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Is the Zero-Calorie Beer Race Already Over?

by David Lauterbach
2010 February 12
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If brewers could make a zero-calorie beer, would you even want it?

More and more big-label brewers are trying to wring calories from popular brands of beer. Why? Because sales of light and ultra-light beers are up and brewers keep trying to go lower.  As advances in beer science (and marketing) continue, consumers keep buying the stuff.

stltoday.com has an article about the low-cal beer market and their arms race to get the calorie count down. You all know about MGD 64 and Select 55… what’s next, they ponder… “can Rolling Rock 33 be far behind?”

Oregon State University professor and brewing chemist Tom Shellhammer ponders something else: “You cannot make a zero-calorie beer. You could probably make a beerlike flavored water that was close … but would it still be beer?”

Turns out, the Budmillors of the world already know this and have acknowledged the current limitations of brewing science and say they are not trying to pursue even lower-calorie beers. But who here thinks that’s true? The dollar signs in their eyes speak different.

One last fact stltoday states that I had not thought of or included when writing previous articles about the low-cal beers… ultra-lights have lower alcohol contents. MGD 64 is 2.8 percent alcohol by volume, about half as strong as a Miller Lite. Select 55 is 2.4 percent, about half of a Budweiser. Not that alcohol percentages would sway me toward drinking these flavorless sex-in-a-canoe beers, but it’s an interesting fact to note.

I love science, and I love to hear about advances in science.  It’s great that we can clone sheep, but should we one day clone people? It’s great that we can make a zero calorie soda, but is the shit that’s used in it better than sugar?  And… it’s great that we can make low-cal beer, but should we drink it? That’s up to scientists and the marketing department.

Pardon us while we pay for beer...

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