With a nod toward full disclosure, I admit that I never buy a light or low-calorie beer. My passion is craft beer, and I prefer ice water over popular mass-produced beers like 110-calorie Bud Lite or 102-calorie Coors Lite.
So, with trepidation, I cautiously approached a new and growing trend — low-calorie craft beers. I reluctantly pulled the tabs on several, and their tastes confirmed my suspicions: way too thin, just not enough body for me.
And then, in September, Colorado-based Oskar Blues Brewerylaunched its One-y 100 Calorie Hazy IPA. I decided to give low-calorie beer one more try, and I was astounded: Every sip of One-y IPA delivered complete satisfaction. Weeks later, I'm still giddy about its citrus aroma, the depth of its flavor, its low alcohol content (4% alcohol by volume) and its relatively minor attack on the waistline.
"One-y 100 Calorie Hazy IPA starts and ends with the hops," says Aaron Baker, the senior marketing manager at Oskar Blues. "We used a ton to give it the citrusy flavor and hop haze you crave in an IPA, but it's a drinkable beer that won’t weigh you down."
One-y is dry-hopped with El Dorado, Comet and Citra hops, with Mosaic and French Aramis hops added to the wort after the boil. The hops "impart orange peel, tangerine and lemon-zest flavors, and pale ale malt and wheat give it a medium body," Baker says.
Oskar Blues, which joined with six other craft breweries in a business collective called CANarchy in 2015, is best known for its Dale's Pale Ale and has been brewing bold, powerfully hopped beers since 2002. A 12-ounce can of Dale’s Pale Ale contains 200 calories.
"We’re no strangers to creating big, hopped-up IPAs and pale ales like our Can-O-Bliss IPA Series, G’Knight Imperial Red IPA and Dale’s Pale Ale," Baker says, "but we wanted to brew a beer that could satisfy a range of beer drinkers, from hardcore IPA lovers to those who prefer something more sessionable. Our brewers were excited to continue pushing boundaries by taking on the challenge of brewing a low-calorie beer with full flavor. We feel like they nailed it with One-y 100 Calorie Hazy IPA."
Most consumers, of course, are familiar with the mega-breweries' light-beer products, including Miller Lite, which was introduced in 1975. Anheuser-Busch followed with Natural Light two years later, and Bud Lite was launched in the early 1980s.
"Low calorie and low carb is the trend," says Tom Fiorenzi, Shiner's director of brewing. "Consumers have been moving in this direction for some time with their eating habits, and beer is not an exception."
Health concerns have become a major factor for many craft-beer enthusiasts, says Mitch Steele, the brewmaster, COO and co-founder of New Realm Brewing. The company has a taproom/restaurant in Atlanta and Virginia Beach.
"I think more and more beer drinkers — and the general public — are really focusing on their health, and a big part of that focus includes reducing calories and carbohydrate consumption," Steele says. "Craft brewers are now coming out with really flavorful low-calorie beers, so people appreciate that they can get real craft-beer flavor at a much lower calorie content."