It’s not that I dislike Hard Seltzer… please, don’t get me wrong. If that’s what you’re wanting, drink away. My stance is simple, though… if you’re drinking hard seltzer as a beer drinker just because you want something a little lower calorie, or better for you, or really for any reason other than Seltzer is really what you want to be drinking, there are options. There have to be better options if you’re like me and just wanna drink a beer!

What I will say about the success of the hard seltzer market last year is that it’s a sign of drinkers reaching out for something and their local breweries answering that question. Maybe it’s non-beer drinkers finding themselves looking for a product that can meet their needs, maybe it’s people who don’t want the “heaviness of beer”, but want an easy packaged product to drink. Or maybe… it’s a “health move”. People see the low calories, the low sugar, the low carbs, and see it as a healthier option to drink.

There are a lot of people who think that the health side of the equation is the answer, and are looking for more ways to capitalize on it and answer the needs of drinkers. As we roll into 2020, we have been hearing about the trend of breweries leaning into the low-calorie segment this year – and I can tell you 100%, it’s coming.

What’s The Hold-Up?

Why is this even a discussion, you might wonder? I don’t think I’ve ever heard of someone turn something down because it’s better for them than another option. No… usually, we turn things down because they aren’t as good. If breweries want to dive into the low-calorie or “better-for-you” segment, they’re going to need to do it with products that actually taste great.

If you want to create a successful “healthy” beer, it’s gotta be a beer that people actually want to drink.

When you think of the beer industry’s first answers for low-calorie beers, you’ll see the fear. Gablinger’s Diet Beer, followed by the now titan Miller Lite… Bud Light, Michelob Ultra… it’s all a poor excuse for what beer is supposed to be. How can we do better?

In recent times, we’ve started seeing craft breweries throw their hat in the ring, and release some products that are designed to be a little “better for you” while still packing in the flavor. From DogFish Head’s ‘Slightly Mighty’ or Deshutes ‘Da Shootz’ – or even Sam Adams’ Light, there are some really tasty national brands that lean towards low calories.

But what about locally? What are our local breweries planning on releasing to satisfy the craving here in town?

The Low-Calorie IPA

The move from “session IPA” into Low-Calorie IPA is an easy one to imagine. A beer that clocks in at around 4% ABV will give you around 100 calories (roughly… don’t email me, I know it’s more complicated than that) – and I’m sure that most of you have had a low ABV IPA before that you enjoyed.

MadTree is rumored to be prepping an IPA with added citrus flavors that fit this description perfectly. Again… rumored, but the beer, which is slated to be called ‘Ramble On’, looks to not only nail the trend of low-calorie beers but hit on the MadTree outdoorsy personality very well at the same time.

Across the river in Covington, Braxton is being a little bit tight-lipped about their low-calorie IPA project. It’s been test batched already and from what I’m hearing it looks to be debuting sometime around February. Knowing the marketing prowess of Braxton, they’ll be pushing hard on letting you know that this is a “healthier” alternative to a traditional IPA, while still being a beer first and foremost. I have under good authority that this one will see some unique packaging to toe the line between what consumers expect a “low-calorie” drink to look like vs a “normal” beer.

Of course – you know that it wouldn’t be a fair game if the biggest guys in town (not including Sam Adams) didn’t have a low-cal IPA of their own on the way – and Rhinegeist definitely has one that they’re playing around with (as well as a low-cal beer of a different type, too – but we’ll get to that one in a minute). Mathlete is a Low-Cal IPA that promises to bring a nice punch of happiness to a relatively low calorie package. 110 calories and 4% ABV – I’m curious to see what this one is all about!

A Different Spin

While low-calorie IPAs are a clear option… there are a couple of our local breweries that are looking in a completely different direction too to provide drinkers with something to explore.

Rhinegeist has a rumored ‘Low Cal Tart Peach Ale’ called Lodo that is sounding like it’s gonna be light, refreshing and perfect for pool drinking. Clocking in at only 3.7% ABV, this 100 calorie sipper is going to be a hit, I think. It should pair up nicely with their low-cal IPA that we talked about above, Mathlete.

Fifty West has been working hard on their ‘Quencher’ an activated ale, which not only hits hard on the low-calorie front but takes a dive into a new category… electrolyte infusion. With 50 West’s focus on outdoor and “active” lifestyles… it’s a really smart move for them. This is one that I’ve actually had the chance to try… and I can tell you – it’s freaking delicious. The beer is a light, refreshing blast of watermelon and lime. This is going to be an absolutely brilliant thing for them when it’s warm outside.

What To Take Away

Yes – the trend is real, you’ll see plenty of marketed lower-calorie alternatives to beer, or wine, or seltzer. At the end of the day, you’ve got plenty of options if you’re looking to lose weight, or just be a little healthier.

If you happen to find yourself in a brewery without one of these “healthier alternatives”, though, don’t fret. Shoot for the lower calorie beers, the session IPAs, etc. You don’t have to order a vodka/soda to watch your weight (actually… there are still about 100 calories in that Vodka/Soda too… just so you know.

You need to explore what you’re really looking for when you go order your next drink. Are you looking for the most ‘bang for your buck’? Are you looking for something that just tastes great while you’re conscious of how many calories you’re bringing in?

All is not lost, flavor and health consciousness can meet somewhere in the middle!

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