A 1929 marketing campaign on behalf of Guinness, a fermented vegetable drink, well known and popular amongst the Irish and the Irish lovers all over the world, tried to convince us that Guinness was good for you.
First off, as a disclaimer, I need to clarify that when they say “good for you” they might actually legally mean “least worst for you” and in no way do I condone drinking excessively to try and prolong life. This would be counter productive. Drink responsibly and buy me a pint.
So how can a beer be good for you and why would Guinness be better than any other? We all know now that beer makes you fat.
Is it all just marketing bull or is there more too it? Yeah, sure, we’ve all heard that it contains more iron, indeed my mother would down a few pints of Guinness the night before she went off to donate blood. I always imagined the poor victims, laying there in an ambulance, receiving a transfusion and incurring a massive hangover on top of the internal bleeding.
Even as a firm believer that pickling is a tried and tested method of preserving, I’m sure you’d also agree that salting it, sugaring it and smoking it are also only applicable to raw vegetables and meat products and not to the human body.
However, as beer is nice and there’s no way we’re going to give up that lovely beverage, even if tee-totality was the only way to achieve immortality, the fact is that without beer, what would be the point of existence?
“The life of man (in a state of sober) is solitary, poor, nasty, brutish, and short” – Thomas Hobbes.
The Golden Ratio
The Golden Ratio here examines the cause and effect of calories verses alcohol content. The calories in equal volumes of a beverage can only be compared against their relative ability to get you squiffy. A low calorie beer, with a low abv would take considerably more volume of beer in order to get one smashed and therefore probably a lot more calories (and a lot more flushes for those water conscious beer drinkers amongst us).
“The unexamined life is not worth living” – Socrates.
Lite Beer and Calories
So what about calories? Molson, a Canadian beer brand launched a light version of their beer in 2009 at 3% abv. This only just qualifies this as a beer. The Oxford English Dictionary, states that the definition of beer is “more than 3.2%… you Canuck pansy.”
The name Canadian 67, refers to the number of calories in a 12 oz bottle (341 ml in new money), far fewer than most other beers in the light or lite variety (the Oxford English Dictionary does not recognise the word lite and thus that’s not beer either).
Brewed with only Canadian water, barley and no preservatives. No preservatives?! What about the hops? No hops is a beer would be like, well… drinking an American mainstream Lite beer! Ok, point taken, it really isn’t beer. It’s barley water. Fair enough and probably much healthier if drinking an entire 6 pack during the match, but still not even nicely drunk. The beer promises to deliver “perfect balance of sweetness with a slightly hoppy bitterness”, and with Molson 67 Sublime there is now a lime version of this 67 calorie beer (to hide the fact that it doesn’t really taste of beer or anything).
This ratio of calories per abv per volume (Cal / abv / ml *568 = Golden Ratio or GR) gives us a GR of 37.2. Other light and lite beers in around this bench mark or marketed to be low calorie include Miller Lite (38.1); Rock Green Light (37.4) and Miller Lite (38.1). It seems pretty standard, but actually, Miller Lite comes in at 4.2 % abv, quite respectable for a lite beer. I’m not saying that Miller Lite tastes any better, but I do say that there is little difference in GR and therefore on the scale of 1 to Fat Bastard, they are both equally good.
It’s Beck’s that comes in a winner here, their premium light at 3.8% abv it has far less GR at only 29.0. That’s pretty much the same calories as Canada’s 69, but with 25% more of the yummy stuff. Great news as Beck’s is one of the only mainstream beers that claims not to be brewed with maize, rice or broken biscuits. Not to be confused with Beck’s Blue that has 53 calories in a 330 ml bottle, but the abv is 0.05%. That’s a whopping GR of 1824.5! Good luck trying to lose weight and have a good time on that stuff.
Guinness contains approximately 166 calories per pint (imperial – 568 ml) and clocks in at 4.2 % abv on draft. As a comparison to the Canadian 67 “litest of lites” would be 115 calories per imperial pint. Guinness’ GR is 39.5 calories per 1% of alcohol in 568 ml. Not much different considering the lite beer is claiming to be the healthiest on the market and Guinness is thought to be drunk by fat bastards everywhere. On these results, I’m definitely getting more out of the stout than the barley water. It wins on taste 100% of the time.
The alcohol content is lower in Guinness Draught than in many other beers at the pump, but we have so far shown that that does not make it healthier? What about other mainstream brands of normal, not lite beer? I compared a number of well know lagers and beers from the local pubs to see if there was any big difference in my golden ration. Stella Artois (47.7 GR), Fosters (41.0) and Beck’s (49.6).
What about real beer? Real ale? Czech Lagers? German Wheat Beers, English Ales? IPAs? Porters? Why would one beer be any more or less healthy than another?
It turns out that abv and Calories are very much directly proportional. In conclusion, unfortunately the healthy option is less beer and stay clear of zero alcohol beer or anything that claims to have a very low abv. If you’re driving, just stay at home. Hmm, not the answer I was hoping to contrive. But red wine is good for you isn’t it? So why not beer?
Of course its all flawed. The aforementioned Beck’s Blue, claiming to have an abv of 0.05 makes it the fat bastard beer of choice in my ration calculator. Mathematically, as the abv approaches zero, then the golden ration approaches infinity.
High Alcohol Beers
At the other end of the scale we have stong ales like Brewdog Tokyo (51.6 GR), Carlsberg Elephant (also 51.6 GR) and the the world’s strongest beer, Brewmeister’s Snake Venom. It has a whopping 2025 calories in 275ml of beer. Weighing in at 67.5% abv which is about the limit for most moonshines. here we see the golden ration of 62 GR and we approach tubby telly territory, and of course, one of these and it’s lights out. Incidentally, this beer is made using a freezing process that false distils the beer by removing water and not the unfrozen ethanol (the angel’s stuff). Of course this distilling method does not remove methanol either (the devil’s share) and thus, the lights are out not only refers to your inability to remember what you did last night, but your inability to actually see too. This could be permanent and thus freeze distilling is illegal in many countries.
“Whereof one cannot drink, thereof one must be sober” – Ludwig Wittgenstein.
A study by the University of Wisconsin found that drinking Guinness can reduce blood clots and the risk of heart attack. Guinness contains antioxidants like those found in red wine and dark chocolate, which are not found in other beers.
This, perhaps is also true of all dark beers, stouts and porters, but not lighter beers, ales and certainly not lagers. Dark malts release Polyphenols, which are both anti oxidants and natural preservatives. Guinness contains antioxidant compounds similar to those found in fruits and vegetables that slow down the deposit of cholesterol on artery walls. This can help reduce blood clots and ultimately the risk of heart attacks. So a pint of Guinness actually counts as one of your five a day.
In conclusion I can see that its easy to get confused with all the false marketing around us, telling us that its healthy. A non alcoholic beverage such as Coke Zero claims to have zero calories. Is this healthy? It’s hardly digestible!
Science has told us that there are components in Guinness that are good for the body just like wine and chocolate. I have shown that to get pissed, there’s no real difference in lite beers, dark beers or lagers for calorie counters. You don’t get fat by eating fat, you get fat by sitting around on your fat arse. So next time, walk to the pub and walk home again. You’ll find you can drink whatever you like.
“I drink therefore I am?” –
René Descartes John Cleese.