There is nothing wrong with a beer belly. In fact, it might even be a source of enormous pride.
Sure, I drink too much beer, but that implies that I know how to have a good time. It’s not as if I have a cheese-fries-and-onion-rings belly. A beer belly is met with a shrug, mostly, a tacit message of support like, “Eh, they could lose weight, but then who’d be the one starting the tasting or encouraging the party-goers to play flip cup or organizing that whiffle-ball game with that same enthusiasm?”
Beer contains calories and those calories make us fat, especially when paired with the inevitable conclusion that “we should probably have the Uber stop by In n Out before we head home.” At its most reductive science, some beer goes to your stomach and some goes to your liver. Because your body is (mostly) good to you, it will prioritize the liver over your gut.
Even someone with moderate intake faces health issues. Of course, you don’t have to forego beer. You could join a gym or start jogging or pass on the second helping of pasta, but where’s the fun in that?
Since craft beer makers don’t legally have to include Nutrition Facts on their cans and bottles (yet), it’s hard to gauge which beers are no greater than eating a small snack, easily worked off by the walk to the car, and which beers are the equivalent of consuming an entire loaf of frozen garlic bread.
Holy shit, did I consume an entire person? There’s two of me now.”
First, math is hard. It’s even harder when you’re drinking, but the general rule of thumb (and the simplest equation that I could find, because, well, read the first sentence of this paragraph again) is this: alcohol by volume times 2.5 times ounces. In other words, there’s about 2.5-3.0 calories for every percent of ABV. This scale fluctuates based on ingredients like sugars, adjuncts, and malts, so for bigger beers like stouts or hazy IPA, use “3” for your rudimentary mathematics to be more accurate.
For instance, a 10% Stout in a 22 ounce bomber would give you 10 x 3 x 22. That’s 660 calories, the equivalent of a Whopper. To shed that? Just a breezy five mile jog or 68 minutes of swimming; On the contrary, a 4% Pilsner? 120 calories. To counteract that? Take the dog for a walk.
In New England and other places, in which the winter seems to ensure six months of hibernation, it’s okay to pack on those beer-induced winter pounds. It may even be necessary combat equipment. But sooner or later, temperatures begin to rise. Layers are shed, beaches begin to open. Many of us catch a glimpse of our profile in the mirror or walking passed a store window or car and think, “Holy shit, did I consume an entire person? There’s two of me now.”
Here are ten beers you can have on the beach that will hit the spot and also not be a drag on the bod (oh, and throw in some jogs and crunches too, never hurts).
Guinness (117.6 calories)
Some people confuse Guinness for a heavy beer. It’s actually an extremely light beer at only 4.2% alcohol. What gives the beer that thick mouthfeel is actually how it’s carbonated. Time-honored tradition implores that Guinness Draught by carbonated on nitrogen instead of CO2; Nitrogen is mostly insoluble in liquid, which gives Guinness a creamier mouthfeel, but does nothing to change that this is a great option for drinkers trying to watch their intake.
Pilsner Urquell (123.2 calories)
The classic example of a Czech Pilsner brewed by Plzensky Prazdroj, this beer is easy to find lingering on the imports shelves in your local beer sellers fridge. For history buffs, Pilsner Urquell – and the pilsner style –was first brewed in 1842 by Josef Groll. This beer is the inspiration for the world’s most famous style.
Firestone Walker Easy Jack (135 Calories)
With the insatiable appetite for hops, I can’t leave something hop-forward off a list like this. Sacrificing “bigger” beers is one thing; Giving up hops altogether is an entirely unreasonable exercise. Luckily, we craft beer drinkers have Firestone Walker. This Session IPA drinks like a “regular” IPA with a citrusy hop-character and appropriate bitterness that only slightly sacrifices body.
Jack’s Abby House Lager (156 calories)
Jack’s Abby is a Massachusetts brewery that found their niche as a lagers-only brewery, sorta. Their beers actually run the gamut from IPL’s to Baltic Porters to Wheat Lagers. This year-round Helles is available in 15-packs, has a great name, and is available almost everywhere in the Boston-area (and expanding) including Fenway Park. Sometimes you just want a beer; This is that beer.
Corona Light (99 Calories)
Most craft beer fans would be surprised to learn how many times brewers have admitted to enjoying a macro lager (“Whatever’s cold,” a local brewer told me recently). By the pool, after a run, always with a lime and ice cold, Corona Light is a great refreshing beer to drink.
It will leave you hop-satisfied, but won’t leave you devoid of a fine-bodied beer like some session IPAs will.”
Schlafly White Lager (165 Calories)
A great lager coming out of The Gateway City comes from Schlafly’s Tap Room. This Zwickelbier is unfiltered and cloudy and full of flavor. Easy to chug and affordable without sacrificing flavor or nuance. The most caloric of beers on this list, feel free to indulge: 165 calories will be burned off after just 30 minutes of perfecting your jumpshot.
Allagash White (153 Calories)
Allagash Brewing in Portland, Maine will forever be able to hold the title of a gateway craft beer for millions of drinkers. Their White, a Belgian style witbier, is ubiquitous on taps across the country from the greatest of craft beer bars to the generic chain restaurants. I’m biased, but this beer, served alongside a lobster roll, is perfection.
Bell’s Brewery Oatsmobile (123 Calories)
I have had an affinity for Bell’s since I had an Oberon Wheat Ale at a summer wedding then a Third Coast Old Ale at an autumn wedding then again with an Expedition Stout as an extra in a trade. Everything this brewery does is top notch. The Oatsmobile is no exception. An assertive, yet agreeable 4.3% pale ale, this beer bursts with mosaic and citra hops.
Yards Philadelphia Pale Ale (138 Calories)
One of the elder statesmen in this grouping, the Philadelphia Pale Ale is a simcoe-hopped Pale Ale out of Philly that pleases most with it’s balance. It will leave you hop-satisfied, but won’t leave you devoid of a fine-bodied beer like some session IPAs will.
Sam Adams Summer Ale (159 Calories)
Sam Adams tends to be polarizing, but let’s give them this: They make beer that’s at least agreeable to almost everyone. Summer Ale is a classic seasonal, brewed with malted wheat, lemon zest, and grains of paradise. In New England, it’s the sign that summer – with the requisite freedom and stresslessness – is not far away.
Thanks to Remo Remoquillo for the header illustration.