Thursday, December 31, 2009

Pure Drinks Party, Part 2

Beer, the other bubbly.

Beer has the longest history of all alcoholic beverages, brewed in ancient Egypt and Mesopotamia and perhaps even in the early Neolithic era. I learned a lot about beer this week from Eat This Not That via Men’s Health.com website. Carbohydrates and calories are the twin sins of beer to our modern bellies yet beer has its place and is the perfect pairing for many favorites from chili to pizza to Szechuan noodle dishes.

During childhood, my Czech grandmother and her sisters drank beer after dinner from the cask kept in the cellar. The beer was delivered weekly much as the milkman once came to my house to provide liquid nutrition to the children of the household. Beer’s main nutrition-heavy ingredient, brewer's yeast, is rich in magnesium, selenium, potassium, phosphorus, biotin, and B vitamins.  Unfiltered beers such as the “liquid bread” my relatives consumed in late 19th century New York City are considered the best sources of nutrients from brewer’s yeast.  Current beers cannot be counted on to provide similar benefit to risk ratios.

If you love beer, you probably already know your favorite brand. If you are an occasional beer drinker, it’s nice to know a little before making a selection. While I have always assumed that pale ales and lagers are lighter than stouts, dark lagers and wheat beers, the ability of modern brewers to manipulate ingredients has lead to a wider range of choice and flavor at every calorie and carbohydrate level.  I learned that dark beers do tend toward the heavier side, but paler beers do not necessarily mean lighter.  Color also has little to do with alcoholic strength, calories or carbohydrates since color relies on the type of malt used and added caramel color.

I grouped the beers listed on Eat This Not That into four categories based on calorie and carbohydrate count—above 160 calories, 140-160 calories, 100-140 calories and under 100 calories. See where your favorites fall or pick a taste profile you like from your preferred calorie range. You’ll find there are minor but discernible differences in carbohydrate and alcohol levels. Each group has good choices that are nationally available.

160-200 calories, 14+ carbohydrates
In this category I was surprised to find that Guinness Extra Stout was lower in calories and carbohydrates that Sierra Nevada Bigfoot Ale.  Wheat beers are in this category but are not nestled together.  Leinenkugel’s Berry Weiss packs twice the carbs as Blue Moon Belgian Wheat (by Coors) and over 25% more calories.  Despite the range, this group is high in alcohol and carbs as well as calories so savor these with a satisfying bowl of stew and consider cooking with it. Savoring is code for “drink it slowly”—that way your body will signal you that you are full in time for you to push away from the table (or the bar).

Sierra Nevada Bigfoot Ale
330 calories, 32 g carbohydrates, 9.6% alcohol

Leinenkugel's Berry Weiss
207 calories, 28 g carbohydrates, 4.7% alcohol

Samuel Adams Winter Lager
200 calories, 14 g carbohydrates, 5.8% alcohol

George Killian's Irish Red
162 calories,15 g carbohydrates,5% alcohol

Blue Moon Belgian White
164 calories, 13 g carbohydrates, 5.4% alcohol

Sierra Nevada Pale Ale
175 calories, 14 g carbohydrates, 5.6% alcohol

Guinness Extra Stout
176 calories, 14 g carbohydrates, 6% alcohol

Michelob Honey Lager
178 calories, 19 g carbohydrates, 4.9% alcohol

Redhook ESB
179 calories, 14 g carbohydrates, 5.8% alcohol

Budweiser American Ale
182 calories, 18 g carbohydrates, 5.3% alcohol

140-160 calories, 10-12 carbohydrates
Many of the most familiar and best selling beers fall in this category.  Perhaps the biggest surprise here is the range of carbohydrates among beers fairly close in calories.  I always thought Corona Extra was on the lighter side but next time I might select a Beck’s with four fewer carbohydrates especially if I’m having a burger instead of guacamole.

Yuengling Lager
142 calories. 12 g carbohydrates, 4.6% alcohol

Beck's
143 calories, 10 g carbohydrates, 5% alcohol

Miller High Life
143 calories, 13 g carbohydrates, 4.7% alcohol

Pabst Blue Ribbon
144 calories, 13 g carbohydrates, 5% alcohol

Budweiser
145 calories, 11 g carbohydrates, 5% alcohol

Foster's
145 calories, 11 g carbohydrates, 5% alcohol

Corona Extra
148 calories, 14 g carbohydrates, 4.6% alcohol

Dos Equis
149 calories, 12 g carbohydrates, 4.9% alcohol

Leinenkugel's Honey Weiss
149 calories, 12 g carbohydrates, 4.9% alcohol

Coors
149 calories, 12 g carbohydrates, 4.9% alcohol

Heineken
150 calories, 12 g carbohydrates, 5% alcohol

Hoegaarden
153 calories, 13 g carbohydrates, 4.9% alcohol

Red Stripe Jamaican Lager
153 calories, 14 g carbohydrates, 5% alcohol

Magic Hat #9
153 calories, 14 g carbohydrates, 4.6% alcohol

Stella Artois
154 calories, 12 g carbohydrates,5.2% alcohol

Bass Ale
156 calories, 13 g carbohydrates, 5.1% alcohol

Pilsner Urquell
156 calories, 16 g carbohydrates, 4.4% alcohol

Samuel Adams Boston Lager
160 calories, 18 g carbohydrates, 4.8% alcohol

100-140 calories, 5-10 carbohydrates
Still a lot of flavor choices here and the beginnings of light beers for some brands.  Surprises like Guinness’ Draught fall here along with Canada’s Rolling Rock.  Note that the carbohydrate range of this section rolls from 5 to 10.

Coors Light
104 calories, 5 g carbohydrates, 4.2% alcohol

Bud Light
110 calories, 7 g carbohydrates, 4.2% alcohol

Sam Adams Light
119 calories, 10 g carbohydrates, 4% alcohol

Guinness Draught
126 calories, 10 g carbohydrates, 4% alcohol

Rolling Rock Premium
132 calories, 10 g carbohydrates, 4.5% alcohol

Under 100, below 4 carbohydrates
Hot day, coming in from the gym, or just plain over your over the top holidays? These lower calorie and alcohol beers may be the right choice alternated with a glass or two of water.  Not known for their intense flavor profiles, they’ve got some kick and the familiar flavors of malt and mash we associate with the old master brew.

MGD 64
64 calories, 2 g carbohydrates, 2.8% alcohol

Beck's Premier Light
64 calories, 4 g carbohydrates, 3.8% alcohol

Michelob Ultra
95 calories, 3 g carbohydrates, 4.2% alcohol

Amstel Light
95 calories, 6 g carbohydrates, 3.5% alcohol

Miller Lite
96 calories, 3 g carbohydrates, 4.2% alcohol

Yuengling Lager Light
99 calories, 9 g carbohydrates, 3.8% alcohol

Budweiser Select
99 calories, 3 g carbohydrates, 4.3% alcohol

“Near Beers” like O’Douhl’s have changed the way we think about beer and some European ones, like Buckler, are now available. The alcohol has been removed but much of the flavor remains.  Not considered the hardiest brews, they are great add-ins to stews, soups and dips that call for beer and they are perfect for those who like the taste of beer with a hot bowl of chowder at lunchtime.

Safe night to all.