Most people aren’t reaching for a beer for the nutritional benefit but many might wonder which beer has the most protein or if it’s possible to even find beer with enough protein to matter. I decided to tackle that question today and to explain why beer contains so little protein in the first place.
Barbell Brew is marketed as the beer with the most protein at 6.6 grams but has been discontinued. Beer generally contains very little protein because the ingredients used to make it (grains, wheat, hops, water) contain very little. Bigger beer styles such as Imperials, Dubbels, Tripels, and Quads will contain slightly more protein than average.
While there have been somewhat gimmicky ‘protein beers’ on the market in the past, these have usually been fairly short-lived. At the time of this writing, I don’t see anything available for purchase in the United States at all in that category. With that in mind, let’s check out why some styles of beer have more protein than others!
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What is Barbell Brew beer?
We can’t have an article on protein beer without mentioned Barbell Brew and explaining what it is.
Barbell Brew was created by UK sports nutrition site MuscleFood which it marketed as a high-protein, low-calorie beer that could be used as a sort of muscle recovery drink that targets gym goers and athletes. This brew had the highest amount of protein available in the beers we researched.
It seems as though the product might have been mostly gimmick or at least wasn’t very popular because it is no longer available for sale and its pretty hard to find any current information about it.
Do other protein beers exist?
There have been other attempts to create protein beers over the years but I wasn’t able to find any others that successfully made it to store shelves.
Why certain styles of beer have the most protein
The styles of beer that I mentioned above have more protein in them simply because they are heavier and denser compared to average American beers such as Budweiser, Miller, or Coors. Of course, this means they also have more alcohol (higher ABV) and more flavor as well.
Essentially, these styles pack more ‘beer’ into the same amount of liquid!
How does this work?
To put things into perspective, an Imperial Stout would end up using around twice the grain that a regular stout would use. This means more fermentable sugars will go into the wort (more alcohol) more hops will be used to balance the flavor (more bitterness) and there will be more ingredients by volume (heavier mouthfeel and texture).
Is beer a good source of high protein?
In general, most beers are a poor source of protein.
Like, a really bad source.
While most beer doesn’t include a full list of nutritional information, calories, alcohol content, and ingredients on the label, it can usually be found online buried in the description. If you look carefully, you’ll realize that most of the typical ‘American Light Lagers’ like Bud Light beer does contain protein but it is less than one gram.
This is a trivial amount and only varies slightly from brand to brand among a given beer style and you aren’t likely to find high levels of protein in any widely available commercial beer.
Why does beer have so little protein?
If you look at the ingredients that go into making beer then it’s really no surprise why there is so little protein.
Here’s a basic recipe for an American Pale Ale (Such as the Sierra Nevada Pale Ale)
- 8.5 pounds of American two-row malt
- .25 pounds Crystal malt
- .5 pounds CaraVienne malt
- 7 AAU Columbus whole hops
- 0.5 oz (14 grams) Centennial whole hops
- 0.5 oz (14 grams) Cascade whole hops
- 1 oz (28 grams) Cascade whole hops
- 1.5 oz (42 grams) Centennial whole hops
- Wyeast 1272 (American Ale II) yeast
It’s pretty much just grain. If you check the package of bread in your pantry you are likely to find a similar amount of protein included in the loaf because there simply isn’t that much to be found inside the grain.
Other beer recipes will be similar to this one.
Where does the protein in beer come from?
Even though there isn’t much protein in grains such as barley, there is a little. The yeast used to ferment the beer also imparts a little bit of protein into the final product.
But, even this small amount of original protein doesn’t make it into the final product. That’s because most of the proteins will bind together into clumps and fall out of the beer solution during fermentation. These clumps form the trub at the bottom of the fermenter and don’t usually make it into the beer bottle.
Does alcohol increase the calories in beer?
Most people talk about protein, fat, and carbs when they discuss calories in food or drinks.
With beer, you also need to consider the alcohol content as each gram of alcohol contains 7 calories. So, the more alcohol in a beer, the more calories.
How much protein is in a 12-ounce beer?
The answer to this question is highly variable since there are so many brands and styles out there.
In general, you should expect to find about .8-2g of protein in your average 12-ounce beer.
To keep things simple for example, we’ll just use the good ole American classic lager – Budweiser ‘heavy’ (the original one!).
Here is the nutritional breakdown of the beer:
- Total calories – 145
- Total fat – 0g
- Cholesterol – 0mg
- Sodium – 9mg
- Total Carbohydrates – 10.6g
- Dietary fiber – 0g
- Protein – 1.3g
- Alcohol – 14.2g
As you can see, this is a pretty low protein content. In fact, it’s only 3.5% of the total calories.
Protein in IPA beers
Compared to a standard American Lager, most IPAs are going to include more grain in their recipe and have just a little bit more of, well, everything!
For an example, here is the nutritional content of Sam Adams New England IPA:
- Total calories – 210
- Total fat – 0g
- Cholesterol – 0mg
- Sodium – 10mg
- Total Carbohydrates – 18g
- Dietary fiber – 0g
- Protein – 2g
- Alcohol – 19g
As you can see, it’s not an alarming difference.
Does a lager have more or less protein than an ale?
Lager and ales are made using the same ingredients, in general, but most commercially available lagers will contain a bit less protein than ale contains because they tend to use less malt as part of their grain bill.
If you are looking for a high-protein beer, good luck!
For the web story version of this article check here!