After a full month of festive celebrations, most of us are feeling the effects of nightly feasting and ready to give our bodies a bit of a rest. December is for boozy winter warmers, for pastry stouts, double IPAs, and all manner of delicious beers aged in bourbon barrels. By the time January rolls around, many beer-drinkers begin craving options lower in calories to help balance out all that indulgence.
Fortunately, there are more full-flavored, sessionable options that won’t ruin your New Year’s resolutions. Of all the things that happened in 2019, one of the most welcome developments was the craft beer community’s embrace of moderation and wellness. Most of us were concerned with taking better care of ourselves the past year—with working out a little more, eating a little better, and drinking with greater consideration. This year saw the meteoric rise of non-alcoholic beers, CBD-infused beers, and, yes, hard seltzer.
Most importantly, it was the year that craft breweries expanded their lineups to include great tasting, lighter beers. The following are some of our favorites that feature impressively nuanced flavor profiles with shockingly few calories.
It’s hard to believe that this full-bodied, perfectly balanced IPA contains a mere 98 calories per 12 oz. can. With its bold aroma packed with citrus and herbal notes, So-Lo is a pleasure to drink. Idaho 7, Kohatu, and So-Lo dominate the flavor profile, which has an elegantly restrained bitterness. At only 3% ABV, you can easily enjoy two without guilt or fear of a hangover.
Marathon-runner Caitlin Landesberg founded this brewery in 2016 with the goal of giving her fellow athletes the kind of beer they could enjoy after a race. Though slightly lighter in body than a traditional German kölsch, this 95-calorie option is a noble embodiment of the style. It opens with notes of lemon zest, grass, malt, and pollen, then finishes dry with a subtle, lingering bitterness.
Naysayers who insist that an IPA with 98 calories and 4% ABV can’t possibly pack much flavor might change their tune after a sip of this beer. A dank, resinous aroma heavy with pine gives way to a smooth, easy-drinking number with an herbal, fruity flavor profile courtesy of a hefty dose of Citra and Centennial hops.
In order to keep this IPA to a modest 95 calories and 3.6 grams of carbs per bottle, the brewery used secret ingredient: monk fruit extract. This zero-calorie sweetener helps accentuate the tropical hop notes of pineapple and resinous pine. While fainter than in some IPAs, the hop-forward aroma still offers plenty of herbal notes.
Karbach’s Game Changer
Açaí, turmeric, and sea salt—the list of antioxidant-loaded ingredients in this American pale ale reads like something you might find in a smoothie bowl rather than an American pale ale. A trio of Citra, Jester, and Mosaic hops adds more flavor than you’d imagine a 95-calorie beer could muster. At a mere 2.8% ABV, it’s downright hydrating and an ideal treat to pack for a day of cross-country skiing or winter sports.
Devils Backbone’s Bright Pineapple
Keto dieters, this one’s for you. With a mere 2 grams of carbs, 85 calories, and zero sugar per serving, this easy-drinking sparkling ale ticks just about every box. (And at 4% ABV, it’s just as good post-work as it is post-workout.) Dry and light, this little ale is all about showcasing its tropical aroma and flavor. And just in case you need some more motivation this month, Devils Backbone has partnered with Fitbod on the Bright 90-Day Challenge, offering free personalized workouts and even the chance to win prizes.
Harpoon’s Rec League
Don’t let the inclusion of ingredients like buckwheat and chia seeds throw you off—each 120-calorie can of this 3.8% ABV hazy pale ale tastes impressively refreshing rather than excessively wholesome. It’s sessionable and sufficiently low in carbs that you can down one after a round of Crossfit.