If you only have experience with domestic light beers you might know that many craft beers include more hops in their recipes but you might wonder if hops add calories to beer and whether or not hoppy beers like IPAs have more calories.
Hops add an insignificant number of calories to beer through the extraction of hop oils during the brewing process where they are boiled or steeped in the beer to add flavor and aroma to the finished beer. Hop-heavy beer styles such as IPAs typically include more calories because they often have higher alcohol content and unfermentable sugars.
Let’s learn more about why hops don’t add calories to beer, why IPAs normally have more calories than lighter beers, and check out some low-calorie IPA options.
Do hops increase the number of calories in beer?
Among all of the ingredients used in the beer brewing process, hops are the least likely ingredient (besides water) to increase the calorie content inside the finished beer.
Hops do not increase the calorie count of beer in a meaningful way because only a small amount are included in beer recipes and none of the hop plant itself usually makes it into the finished beer. Additionally, hops themselves are just the female flower clusters of the plant H. lupulus and include very few calories to begin with.
With that said, there can be a trace amount of calories added to commercial beers from hops, especially extremely hoppy beers that use fresh whole hops, if the resins and essential oils included in the hop flower make their way into the finished beer.
Still, you can measure the amount of hop oil inside most beer at the low double-digit parts per million scale so there really isn’t much in there at all.
Homebrewers, on the other hand, tend to use hop pellets more often than commercial brewers and are therefore more likely to allow some of the hop plant material to end up in the finished homebrew which could add a couple of calories to the overall profile.
All things considered, however, hops are unlikely to add more than a calorie or two to a beer that you purchased from the store.
Do IPA beers have more calories?
Now that we’ve established that hops don’t add any calories to beer you might be wondering why IPAs tend to have so many more calories than a standard light domestic beer.
The answer to this question has a lot to do with hops but nothing to do with them at the same time!
What do I mean?
Hoppy beers such as IPAs tend to have more calories because they often have a higher alcohol percentage and might also include unfermentable sugars or other ingredients that add calories to the beer. The extra hop content in these beer styles helps to balance the extra alcohol and sweetness.
In fact, most of the calories in any beer, not just IPAs, actually comes from the alcohol content. That’s why all of the extremely low-calorie beer options (anything under 100 calories) always has a lower alcohol percentage than even standard domestic light beer.
Why hoppy beers like IPAs usually have more calories
Let’s dig into this topic a little deeper – where do the extra calories in an IPA come from?
First, we have to understand that most of the calories in beer come from the alcohol itself. In fact, each gram of pure alcohol contains about 7 calories.
Here are all the basic macronutrients for reference:
- Protein – 4 calories
- Carbohydrates – 4 calories
- Fat – 9 calories
- Alcohol – 7 calories
As you can see, a gram of alcohol contains almost as many calories as a gram of fat!
Extra alcohol, along with added sugars, is the reason behind why alcoholic drinks are the best thing for your waistline. Couple with that the fact that alcohol is processed in the body before other macronutrients, and you have an unhealthy mixture.
Fortunately, even high-calorie beers aren’t horrible for you in moderation as long as you are paying attention to the rest of your diet.
By the way, I have another resource all about which beer has the most protein if you want to check it out!
How many calories are in IPA beers?
Now that we’ve determined that IPAs usually have more calories than light beers, let’s see just how many calories we are talking about.
A recent survey by the Center for Science in the Public Interest revealed that the average calorie count for one 12-ounce serving of the average IPA ranged from 170 to 240 calories. Considering that Bud Light includes only 110 calories, many IPAs offer around double the calories of standard domestic light beer.
Keep in mind, however, that because IPAs can include 50-100% more alcohol than standard light beer so it might be possible to drink the same amount of calories with an IPA as you would with a light beer by simply drinking half the total amount.
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