Saturday, January 31, 2009

Moderation, not Deprivation: book review

Pick up a candy bar, a bag of potato chips, or even your kid’s favorite sugar-coated breakfast cereals and you can refer to a Nutrition Facts label.

But pick up a bottle of your favorite beer, and unless it’s a low-calorie or low-carbohydrate brew with a federally-required Nutrition Facts label emblazoned on it, you have no idea what, if any, nutritional components are in a regular-brewed stout, porter, bock, wheat beer or even a simple American-style pilsner beer.

I couldn't have said it better, and in fact, I didn't.

Bob Skilnik did.

The author of Beer and Food: An American History, Bob has a new book — Does My Butt Look Big In This Beer?

Does My Butt Look Big in this Beer?
For each of over 2,000 beers, Does My Butt Look Big lists calories, carbohydrates, alcohol by volume, and Weight Watchers points.  Skilnik collected public information and contacted breweries directly.

The US Treasury's Alcohol and Tobacco Tax and Trade Bureau (TTB) has proposed requirements for listing various nutritional measurements. Skilnik has some interesting things to say about that in the preface to the book: it's a reason in itself for reading the book.

Another beer writer —Lew Bryson— has chronicled how he, while continuing to enjoy good food and good beer, lost weight. Moderation and using Weight Watcher's point system were the keys. Read his account here.

The publication of Does My Butt Look Big In This Beer? could be considered timely. Sunday is the Super Bowl. That event, last year, was the 8th biggest of beer sales in the US. Beer drinkers perusing this book beforehand would be able to forecast —or regret— the amount of calories and carbohydrates they might consume watching the game.

For instance, Victory Brewing's Storm King Stout contains 286 calories, whereas Turbo Dog, a brown ale from Abita Brewing, is measured at 168. For comparison purposes only —and not as an endorsement to drink it— Coors Light contains 104, shall I say, empty, calories. Keep in mind that the nutritional analyses are based on 12 ounces, the size of a standard US beer bottle. Most US pubs serve pints, which should be [read below]16 US fluid ounces. That's 1/3 more. Thus a pint of Storm King would be 381 calories (not 286).

If, even after all this, you're still worried about beer calories and carbs, but don't want to skimp on flavor, then try this: Place two beer glasses in front of you. Fill only one. That's 100% of the flavor, but 50% of the calories and carbs.

  • There is a companion blog at Drink Healthy, Drink Smart.
  • Caveat: My mention of Victory, a PENNSYLVANIA brewery, does not imply a Super bowl pick.
  • Caveat: I did receive a complimentary review e-copy of Does My Butt Look Big in This Beer? That being said, I purchased my copy of Beer & Food: An American History.
  • Caveat: I work for a northern Virginia wholesaler which distributes Abita beers.


  1. Tom,

    Thanks for the plug, and I'll get a hardcopy out to you in a few weeks.

  2. Another issue I'd like to see addressed is freshness. "Best before" dates on labels would help customers who buy their beer at grocery stores and especially larger beer and wine outlets. Not only that, but it would be helpful to those of us who cellar keep track of vintages a little better.

    Although it may be asking a bit much, wouldn't it be nice to see both labelings happen at once? It would sure help me keep all my ducks in a row, that's for sure!


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