With Michelob Ultra sales skyrocketing, breweries big and small have started to push low-cal, low-carb releases (many of which proudly display calorie and carb counts right on their packaging). This week, we asked The Fervent Few if they were going to start stocking their home fridges with lighter offerings or stick to their normal options.
Carla Jean Lauter: “I'm a bit surprised this move didn't come sooner, to be honest. There are definitely lifestyle niches—including fitness and healthy living—that have been underexploited by breweries. When session beer became popular, it was rarely mentioned that it was also typically lower-calorie than imperial styles. As people are reviving their love of fitness, I would also not be surprised to see a category of beer that's meant to cater to those that are athletic—low-calorie, low- or even no-alcohol, and even protein-enhanced beer (look at the explosion of drinks in that category that aren't beer!).”
C. Sean West: “I personally feel like diet culture does more harm than good and could care less about carbs and calories. I’m clearly not their target audience but I absolutely have friends that are, and they would love to have more flavorful and independent options.”
Bryan Arndt: “I definitely care about the calories in my beer, but I’ve already been making choices regarding how beer should fit into my diet and active lifestyle for a while now. Over time, I’ve gravitated toward lighter styles (German-style Lagers, Pilsners, Pale Ales, etc.) and now only have about three or four beers per week. While it’ll be nice to have more options, I can’t help but be skeptical that a lot of these offerings will be compromised by the fact that their first goal is to be lighter—and not that they’re an exceptional beer that just so happens to be on the lighter end of the spectrum. I’ll definitely seek these out, but probably won’t return to any that aren’t exceptional in their own right.”
Rob Steuart: “We have had a raft of low-carb, low-calorie macro Lagers in Australia for the last five or 10 years. This has now extended to low-carb, low-calorie cider brands as well. I'm sure there was consumer data showing negative associations people had with developing beer bellies, and this was the producers’ response.”
Richard Maletto: “The market is moving in that direction. But I’m someone who isn’t a fan. For example, aspartame [artificial sweetener] is awful—it’s horrible for the body and yet it’s pushed as a healthier choice. Moderation is a healthier choice. I don’t look at calories and carbs in things that I consider a treat for me. If I start putting on a beer belly it probably means I’m drinking too much beer and not that beer is horribly unhealthy. Just my take.”
Kevin York: “There was a brewery in my area that launched with only protein-enhanced beers. It wanted to be seen as a healthier style of beer, and geared its marketing toward the fitness crowd. I don't know anyone who became a fan of those protein beers. The brewery eventually started producing more mainstream styles—Hazy IPAs, sours, and Milk Stouts—which was not ever part of their original business plan. Then came a total pivot as they completely eliminated production of the protein-enhanced beers. I spoke with one of the owners about it, and they admitted the all-protein-beer approach didn't work. They haven't totally abandoned marketing to fitness-conscious people, though. They've formed fitness-focused partnerships, including one with a rock-wall-climbing company in their building. Those seem to have been pretty successful for them; they actually have a window from their taproom that overlooks the rock wall. That seems like the better approach: encouraging an active, balanced lifestyle, rather than making 'healthier' beer.”
Andrés Muñoz: “I personally care more about carb count than calorie count. When I'm on the keto diet, I stock exclusively Michelob Ultra because of its carb count.
What I most want to see come from this shift into ‘healthy beer’ is more nutritional info on all beers, regardless of style. If that information were more readily available, the people who are tracking their macros and/or living more active lifestyles would be able to incorporate ‘cheat beer(s)’ into their plans. That bottle of Imperial Stout clocks in at 30g carbs/500+ calories? I'll split it with a friend, eat a smaller breakfast, and stay on the rowing machine an extra 20 or 25 minutes.”
Arvo: “Calorie and carb counts don’t matter to me. I run daily so that I don’t have to worry about these things. For me personally, ABV is something I look at more closely for consumption. If I know I will be getting up the next morning to go running, I am more likely to go with a lower-alcohol beer, so that it won’t affect me as much the next day with performance.”
David Purgason: “I’d love to see Brasserie Dupont put Avril, their gorgeous little table Saison, in their new 33cl four-packs. Bone-dry, 3.5% ABV, and organic. I’d bet it’s got fewer carbs and calories than most of these Ultrafied beers, but doesn’t taste as soulless.”
Michael McAllister: “I don't think carb and calorie info will impact my retail/to-go purchases. Those are beers I pick up to enjoy in comfort. But the point about moderation, as Richard Maletto and Arvo have both touched on in their own ways, could make that info helpful when I'm out and drinking and want to make practical choices in the same way I currently consider ABV.”
Chris Gartman: “I do not consider any nutritional facts when making beer choices. My beer choices are made on flavor and flavor experience alone. It’s important to note, however, that I do make calorie and carb choices with my eating habits because I do regularly drink ‘full-fat’ beer.
I’m not planning to jump on the Mich Ultra train anytime soon. If and when I start caring about low-carb/low-cal, I’ll seek out the weird, fully attenuated beers to meet that end.”
Shane Pearson: “I don’t count carbs/calories in my beer, but I do make beer choices based on ABV, and I generally like them under 5–6%. The most likely beers that I would enjoy are German-style Lagers (Dunkel, Pils, Helles, Kölsch) or American Pale Ales. If I am going to have a higher-ABV beer, then I would either have it first or last depending on the style I want to enjoy.”
KC Cupp: “I don't think about carbs or calories when it comes to beer. My thoughts are, if you care that much about carbs or calories, the best thing to do is to cut back on beer intake over drinking a lower-carb/lower-calorie beer. Beer is never good for the waistline, period.”
There you have it! Are you reaching for lighter beers more often? Hit us up on social media and let us know. Or you could always join The Fervent Few and support Good Beer Hunting’s podcasters, writers, photographers, and more. Once you’re in, you too could have your thoughts on our weekly topic published right here on the site!