Beer – the healthy option?

by Steve Renshaw

You can hardly open a newspaper these days without finding an article about the harmful effects of sugar and fat in our diet. Given the impact of obesity on the nation’s health and the potential cost implications for the National Health Service, we should all be concerned.

So I was pleasantly surprised recently to read some myth-busting facts about my favourite tipple. Granted they were on the “There’s a Beer For That” website that is run by the British Beer Alliance, so we may have to take them with a pinch of salt. (Or is that unhealthy too?) However, they are taken from a study by nutritionists into some of the misconceptions the general public has about beer.

Anyway, it appears that a pint of 4% ABV beer contains just 2.5 grammes of sugar. That compares with 34 grammes in a 330 millilitre can of cola. And a pint of beer contains no fat at all.

But what about all those calories in beer? Well, a pint of 4% beer contains the same number of calories as a slice of Victoria sponge cake (equivalent to ⅛ of a whole cake). So a couple of pints isn’t going to make you pile on the pounds. On the other hand, sinking eight pints is the calorific equivalent of stuffing the whole cake! So, as with most things, it’s all about moderation.

Another fact that may come as a surprise to many people is that standard servings of beer and wine have similar calorific content. Apparently, a 250 millilitre glass of wine has 197 calories, compared with 182 calories in a pint of beer.

Fiona Hunter, one of the nutritionist experts behind the study, said, “We are aiming to dispel the myth that beer causes a beer belly – there is no evidence to support this at all.” She went further by saying that beer can actually have some health and nutritional benefits, if consumed in moderation.

Eager to learn more, I scanned the web for research into the health benefits of drinking beer and came across a claim made by a Los Angeles-based sex therapist. I won’t go into the details here. Suffice to say that, as the winter nights draw in, I’m seeking out dark beers such as porters and stouts, which contain high amounts of iron. And I found a beauty in the Strugglers Inn on Westgate.

And what about the beer? Porter Oak (5.0% ABV) is a new brew from Welbeck Abbey Brewery, based on the Welbeck Estate near Worksop. It’s a dark brown beer with caramel and liquorice flavours and a hint of smoke. Perfect to warm the cockles of your heart on a cold November evening.