The craft beer revolution has added variety to beer store shelves and inches to beer drinkers’ waistlines. Now brewers are rolling out new craft beers that attempt—with varying degrees of success—to cut the calories without sacrificing the unique character and flavors of craft beers.
Overall, craft beers tend to have more calories than mainstream beers, in part because they often have more alcohol. A 12-ounce craft beer with 8% alcohol by volume (ABV) might have close to 250 calories, compared with around 150 for a mainstream beer with 5% ABV. Some craft beers contain far more calories. Examples: Dogfish Head 120 Minute IPA has 450 calories.* Samuel Adams Imperial White has 328 calories.
Craft brewers—which saw their market share more than double since 2010, topping a 13% share of the US beer market by volume in 2018—are looking to up the competition with low-calorie beers. Three of the four spots for top-selling beers in the US are held by Bud Light (110 calories), Coors Light (102 calories) and Miller Lite (96 calories).
Here are 10 of the best craft beers with calorie counts of 140 or less per 12-ounce serving…
Ales and IPAs
Allagash Brewing Company Tiny House is the acclaimed Maine brewery’s riff on a Belgian House Beer—a relatively low-alcohol ale that historically was brewed for consumption by brewery workers. Amarillo hops provide a melony, citrusy aroma and well-balanced flavor. This is an easy-to-drink ale with just a touch of bitterness at the finish. As with many beers on this list, a low alcohol percentage contributes to a low calorie count—113 calories per 16-ounce can (85 calories per 12 ounces), 3.4% ABV.
Dogfish Head Brewery Slightly Mighty has perhaps the lowest calorie count you’ll find in a flavorful India pale ale (IPA). Most IPAs have relatively high calorie counts, in part because brewers add sweetness to balance the bitterness of their hops. Dogfish Head, a leader in low-calorie craft beer, solved this problem in part by using a natural no-calorie sweetener derived from the southeast Asian monk fruit to supply Slightly Mighty’s sweetness. This IPA is mildly hoppy with hints of pineapple. It’s reasonably full-bodied and even a little sweet despite its low calorie count. 95 calories, 4% ABV.
Lagunitas Brewing Company’s DayTime IPA is light in color, light in body and light in calories—but it delivers the bright citrus flavors and wonderful tropical fruit aroma that many IPA drinkers crave. Lagunitas’s recent reformulation lowered its alcohol content and calorie count, yet it remains a well-balanced IPA that’s hoppy but not overly bitter. 98 calories, 4% ABV.
Southern Tier Brewing Company Swipe Light features Citra and Mosaic hops, which imbue this American pale ale with a citrusy aromatic complexity and flavor that set it apart from other light beers. (American pale ales tend to be less bitter and less alcoholic than IPAs, though the lines between these categories can be blurry.) It’s interesting, yet very easy to drink—clean and bright with almost no bitterness. 110 calories, 4% ABV.
Harpoon Brewery Rec. League tastes like a citrusy, hoppy craft-brewed IPA with hints of tropical fruit—you would never guess when you drink it that it has around half the calories and alcohol of a typical IPA. Harpoon uses buckwheat and chia seeds, ingredients that are more common to health-food stores than breweries, to give this crisp, flavorful beer body while keeping its calorie count low. Those ingredients might make this beer sound like a dieter’s dinner or calorie-minded compromise, but IPA fans should give it a try—it truly does taste like a craft-brewed IPA. 120 calories, 3.8% ABV.
Marathon Brewing Company 26.2 Brew is a light, refreshing golden ale that’s brewed with Himalayan sea salt and coriander. The 26.2 name is a reference to the number of miles in a marathon, and this low-cal, low-carb beer was indeed created with fitness-focused drinkers in mind—in earlier years, it was sold exclusively along the route of the Boston Marathon. There are more distinctive beers on this list, but 26.2 figures to be among the easiest to find in stores and on tap—Marathon Brewing is owned by Boston Beer Company, the company behind the widely distributed Samuel Adams beers. 120 calories, 4% ABV.
Firestone Walker Brewing Company Easy Jack IPA is a longtime favorite of IPA fans that’s brewed by one of America’s most reliable craft breweries. Its complex blend of hops from North America, Europe and New Zealand—expertly balanced by malts—helps Easy Jack stand out from the crowded IPA field. Its recipe was modified recently to reduce the alcohol and calories somewhat, but it’s still the dry, crisp, interesting, drinkable IPA that its fans have come to love. There are IPAs on this list with even fewer calories, but Easy Jack isn’t just a great low-calorie IPA, it’s a great IPA full stop. 135 calories, 4% ABV.
Evil Twin Brewing Sour Bikini is a dry-hopped sour pale ale with lots of character but not a lot of calories. It’s tart, tangy and a bit fruity and has more sweetness and body than most low-calorie beers. Sour beers such as this can be polarizing—some beer drinkers love them, others hate them. If you fall into the former camp, you’ll have a hard time finding a beer that offers more flavor with fewer calories. (Sour Bikini is a sour version of Evil Twin’s Bikini Beer, which also is low calorie and low alcohol but is rather bland.) 90 calories, 3% ABV.
New Belgium Brewing Company Mural Agua Fresca Cerveza is inspired by the refreshing Mexican water-and-fresh-fruit-drink agua fresca. This beer is brewed with watermelon, lime, agave and hibiscus, resulting in a crisp, bright, fruity beer with a light body, a rose color and just a hint of tartness. It’s a fun choice for a sunny summer day, and its fruit flavors often appeal to people who don’t consider themselves beer drinkers. It was created in collaboration with Mexican brewery Primus Cerveceria. 110 calories, 4.2% ABV.
Dogfish Head Brewery SeaQuench Ale is a refreshing, slightly tart blend of three styles of beer—a salty “Gose”…a crisp German-style “Kölsch”…and a tart “Berliner Weiss”—plus a hint of lime and sea salt. The resulting beer is nicely balanced, tart but not overpowering, and it’s a wonderful choice when you want to drink more than one on a hot summer day. 140 calories, 4.9% ABV.
*All calorie counts are based on 12-ounce servings, except as noted.
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