s because it’s brewed with that purpose in mind. Be careful, though: 126 calories is for 12 ounces; a pint contains more than 200.
And it’s good for more than just drinking: Beercook.com’s Saunders suggests perking up low-fat ice cream or yogurt by dropping a scoop into your pint, creating an incredible Guinness float.
The Beer: Lindemans Framboise
Fruit-flavored beers are frowned upon by beer experts, but many, including the well-reviewed Abita Strawberry Harvest (128 calories for a 12-ounce bottle), bring the flavor without a calorie kick.
For big taste with low calories, though, nothing beats Lindemans Framboise. This ultrafruity raspberry brew is beloved by reviewers: On RateBeer.com, it received a 95 out of 100 score. Be prepared: It’s more like a soft drink, candy, or dessert than a traditional beer…but contains fewer calories than any of those three indulgences. The calorie count? Just 95 per 12-ounce bottle.
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