The Grown-Up Guide To Beer, Low-Cal Edition

Happy 4th of July! Hopefully all of you are enjoying a restful day in the sun, chowing down on some BBQ, and knocking back some icy brews. Or not. Because as anyone conscious of calories can tell you, sippin' on some suds is a quick way to load on the extra sugars and carbs.
And yet, it's summer, and cracking open some IPAs, wheat brews, Pilsners, and ales is about as American as...well, today.
Instead of fretting about waistlines or forcing yourself to abstain, we have another suggestion. After chatting with the doyenne of drafts, Erika Rietz, editor-in-chief of Draft Mag, we've culled the ultimate grown-up guide to low-cal beer. Not only is Erika super knowledgeable about all things brewed, but she totally gets our need to cut back without limiting the fun — or, more importantly, the taste experience that a finely crafted brew can bring with it. So, heed her advice, throw back a cold one, and camp out for those fireworks. Like we said, we've got you.
1 of 5
"Two things that drive up calories in beer are the carbs (naturally, beer is brewed with barley, wheat, or some other grain) and the alcohol content (because the higher the fermentable sugars, the higher the alcohol).

Light beers are (generally) reduced-carb and low-ABV (Alcohol By Volume) beers, hence, the lighter color and quieter flavor. Any time a beer clocks in the low 100 or less calorie range, that’s how it’s achieved. MGD 64, for instance, has a mini-calorie count by beer standards."

Photo: Courtesy of Miller Genuine Draft
2 of 5
"A few craft breweries are putting out light lager styles, and here are some to consider:

Samuel Adams Light (119 calories)
Yuengling Light Lager (99 calories)
Karl Strauss Endless Summer Light (110 calories)
Shiner Light (120)

"To be honest, very rarely do I ever think about calories when I’m recommending beer. I approach beer like a fashion editor considering the latest trends without focusing on the cost of, say, a Birkin Bag. We write about beers for their spectacular flavors, from the most roasted, chocolatey, smoky porter to the grassiest, grapefruit-driven, bitter-bomb double IPA, without ever considering what the calorie count might be."

Photographed by Lia Schryver
3 of 5
"Barrel-aged beers are incredible, and often the wood and aging process imparts really interesting flavors. Barrel-aged beers are usually very alcoholic. There are lower-ABV barrel-aged styles that might interest people who are trying to explore this trend without the big punch. You can try something very flavorful that’s lower in alcohol... and presumably lower in calories than similar beers. This is not to say it's light, but that it's lighter than some of its sisters in the wood-aged category."

Photo: Via Flossmoor Station Brewery
4 of 5
"I must admit, I love big flavors. I like grassy IPAs, cheek-puckering sour beers, banana and clove-laden hefeweizens, snappy, grainy kolsches, and ashy, smoky porters. For me, going to a local brewpub and trying to 'drink light' is a bit like going to a bakery and trying to eat low-carb. So, one thing that might help is to know that lower-alcohol beer is going to have fewer calories. Look for beers called session beers, which traditionally are not more than 4.5% alcohol (at least that’s the U.K. standard. We play by our own rules here in the states, but overall, they’ll be less alcoholic)."

Photographed by Lia Schryver
5 of 5
"However, my solution to drinking beer without sacrificing diversity and flavor is this: Buy several bottles, and serve them in flights to share with friends. The American Medical Association guidelines state that women can have up to one drink a day (in beer, that’s one 12-ounce bottle). Yep, just one. So, getting a few tasting boards with sampler-size glasses and pouring three ounces of four different styles can be a fun way to enjoy beer with friends, get a lot of flavors, and not worry too much about watching your waistline."

Photographed by Lia Schryver