November 05, 2018 0 Comments

True Cost of Beer

Guest writer: Cassandra Silva

It’s that lovely time of year again: Oktoberfest, football, and the transition into crisp weather.  For me, this is my most favorite time of year to layer up and enjoy a beautiful pint of craft beer out with friends.  However, don’t always enjoy beer’s effect on me. After an evening of even just one pint, I’m left feeling bloated and needing to McGuyver my high-waist leggings just so I can sit somewhat comfortably.

The next morning isn’t any better. I wake up with a swollen face, hands, feet, stomach. Scale says I gained 4lbs overnight?! How is this happening!!!

So, I decided to put on my detective hat and investigate. First, I needed to find out what exactly beer was made of to better understand the body’s response to it. Thankfully, I know a few commercial brewers in the Chicagoland area that explained the basics of the process. All beer is made from barley, water, hops, and yeast, with some extra stuff thrown in there for taste. With only four main ingredients, it sounds a “healthier” than I thought; however, when all the ingredients are thrown together in a pot to boil, it’s the starch water that is strained off and then fermented with yeast to become beer. So, depending on what grains are used and the volume of grains used, will determine how thick the starch water is. The starch water is then placed into another vessel where yeast is then introduced to eat all the sugars and turn the liquid into alcohol. But what about the hops? Hops are probably the most “healthy” part of beer as they’re plants used to steep in the starch water for taste, much like steeping a bag of tea leaves in hot water.

What does this process teach us?

More starch in beer = more calories = higher alcohol by volume.

We all know starch irritates the lining of our stomachs, causing bloat.  As the stomach expands, it’s increasing the lining’s surface area allowing easy access for alcohol to be absorbed quicker into the bloodstream. The higher the abv (alcohol by volume) a beer is, the greater its effect on other parts of the body.  

Once alcohol takes over, it is seen as foreign and the body goes into a “defense mode:”

*Increase of heart rate to process the alcohol out of the system faster
*Increase body temperature to kill foreign object
*Stomach will involuntarily purge contents

Beer may be worth a few rough nights here and there, but is it worth the calories and set back towards your goals?

Speaking of calories - here is what a few common beers would cost you calorie wise: 

  • A light colored lager or ale is about 147cal/12oz
  • A beloved Oktoberfest is 180cal/12oz as well as many IPAs
  • A hazy IPA though comes with 230cal/12oz
  • A German bock will cost me 260cal/12oz
  • A delicious Russian Imperial Stout will set me back 303cal/12oz.  


I researched some of my personal favorites and found that not many are listed, nor are the macronutrient profiles available on the brewery website. Further research revealed that during the craft beer boom, there was no formal requirement for nutrition facts to be placed on beer. It wasn’t until 2016 the FDA rallied for breweries to begin adding nutrition facts to their labels. In June of 2018, the FDA finalized the requirements needed to meet the new law.  Now, by 2020, all breweries must comply and include a list of macronutrients on every one of its labels.

Just some things to think about before ordering up your next beer - or have beer in general :)