Wednesday, April 27, 2011

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.


  1. Embeded spreadsheets and math equations? NOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOO

  2. That's informative and inspiring!
    Thanks for sharing, I enjoyed the visit. :)

  3. You got a spreadsheet that calculates tips?

  4. I would like to add that calories from residual sugars in beer are often not digestible and don't contribute much to weight gain. Further numerous studies indicate that alcoholic beverages added to a diet without alterations to other food intake do not usually lead to weight gain. (This should not be surprising as what is indigestible by yeast, which specialize in sugar metabolism, may be expected to be indigestible by humans).

    The problem is when alcohol consumption is coupled with increased intake of fatty foods, which actually increases to retention and storage of fat.

    A primer with links to research articles:

  5. Boulevard won't actually give you the calorie count of any of their beers, even if you ask nicely. So this is a handy tool to get a number so you can know if you have to skip lunch to get your 3 beers in.

    Interestingly, I read this post while naked.

  6. I promise to keep my mathy geekouts to a minimum, though I may oblige Yeti and provide a calibrated Tip Bomb spreadsheet.

    Jason, I'm interested to read more about the "actual" calories vs. "digested" calories, especially since it may result in me drinking more beer. However, the link you provided isn't working.

  7. Bull E, I can remember picking up a pamphlet on a BLVD tour and it listed the beers with each of their caloric content. This was pre Smokestack, however.

  8. I am deeply grateful for (also highly amused and completely unsurprised by) the spreadsheet. However, I could have gone my whole life without knowing the true calorie content of Sixth Glass. Dammit.

  9. The link does seem to work on my cpu. But here is another that provides mostly anecdotal evidence:

    If you enter beer and go through to the nutrition data sheet you'll see that beer has plenty of carbs, but no sugars (they do a pretty thorough breakdown). Further, when you drink all night and have the 'beer runs' that is a result of the indigestion of the complex carbs in beer that were undigestible (ditto for flatulence). I have to apologize for not having better links, I remember most of this info from a med school nutrition lecture.

  10. Jason, my apologies. The comment window wasn't wide enough to capture the ".html" at the end, and that did the trick.

    TB, sorry about the proverbial "red pill". I'm actually glad they don't print specs for the Imperial Stout.

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