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Beer Is Getting Nutrition Labels and It’ll Probably Bum You Out

The biggest beer trade makers in the US are going to slap the raw facts right on the bottle
Image: Pixabay

The last thing you probably want to think about before starting a weekend in July is how many calories are in your favorite beer. But it will soon be something you can't easily avoid.

The Beer Institute—the trade association representing more than 3,300 US brewers—recently released voluntary guidelines directing beer makers to list nutrition information right on the label. And multiple major brewers have agreed to do just that. In fact the six largest brewers in the country, which collectively produce more than 81 percent of beer sold in America, have all agreed to the new label standards.

"[We] believe this is a step in the right direction to demonstrate a commitment to quality and transparency through these voluntary measures," Jim McGreevy, president and CEO of the Beer Institute, said in a press release. "Providing meaningful information will ultimately empower the consumer when making decisions regarding the beer beverage of their choice."

Unlike most other food and beverage products, which are required by the Food and Drug Administration to list nutrition facts on the label, most alcohol has never been required to list calories, carbs, or fat content. That's because most booze falls under the Department of the Treasury's Alcohol and Tobacco Tax and Trade Bureau, rather than the FDA. We've all been blissfully ignorant of just how much happy hour was throwing off our new diet, but we'll soon have to face facts: The companies that have agreed to the standards have until the end of 2020 to get everything square.

And you might not like what you see when the labels do appear. I pulled the nutrition information for a few popular beers and they were much more caloric than I expected. A bottle of Budweiser is 145 calories, while Bud Light is 110. A bottle of Stella Artois will set you back 152 calories. PBR is 145, Sierra Nevada is 175, and Corona has 148. Just for some context, a small fries from McDonald's is 230 calories.

Although there may be some health benefits of beer, the old adage about drinking in moderation holds true. Maybe if the looming specter of a hangover isn't enough to curb your consumption, a glaring reminding of just how many calories you're throwing back will.