If only it were that easy to answer. We don’t have a single answer to this one simply because there are so many variables – it depends on what you’re drinking.
But whether you’re on a weight-loss journey, counting your calories on doctor’s orders, or just curious, you can still make informed decisions about your drinks based on their calorific content – even without exact measurements.
A quick reminder: calories, when we’re talking in food and nutrition terms, are units of energy, noted as ‘kcal’, which you’ll be familiar with from seeing the stats on food and drink labels. It stands for ‘kilocalorie’ (1 kcal is the amount of heat energy needed to cause 1 kilogram of water to heat up by 1 degree. Science!)
Note that the below numbers are all guidelines – we can’t tell you the exact amount, but these approximate guides can help you with your dietary decisions.
Where do the calories in beer come from?
The calories in beer mostly come from the fermentation part, where natural starches and sugars are fermented into alcohol. It’s part of what makes beer beer, so calorie content can’t really be avoided.
At the lower end of the scale, you’ll find a pint of mild bitter to be around 140 – 180 calories. Pale ales start from 180, and so do lagers. So a standard pint of 5% ABV lager might end up containing about 215 kcal.
Premium, stronger brews that have a higher % ABV are also more likely to have a higher calorie count. So if you’re in the mood for a Chocolate Honeycomb Stout at 5.5% it’s going to be higher.
And then there’s the session beers. Generally lower in alcohol content, these easy-drinking brews naturally have fewer sugars in and therefore fewer calories. Our Session Pale is a light and refreshing 3.8% ABV. The one thing to bear in mind when drinking session ales while counting calories is that you can be tempted to drink more than you usually do, which will cancel out such benefits, of course…
Some brands do make low calorie lagers which are sometimes marketed towards the gym-going crowd. These can be useful, but it’s up to you to decide if the taste is worth it!
How many calories are in a glass of wine?
Let’s compare with some other boozy drinks.
A standard glass of 12% wine, according to the NHS, will contain around 125kcal (the same amount as a chocolate mini roll). A small (50ml) glass of cream liqueur would contain around 120kcal and a standard 5% alcopop might be around 237kcal (they are, famously, quite sugary).
If you’re visiting one of our beerhouses and want to watch your calorie counts, you can always go for something else – Gin & Tonics are well known for being quite low in calories. There’s about 90 calories in a single G & T, or 150 in a double. You can lower that by asking for a slimline tonic which should have around 60 in a single and 120 in a double. As a guideline, if they have the same %ABV, vodkas and gins should have the same calorie content. So a vodka tonic will do nicely, too.
But if you’re sticking to the beer and really counting calories, lager is probably your safest bet – leave the imperial stout for a special occasion. You can always alternate your pints with lighter drinks if the night is going to be a long one. You can also head over to the Drinkaware unit & calorie calculator for some more precise measurements.