Calorie Counts Are Coming to Beer Labels

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It’s no secret that beer isn’t exactly health food, but exactly how many calories and carbs you’re drinking isn’t always clear. But the days of guilt-free beer are about to be behind us, as many major brews will soon include calorie counts and other nutritional data on their labels.

The Beer Institute, a trade association that represents the beer industry, recently announced new guidelines aimed at adding transparency for consumers. Some of the big names represented by the Institute include Anheuser-Busch, MillerCoors and Heineken USA, all of which will be adopting the new standards.

Based on the new guidelines, participating brewers will soon be listing calorie, carbohydrate, protein, fat and alcohol-by-volume (ABV) information on product labels. Along with standard nutritional information, labels will also include QR codes linking to ingredient lists and freshness dates, or secondary packing (like six-pack cartons and hang tags) with the same information.

So far, six major beer companies, which together sell 80 percent of the beer sold in the U.S., have agreed to adopt the new standards. But you won’t be seeing labels on all beer instantly. A three-year implementation period has been laid out by the Beer Institute to allow more preparation time for brewers.

Another trade association in the beer industry, the Craft Brew Alliance, which represents brands such as Redhook and Widmer Brothers, explained that these new changes are more difficult for smaller breweries to implement.

“The Brewers Association supports transparency in labeling,” organization spokesman Paul Gatza told NPR. But he added that “the approach the large brewers have taken may not be feasible for smaller brewers, many of whom offer dozens of small scale, seasonal products every year.”

Beer Institute CEO James McGreevy noted the importance of the new initiative, which was created based on research feedback. According to a recent Harris Poll, 72 percent of beer drinkers “think it’s important to read nutritional labels when buying food and beverages.”

These calorie counts may lead to more active awareness about what kind of beers may be “better” to drink. Those who love stouts and IPAs may be disappointed to learn that these popular brews tend to be two to three times the amount of calories of lighter beers. For example, a 12-ounce can of Brooklyn Brewery Black Chocolate Stout racks up 320 calories, whereas the classic Pabst Blue Ribbon tallies just 140.  When in doubt, just remember that beers with higher alcohol content are typically higher in calories, too.

Scared to find out how many calories and carbs are in your favorite beer? Maybe it’s time to switch to lower-calorie cocktails.

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