Top 10 Low-Calorie Beers

By Bob Barnes

Great-Tasting Light Beers to Drink Year-Round

Light beers first hit the market in the 1970s, and were produced in one predominant style — mildly hopped lager. Now, in the wake of the craft beer revolution of the 1990s, brewers are finding new ways to bring us flavorful, diet-friendly options.

We taste-tested our way to create GAYOT’s Top 10 Low-Calorie Beers, an eclectic list of beers boasting no more than 150 calories and an ABV of around 5 percent or less. Ranging from fruity lambics to bold and hoppy IPAs, these brews offer plenty of satisfaction that calorie-counters can enjoy.

For even more flavorful brews, take a look at our Top-Rated Fruit Beers and our Best Sour Beers.

> The selections are presented in alphabetical order.

1. Breckenridge Brewery Ophelia Hoppy Wheat Ale

Breckenridge Brewery Ophelia Hoppy Wheat Ale

Origin: Littleton, CO, U.S.A.
Beer type: Wheat Ale
Price: $9 for six-pack 12 oz.
ABV: 5%
Brewed by: Breckenridge Brewery

When first released in January 2014, Ophelia was slated to weigh in at a hefty 7.5 percent ABV, but the final version was slimmed down to just 5 percent alcohol.

This unfiltered ale pours a cloudy yellow-orange with a lemon-citrus aroma. A unique cross between a wheat ale and an IPA, Ophelia is loaded with Mosaic and Palisade hops that add a fruity tartness with subtle hints of mango, orange and pineapple. The robust flavors and dry, tingling carbonation of this light beer add a crispness that you would normally expect to find in a fuller-bodied pale ale.

Calories: 150

2. Brooklyn Brewery Dry Irish Stout

Brooklyn Brewery Dry Irish Stout

Origin: Brooklyn, NY, U.S.A.
Beer type: Irish Dry Stout, Stout
Price: $10 for six-pack 12 oz.
ABV: 4.7%
Brewed by: Brooklyn Brewery

It’s a myth that a dark beer has more calories and a higher alcohol content than lighter-hued brews.

The roasted barley used in Brooklyn Dry Irish Stout only adds flavor to this surprisingly slim beer. Brewed with dark-roasted, pale and flaked malts, it pours pitch black with an off-white head and aromas of chocolate and coffee. Upon sipping you’ll encounter a refreshing, fizzy carbonation followed by a bittersweet chocolate flavor with notes of espresso that will leave you thirsty for another drink.

Calories: 117

3. The Bruery Hottenroth Berliner Weisse

The Bruery Hottenroth Berliner Weisse

Origin: Placentia, CA, U.S.
Beer type: Berliner Weisse
Price: $10 for 750 ml
ABV: 3.1%
Brewed by: The Bruery

While The Bruery is known for crafting primarily Belgian-style beers, it does produce more than a dozen sour varieties, including this Berliner Weisse, a German-style offering with tart highlights.

Brewed in honor of CEO/founder Patrick Rue’s grandparents, Fred and Sarah Hottenroth, the low-alcohol wheat beer is soured with lactobacillus and a hint of brettanomyces. Fortunately, these friendly microorganisms are calorie-free, meaning this tangy punch to the taste buds has minimal calories per 12-ounce serving. Unfiltered and bottle conditioned, it pours a hazy straw yellow. The flavor is devoid of bitterness, but there’s plenty of crisp tartness. Despite its lemony sour bite, it is surprisingly refreshing, thanks in part to its robust carbonation and light body. Adding flavored syrups is a traditional German way of sweetening the beer, but be forewarned — doing so will increase the calorie count.

Calories: 88

4. Full Sail Session Premium Lager

Full Sail Session Premium Lager

Origin: Hood River, OR, U.S.
Beer type: Lager, American Pale Lager
Price: $9 for six-pack 11 oz.
ABV: 5.1%
Brewed by: Full Sail Brewing Company

Launched in 2004, Full Sail Brewing’s Session line features easy-drinking beers with an alcohol content of around 5 percent.

The first entry in the series, this classic pre-Prohibition-style lager is reminiscent of what American lagers used to taste like before the infamous ban. Packaged in a stubby 11-ounce bottle with a non-distinct red label, it’s brewed with no fillers like corn or rice — just barley, water, hops and yeast. It pours a clear straw color and its zesty carbonation with a hint of sweetness makes it seem more full-bodied than it actually is.

Calories: 130

5. Liefmans Fruitesse

Liefmans Fruitesse

Origin: Oudenaarde, Belgium
Beer type: Fruit Beer
Price: $9 for 750 ml
ABV: 4.2%
Brewed by: Brouwerij Liefmans

One normally wouldn’t think to serve beer on the rocks, but that’s exactly what the Belgian Brouwerij Liefmans recommends for this fruit-forward offering.

Fruitesse is aged in cherries for 18 months and then blended with the juice of cherries, elderberries, strawberries, raspberries and bilberries. Despite the beer’s surplus of natural flavors, a 12-ounce serving contains only 126 calories. It pours a vivid red color with a pink frothy head and greets the nose with red berry aroma. On the palate, a refreshing sweet cherry taste is complemented by a slightly tart finish that we find more pronounced when served sans ice.

Calories: 126

6. New Belgium Slow Ride Session IPA

New Belgium Slow Ride Session IPA

Origin: Fort Collins, CA, U.S.
Beer type: American IPA, IPA
Price: $9 for six-pack 12 oz.
ABV: 4.5%
Brewed by: New Belgium Brewing Company

India Pale Ale is one of the most popular craft beer styles.

In recent years, the session IPA sub-style has emerged for those wanting to enjoy full hop flavor without the added alcohol or calories. Upon pouring New Belgium Slow Ride, you’ll encounter tropical aromas of orange and grapefruit, compliments of the eight citrusy hop varieties the beer is brewed and dry-hopped with. The flavor is a balance of malt and hops with an abundance of piney hop notes resounding in the aftertaste.

Calories: 140

7. Rolling Rock Extra Pale

Rolling Rock Extra Pale

Origin: St. Louis, MO, U.S.A.
Beer type: American Adjunct Lager
Price: $7 for six-pack 12 oz.
ABV: 5.1%
Brewed by: Latrobe Brewing Company

Originally produced in the small town of Latrobe, Pennsylvania, Rolling Rock was rolled out in 1939.

The mysterious number 33 that is imprinted prominently on its label has sparked numerous theories as to its significance. While some believe it’s a reference to the year Prohibition was repealed, others claim it’s the number of batches Latrobe test-brewed before arriving at a final recipe. The brewers themselves acknowledge that it’s the exact number of words in the beer’s pledge of quality. Whatever the real story may be, the truth is that this classic American lager — a blend of pale barley malt, rice and corn — delivers smooth, full-flavored taste while only imparting 130 calories and 9.8 grams of carbohydrates.

Calories: 130

8. Saint Arnold Weedwacker

Saint Arnold Weedwacker

Origin: Houston, TX, U.S.A.
Beer type: Hefeweizen
Price: $9 for six-pack 12 oz.
ABV: 4.9%
Brewed by: Saint Arnold Brewing Company

On the bottle of this inventive brew, you’ll find a hand-scrawled “Weedwacker” label hastily pasted over the word “Lawnmower” — an allusion to the fact that the beer shares a recipe with Saint Arnold’s best-selling Fancy Lawnmower.

However, the inclusion of hefeweizen yeast transforms it into an authentic Bavarian-style brew boasting flavors of banana, clove and spices. Weedwacker was the first experiment in the brewery’s Moveable Yeast Series, in which the usual Saint Arnold yeast is substituted for a different variety. Brewed with pale and wheat malts alongside German hops, the result is a refreshingly light-bodied beer. This one-of-a-kind hefeweizen struck bronze at the Great American Beer Festival in 2013 and again in 2014. To conduct your own experiment, try tasting Weedwacker side-by-side with its cousin, Fancy Lawnmower.

Calories: 150

9. Sam Adams Light

Sam Adams Light

Origin: Boston, MA, U.S.A.
Beer type: Lager, Light Lager
Price: $8 for six-pack 12 oz.
ABV: 4.3%
Brewed by: The Boston Beer Company

Sam Adams Light is unlike the low-calorie lagers brewed by macro-breweries with adjuncts like rice or corn.

This craft beer version is made with a carefully selected blend of Samuel Adams’ two-row pale malt, caramel malt and Spalt Spalter noble hops. Introduced in 2001, this amber-hued lager has an aroma of toasted bread, the inviting flavors of sweet malt balanced with subtle hop character, and a crisp, dry aftertaste.

Calories: 119

10. 21st Amendment Brewery Down to Earth

21st Amendment Brewery Down to Earth

Origin: San Francisco, CA, U.S.A.
Beer type: IPA, American IPA
Price: $8 for six-pack 12 oz.
ABV: 4.4%
Brewed by: 21st Amendment

Fortunately for those of us watching our calorie intake, hops don’t add to the count, which means there’s no need to give up that lovely piney citrus flavor.

The newly minted term “session IPA” is used for beers that are full of hoppy goodness yet light on alcohol and calories — and is a perfect description for 21st Amendment’s Down to Earth IPA. At only 4.4 percent ABV, the beer showcases a hearty hop profile and shouts out notes of mango, orange peel and pine in the aroma. Additional hints of grapefruit and caramel malt can be discerned on the palate before ending with a dry, bitter finish.

Calories: 150