The Nutritional Content of Beer

In the United States, the TTB (the Alcohol and Tobacco Tax and Trade Bureau) doesn’t allow the Food and Drug Administration’s (FDA) Nutrition Facts chart to appear on a beer bottle or can. And in the European Union, proposals to mandate the listing of ingredients have fallen by the wayside.

In a February 1993 article in Seattle Weekly, Jack Killorin, an ATF spokesman, is cited as saying that listing a beer’s nutrients would suggest that beer is a food. According to the article, Killorin said that beer isn’t a food because alcohol is bad, and the FDA doesn’t allow bad food. Regardless of this statement, strong indications show that this attitude is changing and that nutrition labels will eventually be listed on beer products.

For years, the great Irish Stout, Guinness, has been advertised with the slogan “Guinness Is Good for You.” Americans take that kind of statement too seriously, so it wasn’t used in Guinness advertising in the United States. But it was partially correct: Beer is actually nutritious, though you should consume it only for pleasure and thirst-quenching purposes.

Beer is free of cholesterol and fat. More good news: 12 ounces of a typical American Pale Lager actually have fewer calories than 12 ounces of 2 percent milk or even apple juice (a bit less than wine, too)! And some lower-alcohol styles, such as Dry Stouts, have even fewer calories. Beer may not be diet delight, but it does have good dietary qualities.

If the government did allow the listing of nutritional content on beer labels, here’s what the content of a standard Nutrition Facts chart may look like for a 12-ounce (355-milliliter) bottle of a typical megabrewed U.S. lager:

  • 151 calories (2/3 from alcohol)

    Most light beers check in at about 95 calories, with the lightest one in the world — Budweiser Select — checking in at just 55 calories.

  • 0 grams fat

  • 0 milligrams cholesterol

  • 25 milligrams sodium

  • 13.7 grams carbohydrate

  • 1.1 grams protein

  • Trace amounts of calcium, potassium, and phosphorus and many of the B vitamins

For comparison’s sake, here are the numbers on 12 ounces of a high-quality, microbrewed beer, such as Stone’s Arrogant Bastard Ale, produced in the state of California:

  • 190 calories

  • 0 grams fat

  • 0 milligrams cholesterol

  • 12 grams carbohydrates

  • 0.5 grams of protein

  • 20 grams of alcohol, 12 grams of sugars, no dietary fiber

  • No additives or preservatives

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