Do IPAs Have a Lot of Sugar? (With Low-Sugar Recommendations)

Sugar is a vital part of brewing beer, as it’s used as fuel for yeast which is converted into alcohol. Without sugar, we wouldn’t have any beer. Sad. In general, beer contains less than 1g of sugar, but some beers contain more than others. What about IPAs? 

IPAs typically do not have a lot of sugar but may contain up to 6g per 12-ounce serving. American and session IPAs have the least amount of sugar (0-2g), whereas hazy or milkshake IPAs have the most sugar (as much as 6g). Imperial or double IPAs in any sub-style are likely to have more sugar than single IPAs of the same style.

Continue reading for more nutritional information on IPAs, including why IPAs are so high in calories and carbs.

Is there sugar in an IPA?

Generally speaking, there is no sugar in an IPA. The only sugar present is in minuscule amounts. Certain sub-styes of IPAs have more or less sugar than others.

There can be anywhere from 0-6g of sugar in an IPA; most of the time, there will be less than two. Lagunitas IPA, for example, has 2g of sugar. Most of the sugar that would remain in the IPA was converted into alcohol by yeast during the fermentation process. Leftover or residual sugars are what is left, and IPAs contain no more than 6g of it.

Yeast eats sugars from the wort during fermentation. High-attenuating yeast strains that are commonly used in IPAs will convert most or all of the sugar into alcohol, leaving none or trace amounts behind.

Why are IPAs so high in calories?

IPAs are high in alcohol. An IPA that is poorly attenuated or retains some sugars after fermentation will have a higher calorie count.

IPAs are high in calories from carbs and alcohol. The carbs come from the malt and sugar used to create alcohol during the brewing process. Since IPAs are high in alcohol and carbs, they’re high in calories. One 12-ounce can of a 7-8% ABV IPA can reach up to 200 calories.

The calorie count will increase with higher ABVs, but not by much.

Why are there so many carbs in IPAs?

The calorie count in IPAs is high, and it’s mainly because of the carbs.

There are carbs in IPAs from the malt and residual sugars in the beer. The carbs are the reason IPAs are high in calories. A 12-ounce serving of an IPA can have 25 or more grams of carbs depending on the beer. New England-style IPAs have more carbs than American IPAs. NEIPAs have been known to exceed 70g of carbs.

New England IPAs have more carbs than other styles because of residual and added sugars.

What kind of IPA beer has the most sugar?

While IPAs in general are low in sugar, some styles have a good bit.

IPAs with the most sugar include:

  • Hazy or New England IPA
  • Imperial American IPA
  • Imperial Hazy or New England IPA
  • Milkshake IPA

Let’s look at why each of these has more than the average amount of sugar for the style.

Hazy or New England IPA

Hazy IPAs contain more sugar than other IPA styles from one particular ingredient: milk sugar.

Hazy IPAs are often brewed with milk sugar. Yeast is unable to ferment the lactose, and therefore it remains in the beer. The unfermented and residual sugar adds to the caloric total of the beer.

Imperial American IPA

The higher the alcohol content, the more sugar necessary to achieve it.

Imperial IPAs have a high alcohol content that comes from fermented sugars. Any sugars that were not fermented during the brewing process will remain in the beer and increase the sugar count.

Imperial IPAs can have a high residual sugar count because of the large amount used during brewing.

Imperial Hazy or New England IPA

The imperial hazy IPA is one of the most sugar-rich beers out there because of its high alcohol content and residual sugar count.

Imperial hazy IPAs are stronger versions of hazy IPAs. They contain more alcohol and have a greater chance of containing more residual sugars. Additionally, imperial hazy IPAs might use more milk sugar to balance the taste and mouthfeel of the beer.

Milkshake IPA

Although not as strong as imperial IPAs, the milkshake IPA is brewed with milk sugar to achieve a thicker body and mouth feel than hazy IPAs.

Milkshake IPAs use large amounts of milk sugar during the brewing process. Yeast cannot ferment milk sugar and therefore, these carbohydrates remain in the beer to add sweetness. Milkshake IPAs also use fruit during the brewing process, increasing the number of residual sugars.

What kind of IPA has the least amount of sugar?

Now that you know which IPAs have the most sugar let’s look at the other end of the spectrum.

IPAs with the least amount of sugar are:

  • Session/Lo-Cal IPA
  • American IPA
  • English IPA

Let’s look at each of these IPAs in detail.

Session IPA

You will rarely come across any session IPA – also known as a “lo-cal” or ”low calorie” IPA – with any residual sugars.

Session IPAs are low in alcohol and almost always have 0g of sugar.

Because the ABV of these beers is low, there are fewer residual sugars present in the final product and comparatively fewer calories, hence the name. 

American IPA

The American IPA uses clean yeast strains with medium-high attenuation – it’s uncommon that these beers have any sugar in them.

American IPAs have hardly any sugar in them. At most, you will find around 6g of sugar in an American IPA.

Keep in mind though that they still contain a lot of calories from the high alcohol levels.

English IPA

English IPAs are sweet and fruity, but they lack sugar.

English IPAs contain little to no sugar. The yeast strains used ferment all of the sugar into alcohol during the brewing process.

English IPAs get their sweetness from the yeast strains used.

Why does all beer contain sugar?

All beer contains at least trace amounts of sugar from the malt used during the brewing process. Some styles, like hazy IPAs and milkshake IPAs, use unfermentable milk sugar to leave residual sugar in the beer and add desired sweetness and a fuller body.

Sugar in beer comes from malt and other additives or adjuncts, including milk sugar or fruit. Starches are separated from the malt during the mashing process and are used as fuel for the yeast. Depending on the yeast strain’s attenuation, sugar may or may not reside in the beer. Yeast with higher attenuation will leave fewer residual sugars.

Beers with higher alcohol content use more malt and thus have a higher chance of containing more residual sugars. Though beer may contain small amounts of sugar (around 0-6g), most of the calories come from alcohol.