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15 Low-Calorie Beers That Are Better Than Hard Seltzer

An almost-end-of-summer plea: forgo the White Claw and reach for one of these low-calories beers that tastes better, and is still better for you.

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Lagunitas

Within the Gear Patrol ranks, I am known as the anti-hard seltzer guy. As a Certified Beer Server, I have a devotion to craft beer more than others. But my philosophy has always been that every beer has a time and place to shine, because I am not a beer snob — if the situation calls for it, I'll drink Miller Lite 'till the cows come home.

While seltzers just aren’t my thing (that sugary aftertaste — I’m not a fan of soda, either) I recognize there is probably a time and place for them for most people, but we’ve only got about a month left of summer, and I’m here to tell you that you don’t have to settle for hard seltzer – there are uber-low-cal beers, too, and with more flavor backbone than the White Claws and Trulys of the world. These 120-calorie-and-below beers will keep you as refreshed as that case of Claws in your fridge.


Saranac Brewery 100 Series

  • Beer Style: Session IPA
  • ABV: 4%
  • Calories: 100
  • Carbs: 5 grams
  • Brewery Location: Utica, NY

    Saranac may be an old school craft brewery, but the use of flaked oats along with the hop combination of Citra, Centennial, Cascade and Columbus gives this Session IPA a similar profile to normal IPAs (without the extra calories).

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    Dogfish Head Brewing Slightly Mighty

    • Beer Style: Session IPA
    • ABV: 4%
    • Calories: 95
    • Carbs: 3.6 grams
    • Brewery Location: Rehobeth, DE

      By utilizing monk fruit (which has no calories), Dogfish Head was able to reduce the malt bill in Slightly Mighty to cut down on calories without sacrificing the an IPA's balancing sweetness. The result is a full-bodied, Lo-Cal IPA with loads of tropical hop notes.

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      Firestone Walker Brewing Fly Jack

      • Beer Style: Session IPA
      • ABV: 4%
      • Calories: 96
      • Carbs: 5 grams
      • Brewery Location: Paso Robles, CA

        Firestone Walker applied what it learned from producing its shelf-stable New England-Style IPA (Mind Haze) to Fly Jack, Mind Haze's lower calorie sibling. Dry-hopping Fly Jack with six hop varietals and using wheat malts and oats really disguise the beer as a NEIPA that just happens to have the benefit of lower calories.

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        Deschutes Brewery Wowza

        • Beer Style: Session Pale Ale
        • ABV: 4%
        • Calories: 100
        • Carbs: 4 grams
        • Brewery Location: Bend, OR

          Another Lo-Cal Hazy, Deschutes employed chicory root to help cut down on the malt bill while continuing to balance out the hop combination of Simcoe, Citra and Cashmere. Not as full-bodied as some of the others on this list, Wowza still does a tremendous job of passing as a Session Pale Ale thanks to its tropical notes and ability to refresh on a hot day.

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          Bell’s Brewery Light Hearted Ale

          • Beer Style: Session IPA
          • ABV: 3.7%
          • Calories: 110
          • Carbs: 8.7 grams
          • Brewery Location: Comstock, MI

            It’d be an honest mistake to think that Bell’s Light Hearted Ale is just a lighter version of the legendary Two Hearted Ale. Instead, Light Hearted is more like a cousin that packs its own hop character (with the addition of Galaxy to go along with Centennial) yet still offers a full body. The 8.7 grams of carbs are the third-highest on this list, but Light Hearted also tastes the most like a really good IPA.

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            Wallenpaupack Brewing Smallmouth Session IPA

            • Beer Style: Session IPA
            • ABV: 4.4%
            • Calories: 102
            • Carbs: 3 grams
            • Brewery Location: Hawley, PA

              Wallenpaupack Brewing may be the one brewery on this list you haven’t heard of before. But that doesn’t mean they’re not making some solid beers out in Pennsylvania. Its newest offering is Small Mouth Session IPA, a very clean Session IPA that’s a refreshing welcome in the sea of Hazy IPAs these days.

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              New Belgium Brewing The Purist

              • Beer Style: Light Lager
              • ABV: 3.8%
              • Calories: 95
              • Carbs: 3 grams
              • Brewery Location: Fort Collins, CO

                For my money, I don’t think there’s a more refreshing beer to be released in 2020 than The Purist from New Belgium. In terms of head retention and mouthfeel, it’s almost like if sparkling water and beer had a baby. It has a musty white wine smell to it (and even looks like white wine) but it is delightful. Crappy light lagers should bow down to this Certified Organic crispy boi.

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                Night Shift Brewing Nite Lite

                • Beer Style: Light Lager
                • ABV: 4.3%
                • Calories: 120
                • Carbs: 8.1 grams
                • Brewery Location: Everett, MA

                  Many local and regional craft breweries have started brewing Light Lagers lately, which we're very much in favor of as a trend. But Night Shift's Nite Lite was an inspiration for others (having been released in 2016) and was a leader in a revived commitment to light sippers. The malt bill is delicately balanced with a decent hop character for a Light Lager, providing a crisp and clean finish.

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                  Harpoon Brewery Rec League

                  • Beer Style: New England IPA
                  • ABV: 3.8%
                  • Calories: 120
                  • Carbs: 10 grams
                  • Brewery Location: Boston, MA

                    Harpoon recognized the emergence of two trends and was one of the first breweries to put out a Lo-Cal NEIPA when it released Rec League in early 2019. Being ahead of that curve is part of the reason why it has the most calories and most carbs of any beer on this list. But it's very much akin to a NEIPA — (mostly) pillowy soft mouthfeel and tropical juiciness with the faintest bit of watered-down quality as you go through it. But at 3 percent ABV this is not a dealbreaker for me.

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                    Goose Island Beer Co. So-Lo

                    • Beer Style: Session IPA
                    • ABV: 3%
                    • Calories: 98
                    • Carbs: 9 grams
                    • Brewery Location: Chicago, IL

                      Off the bat, Goose Island's So-Lo offers up a full-bodied IPA taste thanks to a combination of three hops and use of malts like oat flakes, Carafoam, Pilsen and more. It has a nice consistently balanced bitterness that pairs well with the hop character and is a beer you can certainly drink a few of in short order. About halfway through the mouthfeel starts to break up, leaving you with a beer that's more recognizable as Lo-Cal. Just like Rec League, though, that comes with the territory for some Lo-Cal offerings.

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                      Sufferfest Beer Co. Gut Check

                      • Beer Style: Gluten-Free IPA
                      • ABV: 4%
                      • Calories: 100
                      • Carbs: 6 grams
                      • Brewery Location: Chico, CA

                        Leave it to the folks at Sufferfest Beer Company, who are committed to making beers for athletes, to make an IPA with apple cider vinegar work. It's a very clean and clear Gluten-Free IPA. The mouthfeel is just a tad off, but there is no bitter apple cider vinegar taste or even aroma. It tasted and smelled like an IPA and if you put this in front of someone who didn't know it had apple cider vinegar they would have no clue.

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                        Boulevard Brewing Easy Sport

                        • Beer Style: Blonde Ale
                        • ABV: 4.1%
                        • Calories: 99
                        • Carbs: 4.5 grams
                        • Brewery Location: Kansas City, MO

                          The lone Blond Ale on this list, Boulevard calls this one a Rally Ale. It's an easy-drinking Blonde Ale that just exudes the backyard summer vibe. Adding tangerine peel and electrolytes throughout different moments in the brewing process gives Easy Sport a slightly tart, subtly salty twist on the formerly emblematic summer beer style.

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                          Lagunitas Brewing Co. DayTime

                          • Beer Style: Session IPA
                          • ABV: 4%
                          • Calories: 98
                          • Carbs: 3 grams
                          • Brewery Location: Petaluma, CA

                            Tied for least amount of carbs on this list, DayTime punches above its weight. That's thanks to the use of Centennial and Citra hops, as well as oats in the malt bill — all of which give this one a close-to-normal-IPA taste. It's straw color appearance is a bit deceiving in this regard, as it's a tropical hop forward beer that you can pound all day long.

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                            Ballast Point Brewing Co. Lager

                            • Beer Style: Light Lager
                            • ABV: 4.2%
                            • Calories: 99
                            • Carbs: 3.5 grams
                            • Brewery Location: San Diego, CA

                              Is there a more modern fall-from-grace story in craft beer than that of Ballast Point? The cautionary tale of selling out aside, Lager from Ballast Point is one of its beers that has remained unchanged. This Light Lager packs more taste and flavor than most others in the category and doesn't give you the feeling that you're drinking something low in calories or carbs. And at the end of the day, that's what a good Low-Calorie beer does.

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                              Southern Tier Brewing Co. Swipe Light

                              • Beer Style: Light Lager
                              • ABV: 4%
                              • Calories: 110
                              • Carbs: 6.5 grams
                              • Brewery Location: Lakewood, NY

                                Southern Tier tends to get overlooked as a New York export among the vast array of hyped NYC and Hudson Valley breweries. But its Swipe Light is a complex yet crisp Light Lager that's an ideal pairing for any summer day spent outdoors. The use of go-to IPA hops Citra and Mosaic give Swipe Light more hop character and taste than most other Light Lagers on this list.

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