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FAT In The Can

Keep that holiday weight off by understanding beer calories

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If a walk through my local Wally World is any indication, the holiday season is rapidly approaching. And that means all manner of delicious goodies will be showing up on counters and tables everywhere. With all those calories staring at you, you may well wonder where you can cheat a bit to keep from spending four hours a day–every day–in the gym after the New Year. Usually, I wouldn’t advocate finding your calorie savings in beer, but there are several choices you can make to reduce caloric intake and still get full flavor.

Before we look at beers to help you enjoy the season and not develop a St. Nick belly that quivers like jelly, we need to look at the relationship of alcohol, carbohydrates and calories in beer.

As a standard, you can assume a craft beer with 5 percent ABV will have about 150 calories in a 12-ounce serving or 30 calories per 1 percent ABV. But there’s a notable variance in that number. Take a beer like New Belgium Brewing Company’s Fat Tire that posts an ABV of 5.2 percent and a calorie count of 160 and compare it to Swamp Head Brewery’s Midnight Oil Oatmeal Coffee Stout at 5 percent and 185 calories. That’s quite a big difference. Why? The answer lies in the carbohydrate content. Fat Tire has 14.2 grams or carbs, Midnight Oil 20.8 grams.

So, while you can estimate calories by ABV, you also have to take into account the type of beer. Lagers, pale ales and session IPAs will generally–though not always–have lower calorie counts than stouts, porters and dark ales of a similar ABV. This is because when fermentation takes place, yeast uses sugars or carbohydrates in wort (the liquid made from boiling grains) for energy. As the little beasties metabolize sugar, energy is burned, thus reducing caloric load. In sweeter beers, some of the sugars aren’t metabolized, leaving the full caloric count of the unmetabolized carbohydrates.

I know, that was an awful lot of science talk. So let’s discuss a couple of local beers great for celebrating the holidays without having to rent a Santa suit.

RAGTIME TAVERN’S DOLPHIN’S BREATH LAGER
When you’re out with friends during the holidays, stopping at Atlantic Beach icon Ragtime Tavern for a pint is always a good move. Happily, each pint of Dolphin’s Breath adds only a skinny 110 calories to your holiday intake. Sure, it’s a light lager at a mere 3.6 percent ABV, but the winning combination of low ABV and calories just means you can enjoy a few more with friends. Plenty of taxis in AB, too.

INTUITION ALE WORKS’ JON BOAT COASTAL ALE
Getting great craft beer at a convenience store does not mean you’ll blow your calorie budget. Jon Boat is a full-flavored ale with an easy-on-the-waistline calorie count of just 135 in each 12-ounce can. And with an ABV of just 4.5 percent, you can watch A Christmas Story for the 27th time with a few brews and not be tempted to stick your tongue on a flagpole. Or shoot your eye out!
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For events & details about Jax Beer Week, visit the facebook.com/pg/JaxBeerWeek/events/.

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