Low-carb diet plans are nothing new, Atkins was the buzzword in the 80s and 90s but the last decade has seen the keto diet surge in popularity. In 2020 “keto” was the most Googled food topic in the world with over 25.4 million searches – even some of my hop-head buddies are now following a keto plan.
But what about beer? Can beer fit in with a low-carb diet plan?
If you are following the keto diet yourself, or just simply trying to cut down on your carbs, beer was probably the first thing you were told to cut out. Fortunately, there are many low-carb beer options that can fit in with even the strictest of diet plans, it’s just a case of finding them!
Traditionally, when you think of low-calorie or low-carb beers you may imagine a light lager or an IPA style of beer. Some of the “light” beers that are popular nowadays have been described as the closest thing to water a beer can get. And surely there are no carbs in water?
Dark beer is a beloved beverage among beer enthusiasts. Its rich, roasted flavor and smooth finish make it a popular choice for many people. However, for those following a low-carb diet, darker beers can be a tricky drink to enjoy. Luckily, there are some delicious dark beers (not too many though) that you can enjoy without ditching your low-carb plan.
Does Alcohol Contain Carbs?
No, alcohol itself doesn’t contain any carbohydrates. At least, pure forms of alcohol like whiskey, gin, tequila, rum, and vodka all contain zero carbs. It’s when you start adding mixers to the drink the carb content goes up.
You could always add a low-carb mixer for more flavor, but sometimes a mixed drink just won’t cut it when you’re hankering after a cold brewski.
Why You Should Look For Low-Carb Beers?
Beers in the past have been notoriously high in calories and carbohydrates, definitely not something you would recommend for anybody trying to lose weight or just get generally healthier.
A standard bottle of beer (12oz) will normally clock in at about 14 grams of carbs a bottle, if not higher. That may not sound too much, but when a diet like keto restricts your carb intake to 20 to 57 grams a day, it’s a large chunk of your daily allowance.
And what happens when you feel like another round? Before you know it, the carbs soon start adding up.
For those following a low-carb or ketogenic diet, low-carb dark beers can be a great option for several reasons.
Firstly, they can provide a way to enjoy a beer without derailing a low-carb lifestyle. Many traditional beers are high in carbohydrates, which can make it difficult to stay within a certain carbohydrate limit. Low-carb dark beers, on the other hand, can provide a way to indulge in a beer while still staying within a low-carb diet.
Secondly, low-carb dark beers can provide a source of antioxidants and other health benefits. Dark beers such as stouts and porters are often brewed with ingredients such as cocoa or coffee, which are high in antioxidants and can provide health benefits such as reducing inflammation and improving heart health.
Finally, low-carb dark beers can be a great option for those looking to indulge in a beer without overindulging. Many low-carb dark beers have a lower alcohol content than traditional beers, which can make them a great option for those looking to enjoy a beer without getting drunk or consuming too many calories.
Does Dark Beer Have Fewer Carbs?
No, unfortunately not! It’s generally accepted that most regular beers, especially those darker in color, will be higher in carbs due to the extra malts used in the brewing process. Most of the sugars and carbs in beer come from the starch of the grains which are broken down in the fermentation process. The hops and the yeast have very little, if any, contribution to the overall carb count of a beer.
Additionally, many stouts or dark beers can include other ingredients such as chocolate, lactose, or even bready ingredients, which can add to the carbohydrates in the final beer.
What Kind of Beer Has the Lowest Carbs?
Without a doubt, the lowest carb beers are the “light” beers or light adjunct lagers which are extremely popular in the US today. Six of the top 10 selling beers in the US fall into the light lager category.
Typically, they will contain half the total grams of carbs per 12 oz serving of their traditional counterparts – i.e. Bud Light has only 6.6 grams of carbs compared to the 11 grams found in traditional Budweiser
As of 2022, Anheuser-Busch has added a zero carbs beer to their Bud Light range which has 0g of sugar, 0g of carbs, and only 80 calories per 12 oz serving, which is described as a super crisp and refreshing light lager.
How Can a Beer Be Low-Carb?
There are several methods brewers use to make a light beer lower in carbs, including introducing certain enzymes at the mashing and fermentation stage which breaks down more of the carbohydrates into simple sugars. The resulting beer is then diluted with water to cut down the ABV and the calories too.
Although you would think this results in a watery beer (which it certainly does with some of the less expensive “light” beers), in recent years brewers seem to have caught up with the consumer’s demand for fewer carbs in beers but without sacrificing the flavor too much.
What Are Low-Carb Dark Beers?
Low-carb dark beers are beer varieties that have been formulated to have a lower carbohydrate content than traditional beers. They often use ingredients such as malted barley, hops, and yeast, but may also include ingredients such as cocoa or coffee to achieve a darker color and flavor profile.
One of the most popular types of low-carb dark beers is stout. Stouts are typically brewed with roasted barley, which gives them their distinct dark color and rich flavor. They can also include other ingredients such as chocolate or coffee to enhance their taste.
Another popular low-carb dark beer is porter. Porters are similar to stouts in that they are dark in color and have a robust flavor profile. However, they are typically brewed with malted barley rather than roasted barley, which gives them a slightly lighter color and a smoother, less bitter flavor.
How Do Low-Carb Dark Beers Differ from Traditional Beers?
Traditional beers are typically brewed using malted grains such as barley, wheat, or rye, which are then fermented with yeast to produce alcohol. These grains are high in carbohydrates, which can contribute to a higher calorie content in traditional beers.
Low-carb dark beers, on the other hand, can often use alternative grains such as sorghum, millet, or rice to achieve a lower carbohydrate content. They may also use sugar substitutes such as stevia or erythritol to sweeten the beer without adding carbohydrates.
Another way that low-carb dark beers differ from traditional beers is in their alcohol content. Many low-carb dark beers have a lower alcohol content than traditional beers, which can make them a great option for those looking to enjoy a beer without overindulging.
What Is the Best Beer To Drink While on Keto?
The simple answer most health professionals would give is no beer. KILJOYS!!!
But we know you like your beer and that that’s not the answer you are looking for. if you are going to drink beer you should definitely choose a light beer that has fewer carbs. Many of the light and ultra beers now have less than 3 grams of net carbs which fit within keto macro goals.
Options that come in below 4 grams of carbs include:
- Budweiser Select 55 Premium Light
- Miller 64 Extra Light Lager
- Michelob Ultra Pure Gold
- Natty Light
- Beck’s Premier Light
- Lagunitas Daytime IPA
There’s even that ZERO carb beer we mentioned earlier, Bud Light Next, but just because it has no carbs and tastes like water don’t assume you can drink it like water. Alcohol can have negative effects on ketosis in your body if drunk in larger quantities.
Is Stout Beer Keto-Friendly?
In moderation, any beer can be keto-friendly, it’s all about counting those carbs. Although stouts will have more carbs due to the extra malts used than light adjunct lagers, some stouts will use a lower-carbohydrate malt such as wheat or rye which can help the overall carb count of the stout.
Being brewed with a lower amount of carbs, the beer will be less filling and have fewer calories than its traditional counterparts.
Is Guinness Stout Keto-Friendly?
No, Guinness is not classed as a low-carb beer, although it does fall slightly under the 14 – 16 grams of carbs found in many traditional ales and lagers. While one bottle of Guinness (11. 2 fl oz) contains only 10. 6 grams of carbohydrates, that is still too high to be considered low carb or as light beer.
In addition, the alcohol in Guinness will cause your body to metabolize the carbohydrates like sugar, leading to an overall higher carbohydrate count.
If you’re following a keto diet which limits you to just 20 grams of carbs a day, one bottle is going to use over half your allowance. With Guinness traditionally served in pints in most bars, one pint equates to over 21 grams of carbs, too much to fit in with most keto macros.
Top 5 Low-Carb Dark Beers
If this was a post about just low-carb beers, there would be potentially dozens of beers we could list. With the growing demand for low-carb beers from American consumers over the past few decades, almost every brewer in America now produces at least one light low-carb beer, whether it’s an IPA, a light lager, or even a light blonde beer.
Unfortunately, the dark beers don’t seem to have produced many low-carb beers in terms of less than 4g of total carbs. Be wary of some of the European beer nutrition facts which quote the total grams of carbs in a beer per 100 ml. Seriously, who drinks a 100 ml serving of beer?
In the US, although there is no legal requirement to display the nutritional facts of a beer on its label, if any are given they must be per 12 oz bottle or serving. If a beer says it has only 4g of carbs per 100g, when you equate that to the US standard of 12 oz it comes out at over 14 oz of carbs, definitely not a low-carb beer.
Never one to give up on a challenge, here are 5 lower-carb dark beers for you dark beer drinkers to enjoy which come out at around 10g of total carbs per serving. They may not be as keto-friendly as some of the ultra-low-carb light beers such as Michelob Ultra or Bud Light, but they can help if you’re looking to cut your carb intake down.
At 10g of carbs per 12 oz, they are still lower than a traditional beer which often comes in above 14 g of carbs, or even some of the darker beers such as Kilkenny’s Red Ale which has over 20g of carbs in each serving.
Guinness Draught Stout, Ireland
- ABV 4.2%
- Carbs per 12 oz (354 ml) 11g
Guinness Draught Stout is one of the most popular lower-carb dark beers. It has a rich, creamy flavor and a velvety texture that makes it a favorite among beer enthusiasts. Guinness Draught Stout is brewed with roasted barley, which gives it its dark color and unique flavor profile.
One of the reasons Guinness Draught Stout is a great option for those following a low-carb lifestyle is that it has a relatively low carbohydrate content. A 12-ounce serving of Guinness Draught Stout contains only 11 grams of carbohydrates, which is significantly less than many traditional beers.
Left Hand Milk Stout Nitro
- ABV 6%
- Carbs per 12 oz (354 ml) 12 g
Left Hand Milk Stout Nitro is a low-carb, tasty beer that is brewed with a blend of malted barley and lactose sugar. It has a smooth, creamy texture and a rich, chocolatey flavor that makes it a favorite among beer enthusiasts.
Left Hand Milk Stout Nitro may have slightly more carbs at 12 grams per 12 oz serving than Draught Guinness but it is still lower than the 16 – 17 grams of carbs found in other traditional dark beers.
Newcastle Brown Ale
- ABV 5%
- Carbs per 12 oz (354 ml) 10g
First brewed in Newcastle in 1927, Newcastle Brown Ale is loved around the world for its distinctive taste and iconic packaging. Famously served in the unique schooner glass, it’s the No.1 Packaged Ale in the UK. A premium brown ale, full-bodied, with a distinctive caramel, fruity character, and a pleasantly sweet after-taste.
Fortunately, here in the US we now have Newkie Brown, as it’s affectionally known, in 12 oz bottles that only contain 10 grams of carbohydrate. Avoid those oversized pint bottles of the UK which will definitely put your carb count for the day up, at nearly 20 grams of carbs per pint.
Samuel Smiths Nut Brown Ale
- ABV 5%
- Carbs per 12 oz (354 ml) 12 g
Although it’s a beer hard to recommend to somebody following a keto diet, for dark beer lovers who just want a flavorful beer they can drink a couple of without piling on the weight, Sam Smiths Nut Brown Ale is a lower-carb brown ale.
Samuel Smiths brew with well water (the original well at the Old Brewery, sunk in 1758, is still in use, with the hard well water being drawn from 85 feet underground), best barley malt, yeast, and aromatic hops fermented in ‘stone Yorkshire squares’ to create a relatively dry ale with a rich nutty color and a palate of beech nuts, almonds, and walnuts.
Definitely one worth seeking out, Samuel Smiths can be found in many of the craft beer hangouts across the US, especially those with a more “English” range.
Marston’s Revolution Low-Carb Ale
- ABV 4.7%
- Carbs per 12 oz (354ml) 3.6g
I have saved the best until last, an ale that is actually low enough in carbs to be considered keto-friendly! Marston’s in the UK have double fermented this ale in the brewing process to turn all the sugars into alcohol and produce one of the lowest carb, and low in calories too (only 88), beers on the market.
Although nothing to write home about, the taste of this standard English ale should please most darker beer lovers, but it can be found by some to be a bit too watery like the light lagers of the US.
Officially Marston’s Revolution isn’t distributed in the US, but some decent beer importers may have it in their catalog, and it has been spotted in some of the English-style pubs of LA and Chicago in the past.
Low Carb Dark Beers – Do They Exist? – Final Thoughts
After spending many hours looking into it and trying to answer the question posed by many of my beer-loving buddies, I would have to say low-carb dark beers don’t really exist.
Dark beers are known for their rich flavors and, unfortunately, those more flavorsome brews normally mean higher levels of carbs.
Many of the light beers such as Bud Light, Coors Light, Michelob Ultra et al tend to be quite watered down with less flavor than traditional lagers. It’s hard to water down a dark beer without losing the essential flavors that the dark beer lover is seeking.
It is possible, however, to find dark beers, especially stouts, which are lower in carbs rather than just low. If you are planning on cutting carbs from your diet you could indulge in a couple of lower-carb dark beers, although if you are following a strict keto plan you may find a couple of drinks uses all your daily carb allowance, if not pushes you over.
For a low-carb diet, I would say stick with the Guinness. Not only is it lower in carbs and calories than a traditional full-fat type of beer but it’s also packed with essential minerals like Iron and folic acid which can help improve your health too.
Now if only I can convince the wife of that, too!