Is There Such a Thing as Sugar-Free Beer?13/12/2021
Sugar… one of the usual suspects in the American dietary struggle.
Too often are we looking forward to diving into one of our favourite treats only to be appalled by the sugar quantity when we reluctantly view the nutritional facts.
We’ve been robbed of candy, desserts, and soda… they can’t take beer from us, can they?
And, since you’re here reading this post, you must be wondering the same thing… is there sugar in beer?
Well, I’ve got good news for you: Beer is almost always sugar-free…kinda.
Does beer have sugar?
Since beer is primarily composed of grain, hops, yeast, and water, sugar is not one of its initial ingredients. However, in the process of malting grain (usual barley), the starches are converted into sugars. As a result, there is a small sugar content prior to the fermentation process.
Don’t worry, though, because the sugar does not stick around for long. When the fermentation process begins and yeast is introduced, it consumes the sugar, turning it into alcohol. As a result, sugar content goes down and alcohol level rises. By the end of the beer-making process, most beers have below 1 gram of sugar left in the final product.
The amount of sugar varies from beer to beer based on a concept known as beer gravity.
What is beer gravity?
Gravity, within the context of beer, refers to the number of solids being dissolved into water. In beer, these solids are the sugars that were produced by the malt. The gravity reading that is taken before the yeast is added is known as the original gravity. The more sugar a beer has at the point of original gravity, the more alcohol the final product will have.
To make this easier to understand for those of us that don’t brew beer regularly: beers with higher ABV (stouts, IPAs, etc.) have higher original gravity than low ABV beers.
At the end of the brewing process, brewers will then take another gravity measurement known as final gravity. The difference between the original gravity and final gravity indicates the proportion of sugar that was fermented.
Is there sugar in light beer?
Since light beer is lower in calories than darker beer, it seems reasonable to assume that it has a lower sugar content, as well.
In reality, however, light beer has a slightly higher sugar content than regular beer. This is most likely due to the process of how it is made.
There are several ways to make light beer, but often an enzyme is used to transform carbohydrates into sugars, reducing calorie and alcohol levels in the beer. As a result, more sugar is left in the beer after the brewing process.
What about sugar in non-alcoholic beer?
Since alcohol content directly applies to the amount of sugar in beer, how much sugar is there in non-alcoholic beer?
Believe it or not, while non-alcoholic beer has lower calories on average than traditional beer, it actually has far more sugar. Since the process of fermentation converts sugar into alcohol, non-alcoholic beer requires additional steps while brewing.
Non-alcoholic brewers either restrict the alcohol formation, interrupt the fermentation process as a whole, or remove the alcohol after the fact. Naturally, once the alcohol is removed, sugar is added to improve the taste of the beer, resulting in a much more sugary concoction than a traditional brew.
Additionally, alcoholic beverage regulations do not require sugar content in beer to be listed on the packaging, so if you are worried about sugar content, keep an eye out for additives that may include sugar, like added flavours or corn syrup.