Calories as a function of alcohol in popular beers

In the USA, a standard drink is defined as including 0.6 fluid ounce (18 mL or 14 g) of ethanol (see Alcohol equivalence), meaning that a “standard” 12 oz beer has about 5% ABV. However, beers vary quite a bit in their alcohol content as well as their caloric content, so it seems reasonable to ask: If I have a beer with a given ABV, approximately how many calories does it have?

While browsing the web, I found a table listing the calories in a number of beers and thought it would be interesting to visualize using Python and It is a simple visualization, but one I find neat. Without further adieu:

Each blue point on the plot is a beer from the domestic and international tables — feel free to explore the plot with your mouse. As you can see, unsurprisingly, as a beer’s alcohol content increases, so do the number of calories. Fitting a linear regression to the data, we see that a linear trend fits quite well: f(x) = (28.2)*x + (8.25), where x is the beer’s ABV (in percent). This means that if a beer has an alcoholic content of 5%, we can expect it to have approximately 150 calories (149.25 as predicted by the fit). However, there is quite a bit of variability between different beers of the same ABV. For example, Bud Ice Light and Kronenbourg Imported Dark Beer (whose label is a bit ambiguous, but I am assuming may be Kronenbourg 1664 Brune) are both 5% ABV, but have 115 and 163 calories per 12 oz, respectively.

In addition to the data points, I’ve also included a line illustrating the calories for pure ethanol as a function of ABV (assuming it is mixed with water to dilute it). This could be considered the “alcohol purity line” for empty calories (i.e., this would be the closest to a neutral spirit). If you compare light to non-light beers (done using a simple if “Light” is in name), you can see that the light beers are shifted closer to the pure ethanol line:

This simple string comparison misses a number of light beers (like Miller Genuine Draft 64 and Budweiser Select 55 which are also closest to the “alcohol purity line”), but captures the general trend. However, note that the more (in my humble opinion) flavorful and interesting beers lie above the original linear fit line.

Finally, I wanted to quickly compare the data to brewer-supplied information. Unfortunately, most brewers avoid disclosing their nutritional facts; however, Anheuser-Busch and MillerCoors are relatively transparent, providing some facts about their beers and malt beverages. After normalizing the data to a 12oz serving size, we can see that, like the data, there is quite a bit of variability.

Leave a Reply