One of the ways to help survive quarantine (which is still kind of thing but not totally a thing like it was a few months ago) was finding little things to look forward to. Walks, TV shows, watching the sprinkler run. These were just a couple of the ways in which a person could at least temporarily escape the seemingly endless doldrums of the hum dumness of quarantine life. When the tools we have in our lives to mark the passing of time began to fade, we needed something to help get us through and some of those little things did the trick.
For me, something I started to look forward to was trying new beers. This wasn’t about getting drunk or anything. It was more of a fun mission I found myself embarking on. This project never got to the level that some high-level beer drinkers get to; my palate couldn’t hang. But I did realize I like IPAs, so when it came time to make a liquor store run, I’d try and seek out a new IPA I hadn’t tried before. If quarantine was all about relying on the little things, this was it.
So I started experimenting and trying new IPAs, although still steering clear of anything above 7% because I’m old. Anything higher than say, 6.8% scares me. Unfortunately, this did prove problematic because a lot of IPAS go past my self-posed line in the sand, making my options limited. I got by though, even if it meant going back to old favorites like Kane’s Head High when other options weren’t there.
But then a new year came about and you know, I started to not feel great, not feel like my physical best self. It’s not that I was seriously overweight or dangerously out of shape. I just felt like I could afford to lose a few pounds, get down to a better and more manageable playing weight. One day I was at my parents, playing with my niece and daughter, and caught a glimpse of myself in the mirror, and yeah, eh, not so great. So I made a decision to change things up. It wouldn’t be drastic or anything, but I decided to make a few tweaks to how I was going about my business, doing things like alternating between yogurt and cereal for breakfast, cutting down on snacking, being smarter about lunch, opting for a side salad instead of fries, and generally steering clear of junk food unless it was ice cream because like my man Joe Biden, I can’t say no to ice cream.
I swear, not getting ice cream when you take your kid to get ice cream might be one of the hardest things about being a parent.
Another component to my plan to change things up was tackling my beer consumption and figuring out how I could still enjoy a beer or two at night without bringing along all the baggage that comes with it (i.e. the calories and carbs.) I’m sorry. I have two kids, there’s a pandemic and quarantine, and The Bachelor. I’m not going to not drink during the week. Not happening. But, I could try and drink smarter.
So first I tried light beers, specifically Yuengling Light. I like regular Yuengling and thought it would be fine.
It was not.
Yuengling Light is not fine. It’s okay, suitable if you’re in a pinch but overall, not great.
Yuengling Light was off the table. There are still a couple in my basement if you want ’em.
I then decided to do some research and see what options were out there for low-calorie beers. Surely there had to be some beyond just light beers. Please.
Yeah, there are. Actually, low-calorie beers are kind of thing now, a trend that started back at the beginning of 2020 apparently. And to make this news even better, a lot of these low-calorie options were IPAs. They are low on calories, low on carbs, and typically clocked in under 4% ABV. A rare win/win/win if there ever was one.
Over the past few weeks, I have made it a point to explore what options the low-calorie market had out there. I still dabbled in regular beers, but this new life of mine was all about finding a balance. So if I got a four-pack of something from a local brewery, I also got something that was low-calorie. Balance, baby.
Right now, the winners in the clubhouse come from the good folks at Dogfish Head and Lagunitas, a little something from the west coast and something from over here on the east coast.
Dogfish Head, which makes the fantastic 90 minute IPA, has Slightly Mighty, an IPA with only 95 calories, 3.6g carbs, 1g protein, and 0g fat per 12oz serving. Instead of sugar, they use Chinese Monkfish to act as a sweetener, a move that helps cut down on calories. It’s a little bitter, a little sweet, a little tropical and a little delicious.
Then there’s Lagunitas, based out of California, who routinely offer up several great options. Lagunitas has the Day Time IPA, which has 3 grams of carbs, 98 Calories per 12 oz, and an ABV of 4%. It still hits like a heavier Lagunitas but it doesn’t pack the weighted punch the others do.
Besides being the best of the bunch, those two also seem to be the most readily available, at least where I’m at in the world. Big fan of accessibility over here.
The next tier consists of Long Trails’ Little Anomaly IPA (110 calories, 3.8% ABV,) Rec League by Harpoon (120 calories, 4% ABV,) Victory’s Easy Ringer (96 calories, 4.3% ABV,) and Bell’s Light Hearted Ale (110 calories, 3.7% ABV.)
If this were all about can art, Light Hearted Ale would be leading this race by a landslide:
“We recognized that there was an opportunity to give beer lovers–Two Hearted fans or not–an option that had everything they were looking for: lower calories, a lower ABV and all of the deliciousness that is Two Hearted,” Bells’ Communication Manager Josh Smith said last year.
He didn’t have anything to add about that can art but he probably should have. It’s sweet.
In November of 2020, Bells’ Light Hearted Ale topped Untapped’s list of the best low-cal ales that won’t ruin your health and fitness goals. The list also included Rec League, Easy Ringer, and Slightly Mighty. Guinness was also on there. A little something for the traditionalists out there, I suppose. I like Guinness but generally only mess around with it on and around St. Patrick’s Day. There’s something about drinking Guinness when the temperature is above 50 degrees that doesn’t make sense to me.
Another helpful list of good low-calorie beers is this one from Delish.
And as we head into the summer months, these low-calorie IPAs seem perfectly suited for some daytime summer drinking, which is an added bonus. They’re not a substitute for those beautiful summer ales by any means. But as a companion, they’re remarkably well-suited, especially Slightly Mighty, which almost feels like a summer ale given the lightness of it. I love summer beers but I’m also a big fan of this new system I have, so it’s nice knowing I don’t have to abandon this plan of mine for summer.
I mean, if any part of the plan is going to get ditched anytime soon, it’ll be the yogurt part. Let’s not kid ourselves. Yogurt is lame.
Now if you’ll excuse me, I’m going to take a walk around the block because its after lunch and in quarantine, after lunch, we go for walks.
If you’ve found any good low-calorie beers I should check out, give me a holler on Twitter.
Ryan O’Connell is originally from sunny Portland, Maine, went to college in Baltimore, spent some time in Philadelphia, and now lives by the beach in wonderful New Jersey. Ryan loves the Boston Red Sox, New England Patriots, the Black Keys, the Roots, his family, The Wire & the writing of Dave Eggers although his last couple books have been “meh” at best. He does not care for waiting, appreciates someone who maintains a nice front lawn, and harbors a constant fear of losing his keys. Check out his site GiddyUpAmerica.com