While constantly running my yapper all these years working in beer, both in the progressive Western United States or back home in Memphis, encouraging folks to experience the array, appeal, and charisma of good beer, there are certain responses I’ve heard over and over. One of those has to do with health and the purported caloric load from beer. Drinking mass quantities of Duff beer will definitely make you look like Homer Simpson, but no more than consuming an excess of most other food and drink. Beer may not be a part of your original plan for swimsuit season, but a moderate intake of beer offers plenty of health benefits and compares better to wine and liquor than you might think.
Recently The Brewer’s Association (BrewersAssociation.org) released a neuropsychiatry study from Korea that shed some light on the matter. The biggest variable in the whole study was low to moderate drinking (or LMD). As expected, binge drinking and overconsumption of beer have many detrimental and dangerous effects so consider that as you read the rest of this. Now on to the benefits!
A summary of the study states, “Low to moderate consumption of beer by the elderly offers protective value against dementia and cognitive decline compared to abstaining.” In essence, the moderate consumption of beer is better than over consumption and complete abstinence. The grey matter of your brain seems to get a boost out of a slight buzz as well.
My favorite benefit listed in the study was beer’s role in “aiding intimacy creation.” This is a benefit long understood by humanity, where liquid courage surely lowered inhibitions from the early days in Mesopotamia up to modern-day romances formed from a late night on Beale St. Jokes aside, alcohol in moderation acts as a stress reliever to the burdens of everyday life to help set the mood for many lovers out there, and lots of us have a beer or two to thank for that.
Hops are a cone-like flower used in beer for bitterness, flavor, and aroma that also provide a unique health benefit. A longstanding supposed benefit of hops in Europe was the belief in hops as a sleep aid. It turns out they were right. Hops are now recommended by the European Herbal Medicinal Product Committee as a sleep aid that promote circadian rhythms and sleep cycles much like melatonin. The benefit from the hop flower is separate from the lethargy alcohol imparts as products like hop pillows or hop tea isolate the organic value in hops that make them a great sleep aid.
Might we see a Jenny Craig beer one day? Probably not, but calories in beer aren’t as bad as you think when compared to their boozy counterparts. Beer has always been the assumed heaviest drink, but a sugary margarita and the like can have up to 550 calories. A four-ounce glass of wine generally hovers around 110 calories, and the argument there switches to quantity. Mixed drinks have a wide range of calories comparable to craft beers anywhere in the range of 100-200 calories, with the rare one clocking close to 300 calories on the high end.
The calorie count in beer is much more closely associated with alcohol content than the perception of different styles having more calories (e.g., stout, porter, pilsner, etc.). “Most of the calories come from the alcohol content and whatever residual sugars may be left after fermentation,” says Brooklyn Brewery brewmaster Garrett Oliver. Beers darker in color are often thought to be the heaviest, but Guinness Stout has only 126 calories because of its low alcohol content at 4.0% ABV. On the flip side, many assume lagers are the lightest styles, and while this is generally true of American adjunct lagers, strong German lagers like bocks are commonly above 200 calories.
People often gripe of being full from beer as opposed to drinking wine or liquor, but this is primarily from volume. A glass of wine is generally 4 to 5 ounces while a mixed drink is similar with 1.5 oz of the base spirit (vodka, bourbon, etc). If this is your biggest obstacle in enjoying beer, I’d suggest purchasing larger format bottles of beer and sharing it amongst friends like you would a bottle of wine. This allows you take in a smaller volume of beer and sample the vast array of flavor, texture, and personality beer can offer.
In addition to all of this, beer has been reported to lower cholesterol and fight cancer through polyphenols and boost protein metabolism via increased albumin. Yeast present in unfiltered and bottle- conditioned beers is full of complex B vitamins and proteins. Yeast is a probiotic organism that serves to regulate a number of internal issues. The roasting process for malts in beers darker in color has gone through the same process as coffee grains, and the high temperatures aid in the creation of antioxidants. Beer is also just the spraying of hops and barley away from being organic. As a natural product, your body processes these calories into energy much quicker than synthetic, preservative-crammed products.
What’s your excuse now? Get out and start sampling the great variety in beer without the unfounded health worries. It can help protect your brain, is a proven sleep aid, and is a bona fide champion when it comes to aiding in intimacy creation…so get to drinking! Just make sure to imbibe in moderation.
By Kellan Bartosch
Kellan Bartosch (right) co-owns Wiseacre Brewery with his brother and brewmaster, Davin Bartosch (left), Dad (center). Wiseacre is located at 2783 Broad Ave. For info about tours and taproom hours, go to WisecacreBrew.com.