Read This, Not That

I started to write about this nonsense last year, when the authors of Eat This, Not That declared Sierra Nevada Stout to be the “worst beer” based almost solely on the fact that it’s 210 calories. This year, they’ve declared Sierra Nevada Bigfoot Barleywine Style Ale to be the “worst beer for 2010,” again based almost entirely on the fact that it is 330 calories. Here’s the entire write-up:

Most beers carry fewer than 175 calories, but even your average extra-heady brew rarely eclipses 250. That makes Sierra’s Bigfoot the undisputed beast of the beer jungle. Granted, the alcohol itself provides most of the calories, but it’s the extra heft of carbohydrates that helps stuff nearly 2,000 calories into each six-pack. For comparison, Budweiser has 10.6 grams of carbs, Blue Moon has 13, and Guinness Draught has 10. Let’s hope the appearance of this gut-inducing guzzler in your fridge is as rare as encounters with the fabled beast himself.

But so what? Avery’s The Beast has 480 calories (and Samael’s Ale has 458 and Mephistophele’s has 434). Dogfish Head 120 Minute IPA has 450 (and their Raison d’Extra has 425). Goose Island Bourbon County Stout has 415 calories. Bell’s Expedition Stout has 400 (and their Third Coast Old Ale has 335). Alaskan Barleywine has 373. Rogue’s XS Imperial Stout has 366 calories (and XS Old Crustacean has 346). Sprecher Barleywine has 352 and so does Real Ale’s Sisyphus Barleywine. Fish Poseidon’s Imperial Stout has 338 (and their Leviathan Barleywine has 319). Bristol Old No. 38 Barley Wine has 318. Three Floyds Dreadnaught Imperial IPA has 316. Pike Barleywine has 315 calories. Even McEwan’s Scotch Ale has 295. And the more extreme beers made by Samuel Adams, Utopias has 720 and Triple Bock had 636.

What’s the one thing all of those beers have in common, including Bigfoot? You don’t drink them the same way you do the beers that they compare them to; Budweiser, Blue Moon, Guinness Draught and Leinenkugel’s Fireside Nut Brown Ale. Those are all beers you drink by the six-pack, or at least share by the six-pack. The other beers are all sipping, bottle-sharing beers. Big difference. You can’t really compare them because they’re not made for the same purpose or use. It’s apples and oranges while the Eat This, Not That authors can only see beer as one interchangeable commodity. To them, all beer is the same, only the calories change. They can’t see that some drinks, usually the heavier higher caloric ones, people naturally drink less of. Like heavy foods, you feel full sooner and so don’t eat, or this case drink, more of them.

That the Eat This, Not That folks would have you believe all beers are equal is readily apparent when in their original book from 2008, they recommend that you should drink beers like Carta Blanca and Amstel Light. Their top picks, Michelob Ultra and Beck’s Premier Light, I wouldn’t drink even if they were the only beers on a menu. I’d order water or an alternative alcoholic beverage instead. In the 2009 follow-up, “Supermarket Survival Guide” they continue to recommend almost entirely big, bland beers from national and international companies. Curiously, though Yuengling Light, a recommended beer in 2008, has turned evil a year later and is now on the “Not That” side, because it’s all about calories and carbs. But a close look at the two sides reveals that there’s really very little difference between a recommended beer and the not recommended ones, just like the difference between low-calories light beer and “regular” beer is vanishingly small. That so many people are duped into believing the sacrifice to drink light beer is worth it for their health continues to amaze me and may be one of the greatest lies ever perpetrated my marketing.

But most of the beers on their recommended, as well as their not recommended list, lack one overall, and apparently overlooked, quality: taste. Who cares how many or how few calories or carbs a beer has if it doesn’t taste good, or tastes of nothing, like so many of the beers they’re listing are. And they’re also overlooking the right beer to pair with the right dish, event or occasion. It should be about proportion. I might not recommend Bigfoot as a beer to drink every day of the year. Of course, I wouldn’t suggest any beer for that duty. There’s no such thing as an all-purpose beer. There never should be, despite the mainstream media, marketing “gurus” and even the big breweries attempts to the contrary.

Calorie or carbohydrate-counting may be fine for some people (though I can’t for the life of me come up with a reason why) but applying it to beer is utterly ridiculous and without merit. If following their advice is what passes for healthy living, I’m happy to die sooner having lived a fuller, more enjoyable life. Life’s just too short to drink low-calorie beer.

I know what I’m drinking tonight.


  1. Mike Pitsker says

    I live what you speak. These folks are giving their best lowest common denominator guide to eating/drinking and have no place in the craft brew attitude. Those of us who know the difference know the difference. Thanks for the article.

  2. says

    I don’t know. If you don’t care about calories that is your business but I was shocked to learn how many big bombs are much the same as a mug of icing. I am big and know the pressure that puts on my body. If beer is really food can we also have the calories listed?

    And do we really think that most 22 oz high booze bottles are shared after dinner among friends? I don’t. I think they are downed solo but instead of four beers in an evening, that one (and maybe a few more) are opened. No reason to form a nanny state posse but still a fact that should be observable. If they go down once or twice a month, it’s like a good cigar. If that many go down every second night, well, then that is a good reason to ask why.

    • says

      As a big fella myself, I just don’t think it should be the only reason an “expert” tells others not to consume something. Calories may be important to some (again, I don’t personally follow them) but it’s still not the ONLY way to determine what’s good for you or what you should eat, and that’s what I take issue with in their advice. If I ate only what I was “supposed” to based on what “experts” told me, not only would that change widely over time, but I’d also not get to ever eat the foods I love most. And that might make me healthier, but I’d rather be somewhat healthy and happier, I guess.

      • says

        Well, that is right. We should have moderation and should live freely and with pleasure but I know I am not there at the point of balance myself. And those big beers just don’t help. It’s not quite the Greek economy but there is some level of fitness deficit that I should take more seriously.

    • says

      I completely agree that nutritional labels would be a good thing to have on beer, along with a clearly stated ABV and production date. I think that information is an excellent thing to propagate especially with products like beer that require a modicum of extra personal responsibility to properly enjoy.

      Hmm… I just might have to write about this very topic on my website…

  3. easong says

    OK, I’m convinced. Blue Moon is the perfect beer to wash down your spinach salad with vinegar dressing and no bacon. Howver, since I need the bacon and dressing to make it palatable, I may as well wash the salad down with a Racer 5.

  4. Harry says

    330 calories in a bottle of Bigfoot is only 10% more than the equivalent amount of your favorite Zin. And don’t get me started on Port! Both fine beverages in their own right, but not in the same class as a fully matured Barley Wine. If you prefer the lite beer of the week, more power to you. But I’ll take a bottle of Bigfoot over a six pack of that swill any day. The additional water is optional (but not a bad idea).

  5. Jamie says

    As a girl who watches her calories, I’m interested in the cal content of my bottles- but only so far as so I can add them into my total for the day. Tonight I split a bottle of Avery’s Samael’s with my boyfriend and it was delicious. (One of my favorites.) Sure, I could have had 3 Michelob Ultras for the same number of calories- buy why the hell would I want to do that?

    I agree- the This, Not That folks need to wise up. I’d rather have a moderate amount of delicious beer at night than hit a beer bong of Bud any day.

    And for those looking for a great beer, you’ve got to try Nøgne ø’s Imperial Stout. The boy and I found it in the walk-in fringe on a private tour of Falling Rock Taphouse in Denver this pat weekend, and it was amazing. Actually, that should read AMAZING. If you’re concerned with price, it is a bit steep at $28 a bottle ( 1 pt .9 fl oz), but I promise, it is worth every penny. Yum!

  6. John Donkey says

    I’ve a got a one up on MGD 64, H2O! its about as strong, packs 64 less calories and is a lot easier going down! Placing it above craft brew is the beer equivalent of condemning fois-gras as a too many calorie canned food and praising fancy feast as the lowest calorie canned food winner!

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