How Many Calories Am I Drinking?

A quick hello to the KC Beer Blog faithful. I’m Josh, also known as JJSKCK. I hope you’ll forgive the blatant lack of vowels in that alias, as I admittedly didn’t put much thought into my online identity (though it did sound good after a bottle of wine).

I was invited to contribute here from time to time. This was extremely flattering, since this is one of the first blogs I ever followed with any regularity. I graciously accepted, and here I am.

I love good beer. More than that, I love the laughs and ridiculous/inappropriate conversations I’ve had over pints of porter and snifters of stout. Beer is fun.

However, my own beer consumption has diminished somewhat in the last couple of months. I haven’t given up drinking; I just happen to be 6 weeks into a certain 90-day fitness program. In the interest of not totally undoing all the work I’ve put in, I’ve chosen to be a bit more discerning as to how often (and how much) I consume. Don’t worry. It’s only temporary. I’ll be back soon.

Anyway, this all got me thinking: how many calories are actually in that 12 oz. bottle of happiness?

I did a little research, and found some information that was printed in Homebrew Digest.

The caloric content of beer comes from two sources: the alcohol itself, and the residual carbohydrates/sugars remaining after fermentation.

If you know the brewer’s specs for a beer, you can calculate the calorie content of said beer. Just plug your numbers into this formula:

cal per 12 oz beer = [(6.9 × ABW) + 4.0 × (RE - 0.1)] × FG × 3.55


ABW = (0.79 × ABV) / FG

RE = (0.1808 × °Pi) + (0.8192 × °Pf)

Get to it!

Or, you can put your numbers into this here handy spreadsheet I’ve conveniently drawn up and embedded. (You may have to hit the "Click to Edit" button.)

Some breweries (including Boulevard) have detailed brewer’s specs on their website, which means you can confirm your suspicions that a Pilsner/Wheat/Zon/Stout (142-152 cal per 12 oz) will hit you a bit lighter than a Sixth Glass or Dark Truth (288 and 297 calories, respectively). New Belgium even gives you their counts upfront, which…renders my spreadsheet meaningless. Forget I mentioned them.

Of course, most of the time you’re not going to have the original gravity in degrees Plato. There is a shortcut that will get you in the ballpark.

Multiply the % alcohol by volume by 30, and you’ll have a rough idea of how many calories a 12 oz serving is packing. (The carbohydrate and alcohol content tend to be increase in proportion to balance each other.) This is good for a normal-to-dry beer; sweeter beers will be somewhat higher.

Disclaimer: This is simply information. You can embrace it, ignore it, whatever you want to do. No one is telling you what to drink. There is no slippery slope; my next post will not involve ripping the Big Mac out of your kids' paws or silencing your complaints about the price of gas. It's simply something that I found interesting, given my temporarily heightened awareness of my own diet and my love for all things numerical.

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