Fan favorite

Bell’s Light Hearted was a favorite in a recent tasting. 

I had a reader reach out to me during the weekend and say some nice things about the column. I appreciate reader feedback.

In older times, I would have someone approach while I sat at the bar either at Paul’s Place, Hoppy Pig or most often at Brickstone Brewery. I love these interactions, sincerely, and I usually learn a lot about what people respond to. This time, the reader — James Walker, of Watseka — said he has been a fan of craft beer for a long time and had to switch recently to low-calorie craft beer, which usually is also lower in alcohol by volume.

He said his favorite is Yuengling Light lager, which he has to drive to Indiana to purchase. It used to be you had to drive a lot farther to get Yuengling beer. The only place I could find it was in Tennessee. My wife, Sam, has family that lives outside of Nashville. We have spent a lot of time down that way, and I have brought back some Yuengling lager or Black and Tan. I haven’t had Yuengling Light in a long time, so I cannot reasonably comment on its quality. I will have to take James’ word for it. So, in honor of this request, I thought Sam and I would try five low-calorie craft beers and see what we think.

The idea for this week’s beers is they are all big breweries’ attempts at making low-calorie beer. Recently in the trend of hazy IPAs and milkshake IPAs, some beers have a considerable amount of calories in them — 300-plus sometimes. So, I wanted to do a little rundown of famous craft beers and their calorie counts.

Sierra Nevada Pale Ale is the beer I think of when I think of craft beer. I am an old man, and I love this beer. So, lets set Pale Ale as the benchmark for craft beer calories: 175 at 5.6 percent ABV.

If you want to go up from here, I’ll stick with Sierra Nevada again for this, but their Imperial Stout, which is on the high-end for ABV at 10.2 percent, has 344 calories per 12-ounce serving. It is not often I have one of those all by myself, but that is a lot of calories for one beverage.

Again, sticking with Sierra Nevada as the benchmark, they have a hazy IPA that comes in at 9 percent, so it’s a little on the heavy side for this style. Standards in our market such as Hop Butcher or Hubbard’s Cave are typically 7.5 or 8 percent, so this figure might be a little high for the style, but Fantastic Haze has 260 calories per 12-ounce serving. I don’t know what these smaller breweries are doing in 16-ounce cans at 7.5 percent, but I don’t think that is an unfair number per serving.

If you are imagining a session of beers and all of your beers are above 200 calories a piece, then you are in for a 600- to 800-calorie dessert after dinner. This is not inconceivable, but if there was some way to shave off a couple of points, then that makes a lot of sense, and these large breweries are putting out options that work.

Usually, I will write these columns as five beers I recommend in this style, but there are not many readily available on the market right now, so I am writing up the five Sam and I tried with my thoughts on each entry.

Sam’s Power Rankings

First, and these are Sam’s words: “They all taste like beer.” I still don’t know what that means because it is in fact beer we are drinking, but I think she has a negative association with American macro lagers, and there is a specific taste that stouts and fruit beers seem to avoid for her, but these all taste like beer — so there’s that. I happen to like the taste of beer, so that isn’t a knock for me.

Odell Good Behavior: She seemed to actually like this.

Dogfish Head Slightly Mighty: They added a really light hint of monk fruit, which adds a little sweetness, which was enjoyable.

Firestone Walker Flyjack: This is actually a version of a hazy IPA and adds a delicate sweetness as well.

Bell’s Light Hearted: Probably my favorite of the bunch.

Goose Island So-Lo: The only sample she didn’t finish.

I wasn’t able to secure the freshest samples of these beers, but they were all inside of drinking parameters. All were served chilled and in a glass after dinner.

So-Lo from Goose Island Beer Company

ABV: 3 percent

IBUs: 23

Style: IPA – Session/India Session Ale

Brewery’s notes: “So-Lo is a full bodied IPA with big aroma, citrus and herbal aroma notes and nice balanced bitterness.”

Where to Buy: Jewel in Bourbonnais in a six pack of 12-ounce cans for $7.99. This beer is available all over the place.

Light Hearted Ale from Bell’s Brewery

ABV: 3.7 percent

IBUs: 36

Style: IPA – Session/India Session Ale

Brewery’s notes: “Light Hearted is aromatic, balanced and incredibly easy-drinking. This Lo-Cal IPA has only 110 calories, yet all the Heart.”

Where to Buy: Jewel in Bourbonnais in a six pack of 12-ounce cans for $10.49. You can get this at many other places.

Flyjack from Firestone Walker Brewing

ABV: 4 percent

IBUs: 25

Style: IPA – Session/India Session Ale

Brewery’s note: “Everything you want from a hazy IPA with nothing to weigh you down. This is Flyjack. Firestone Walker’s new 96-calorie beer. Maximum flavor, minimal calories, no compromises.”

Where to Buy: Jewel in Bourbonnais in a 19.2-ounce can for $2.50.

Good Behavior Crushable IPA from Odell Brewing

ABV: 4 percent

IBUs: 37

Style: IPA – Session/India Session Ale

Brewery’s note: “This IPA is both sessionable and bursting with hop flavor. Good Behavior is filled with the bright hop flavors of tropical fruit and juicy peach yet balanced and light body, slight haze and crisp finish that’s truly crushable.”

Where to Buy: Jewel in Bourbonnais in a six pack of 12-ounce cans for $9.99.

Slightly Mighty IPA from Dogfish Brewing

ABV: 4 percent

IBUs: 30

Style: IPA – Session/India Session Ale

Brewery’s notes: “A low-cal IPA is slight in cals and carbs with mighty hop flavor. Slightly Mighty has all the flavor and tropical aromas of a world class IPA, but with only 95 calories, 3.6 grams of carbs, 1 gram of protein and 0 grams of fat.”

Where to Buy: Jewel in Bourbonnais in a six pack of 12-ounce cans for $9.99.

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