Okay, so you can’t train with it, but craft beer doesn’t have to erase fitness gains. Here are some lighter, healthier choices.
Christian DeBenedetti 1 / 9
We love beer, sure—but do our bodies? Turns out, the answer can be yes. Flavor- packed, mineral-rich beer is practically a carbohydrate delivery system, nutritionally speaking. Dark beers are naturally high in antioxidants; and hops (which add spice and aroma to beer) are rich in healthful anti-inflammatory polyphenols.
Until now, though, many craft beers have been simply too syrupy and alcoholic (read: caloric) to make much sense for the fittest guys. But the good-beer revolution has a new weapon: lower-calorie, naturally produced brews with all the heft and hops of microbrews, minus the flab. Here, eight picks for guilt-free post-workout pints.
Founders Brewing Co., Grand Rapids, MI
This grainy, citrusy, super-sociable India pale ale of 4.7% ABV (alcohol by volume) deftly balances three types of juicy, aromatic hops, which are high in polyphenols. “Increasing our consumption of polyphenols may be beneficial to our health,” says Gary Miller, Ph.D., associate professor of nutrition at Wake Forest University. “Benefits include reducing the risk for cancer, heart disease, and diabetes, and the effects of aging.” In other words: Don’t be afraid of hoppy beer. Just don’t be too friendly with it, either.
Berliner weisse is a traditionally tart, low-alcohol style fast gaining favor in U.S. taprooms and bottle shops. This 3.1% ABV version has lemony, intensely refreshing flavors derived from lactic yeast cultures (yep, like those found in the best natural yogurts). There’s a good reason these flavors seem so right: Research indicates that humans may have evolved to enjoy sour foods high in probiotics—which, according to Harvard Medical School, can help “keep harmful microorganisms in check, aid digestion and nutrient absorption, and contribute to immune function.”
Stone Brewing Co. is well known for an array of eye-watering “extreme beers,” which they do very well. (We suggest saving those for big- time celebrations). But they’re also adept with more “session-able” (repeat-appropriate, in other words) ales, too. At just 4.4% ABV, Levitation has fewer calories than a handful of Marcona almonds (about 132). What’s more, it’s loaded with fruity malt flavors and a sturdy dose of fragrant West Coast hops.
Like the best American IPAs, this hazy golden brew comes packed with aromas of grapefruit, orange, and pine needles, with a hearty, malt- driven backbone. But at 4.2% ABV, it’s far lighter than the category would suggest. This is a good thing. You’re tempted to have more than one—and at an estimated 139 calories, you’re not exactly ruining your diet if you do.
This floral, grassy, refreshingly clean-drinking, American-style pale ale of 2.8% ABV hails from a small Catalan home-brew shop with its own line of beers that are quickly gaining notice worldwide. Citric and pleasantly resinous without being heavy on the palate, and heavily hopped with Amarillo, an orangey-tasting variety, Guineu begs repeat samplings and seems designed to annihi- late thirst.(12 oz., ~85 calories) sheltonbrothers.com
Firestone Walker Brewing Co., Paso Robles, CA
The 5.3% ABV Pivo (Czech for “beer”) borrows from the lighter, grainier German pilsner tradition, and adds an American spin by way of ample late additions of aromatic Ger- man Saphir hops. With classic pilsner personality and hints of bergamot and lemongrass (thanks to those hops), Pivo is highly refreshing. It’s also ultra “brite”—or clear, in brewers’ parlance—indicating a beer that could be easier to metabo- lize.
Alcohol imparts esters, key components for flavor and aroma in craft beer; but esters are also dehydrating in excess. To keep levels in check, simply look for a low ABV number. Character isn’t necessarily a casualty: From one of Europe’s most innovative breweries comes this dry, Belgian-style pale ale of just 4.5% ABV (0.3% higher than Bud Light). It’s spicy, lively, and immensely refreshing, with a mellow, earthy hop bitterness. (12 oz., ~135 calories) sheltonbrothers.com
Boston Beer Co., Boston, MA
“Noble” hops traditionally come from Germany and the Czech Republic, and tend toward the delicate and aromatic rather than the pungent and bitter. Each year after harvest in the fall, Boston Beer imports massive bales of them for this crisp, slightly bitter German- style pilsner, which has the clean-tasting, drying finish a beer needs to stay refreshing, without too much of a lingering aftertaste. And at 4.9% ABV, it’s only a smidge heavier than many a macrobrew. (12 oz., 169 calories) samueladams.com