If you let the beer industry do your thinking for you, then you probably think the key to brewing a healthy ale or lager is to strip out the flavor and label it, “Light,” “Lite,” or—in the case of Michelob—“Ultra.”
But that’s not the whole story. The truth is, you don’t have to sacrifice flavor to avoid a calorie bomb. What you do want to avoid are excessive carbohydrates and a super-high alcohol by volume (ABV), since each gram of alcohol delivers about 7 calories.
The truth is, today’s brewers are making it easier than ever to enjoy a guilt-free beer by adding flavor through antioxidant-rich hops, gut-friendly bacteria, and other glorious tricks of the beer-making trade.
So if you’re looking for the summer beer styles to try right now—ones that are designed to be optimally refreshing without saddling you with extra calories—then you've come to the right place. Keep reading for the best beer styles you can drink right now.
This low-ABV wheat brew is the ideal marriage of low-calorie and big flavor. Brewers add coriander and salt during the brewing process, and the result is just noticeable enough to transport you to the beach when you take the first sip. It’s slightly sour, and often includes fruit or other flavor add-ins—which means that your taste buds will never be bored.
*One to try: * Sierra Nevada Brewing Co. Otra Vez This super-balanced brew is made with prickly pear and grapefruit.
139 calories* 4.5% ABV
2. Berliner Weisse
An elder of the gose, the Berliner Weisse is a tribute to German efficiency, made with low ABVs and a citrus tang. These acidic brews owe their flavor to an outright lack of hops, which are substituted for cultures of lactobacillus (probiotics that keep your digestive system healthy). If you’re looking for something a bit less salty than a gose, but with all the same refreshing character, this is your brew.
One to try: Independence Brewing Co. RedBud It’s heavily carbonated and touched with lemony citrus—perfect for hot days.
126 calories 4.5% ABV
The style borne from Cologne (the city in Germany—not the scent made by Old Spice) sports a golden hue and tends to rate low on the bitterness scale. With ABVs in the mid-fours to low-fives and a hop profile that often comes off slightly grassy, it's the kind of beer you'll want to drink in big gulps. Consider it ideal for kicking back in a lawn chair after a long run.
*One to try: * Ballast Point Brewing Company Tart Peach Kölsch The peach flavor is subtle, and it makes for a beer that pairs perfectly with grilled pork chops.
156 calories 5.2% ABV
The iconic lager is a German-turned-American favorite with a long history: It came to the colonies after a bunch of angry 19th century Plzen Germans dumped their crappy ale into the streets in protest. This is to say we’ve been married to Pilsners for some time—they essentially inspired American lagers like Budweiser. But their clarity and crispness are still unrivaled.
One to try: Victory Brewing Company Prima Pils Victory’s pilsner has more hops than you might be used to—it’s almost an IPA, but still shockingly refreshing.
165 calories 5.3% ABV
5. American Lager
If you can look beyond the Miller and Pabst varieties, you’ll find loads of refreshing flavor coming from American lagers. They’re not terribly alcoholic or caloric, and they tend to be the most carbonated and the coldest (when properly served) beers out there — that matters because high carbonation and cold temps quench thirst best.
One to try: Full Sail Brewing Company Session Lager Pouring out in a beautiful golden hue, Full Sail's lager is bright and floral, with a touch of honey sweetness.
130 calories (per 11-oz bottle) 5.1% ABV
*Calories are listed per 12 ounces unless otherwise noted, and as always, please drink responsibly.
Want to master the grill? Download our Summer Grilling Guide. Don't forget to crack a cold one while you're at it.