Knowing the number of calories in beer and other beverages can be critical for the beer-loving dieter. Even if you’re not trying to lose weight, it’s a good idea to know where your beer calories are coming from and how to get the most flavor in the least number of calories. It might be surprising to some to know that even the darkest beers (like Guiness) can have very few calories.

Calories in Beer(67662)

First, we should understand where the calories in beer come from. Beer is made up of only a few basic ingredients:

1. Water

2. Malted barley

3. Hops

4. Yeast 

We can rule out water as a calorie source, which leaves us with malted barley, hops, and yeast as potential sources for calories in beer.  Hops are only used as a bittering agent, and just like most cooking spices they contain very few calories. In fact, 98% of the calories in beer come from the malted barley and the resulting alcohol from fermentation.

In the brewing process, malted barley is broken down into sugars. Many of these sugars are then turned into alcohol by the yeast. So, the calories in beer come from residual sugars left behind during the brewing process and alcohol produced by the brewing yeast.

You might be surprised to learn that beer does not have many carbohydrates. A traditional American lager will only have 10g carbs. Compare this to an average slice of bread, which has 20-20g carbs! Despite the marketing claims by many producers, carbs in beer should not be a major concern for most people.

If you really want to limit your carbs, look first to your general diet. There are low carb beers available, but generally these are watered down versions of traditional beer that are low in everything including carbs, but also flavor.

So, how many calories are in beer? It depends.

Calories in Beer for Diet

A basic American lager will have approximately 150 calories per 12oz. serving. This beer will also have somewhere around 5% alcohol by volume. A strong American India Pale Ale, on the other hand, may have closer to 250 calories per 12 oz. serving. This beer will have closer to 8% alcohol by volume. As you can see, the trend is for higher alcohol beers to have more calories.

This is because alcohol itself is very high in calories. Look at the following chart: 

Fat: 1 gram = 9 calories

Protein: 1 gram = 4 calories

Carbs: 1 gram = 4 calories

Alcohol: 1 gram = 7 calories

As you can see, alcohol is more calorically dense than almost any other macronutrient, except fat. 

That said, because many of the calories in beer come from alcohol, someone on a diet does not necessarily need to drink only light beer. Instead of having 2 light beers that have 4% alcohol, the dieter could instead have one more flavorful craft beer with 8% alcohol and consume roughly the same number of calories.

So, which beers and beer styles have the highest and lowest number of calories?



Alcohol (abv)

Amstel Light



Blue Moon












Stone Brewing IPA



Bridgeport Hop Czar






I’ll bet there are a few surprises on the list above. One thing that stands out, is that beers with higher alcohol generally have higher calories. It is not, however, a one-to-one ratio.  So to reduce the number of calories you consume, you don’t have to choose light beers. 

The Bottom Line for Reducing Calories in Beer

If you’re looking to have a high number of beers of during the day, such as at a party or tailgate, stick to lower-alcohol beers. If you’re craving flavor, a stout beer can often be a good choice.

If you plan to have only one or two beers and would like to maximize flavor (and/or alcohol content), go for something like an India Pale Ale.

German-style wheat beers and “holiday” beers will usually have a high number of calories and low alcohol content. Try to stick to only one of these if you are on a diet.

Finally, it’s important to remember that almost any beer will have a negative effect on losing weight. The calories you consume from beer are fairly empty, so you’d be much better off having a healthy salad or protein. If you do choose to indulge, I hope this article helps you make smart choices!