20 Low-Calorie Beers For Your New Year's Resolution

Beer and New Year's Resolutions don't tend to mix.

Call it "Drynuary," call it "Dry January" or call it any other name you'd like. Drinkers and beer-industry titans like Anheuser-Busch InBev BUD , Molson Coors TAP and Corona owner Constellation Brands STZ know that sales of beer and other alcohol around this time of year are typically as dead as a Christmas tree purchased in November.

When Marist Poll surveyed people about their 2018 New Year's resolutions last year, 44% said they planned to make one. The 12% who planned to lose weight, 7% who wanted to improve their health, 6% who wanted to spend less money and 1% who wanted to flat-out stop drinking will all have an immediate effect on the beer industry. Even if beer drinkers don't stop drinking completely, their changing habits are reducing alcohol content and calorie counts on taps and in beer coolers.

Beer sales in the U.S. peaked at 18 million barrels in June 2017, according to the Treasury Department's Tobacco and Alcohol Tax and Trade Bureau (TTB). Each year those peak summer beer sales slide into fall before hitting the 14.5 million barrels sold last January. That slump carried into February 2017, when just 13.8 million barrels were sold.

According to U.K.-based alcohol industry watchdog Alcohol Concern, which launched its first Dry January campaign in 2012, those alcohol-free resolutions work. Among participants its surveyed, 79% said Dry January saved them money. Another 49% said they lost weight after quitting for a month. While drinkers in the U.S. have embraced #DryJanuary Twitter hashtag for similar reasons, industry observers say many drinkers simply aren't returning.

The International Wine and Spirits Record (IWSR) found that total U.S. alcohol consumption dropped 0.2% in 2017 after falling by 0.1% a year before. While people are still drinking both spirits (up 2.3%) and wine (up 1.3%), the 0.5% decline in beer consumption was significant. Beer makes up 79% of all alcohol consumed in the U.S., but the IWSR notes that its decline is "directly related to the slow-building trend of moderation or not drinking at all."

Molson Coors' MillerCoors division admitted this in its company blog, saying "many of the youngest legal-age drinkers (ages 21-27) are leaving the beer category altogether." There are several reasons they drift to wine, cider and spirits, but beer's heft is among them. Consider that six-inch Veggie DeeLite sandwich at Subway is 230 calories. That's roughly the same amount of calories as in one Sierra Nevada Torpedo IPA (236) or a Samuel Adams Chocolate Bock (230) from this year's holiday variety pack.

With a 1.5-ounce serving of bourbon coming in at roughly half that calorie count and a 5-ounce glass of wine sneaking in at fewer than 150 calories, it's easy to see why New Year's resolutions and Dry January take such a toll on beer sales. But if you love beer apart from its calories or want to encourage healthier habits without quitting, here are a few beers that weigh less heavily on their loyal drinkers:

20. Guinness Draught

Alcohol by volume: 4.2%

Calories: 125

Despite the dark character given to this stout by its roasted malt, it's extremely lightweight for a beer of its category. Its alcohol content and relatively low calorie count (by comparison, a Budweiser is 145 calories) have made this Irish mainstay an enjoyable "session" beer for centuries, but we'll warn that its nearly 10 carbohydrates are much heavier than the typical light beer.

19. Sam Adams Light

Alcohol by volume: 4.3%

Calories: 119

Boston Beer Company (SAM) notes that this isn't just some watered-down version of its flagship Boston Lager. There's a slight bit of tropical fruit notes from the Spalt Spalter hops, but there's still a decent bit of roasted malt to make it feel more full-bodied than it is.

18. Abita Light

Alcohol by volume: 4%

Calories: 118

This 32-year-old Louisiana brewery knows how to brew beer for heat and humidity, which means there's little room for excess alcohol content or weight. Its light pilsner malt blends into the background and the Vanguard hop is light almost to the point of nonexistence. At this stage, this is where the light beers start to look and taste like light beers.

17. Bud Light

Alcohol by volume: 4.2%

Calories: 110

When you outsell every other brand by as much as Bud Light does, the "Dilly Dilly" ads don't seem nearly so silly. Despite the emergence of craft beer, the drift from light lager and significant declines in Bud Light sales, this beer still has a nearly 16% share of the overall beer market. More than one in six beers sold in the U.S. is a Bud Light. If Bud Light was its own brewery, it would be the second largest in the country.

16. Keystone Light

Alcohol by volume: 4.13%

Calories: 104

It's an economical choice and one that's fallen out of favor with drinkers over the years, but Molson Coors' Keystone Light is still one of the Top 15 brands in the country. Only one craft beer brewer, Boston Beer Company, produces more beer than this brand does and it produces a light beer of its own.

15. Coors Light

Alcohol by volume: 4.2%

Calories: 102

It's the No. 2 beer in the nation after surpassing Budweiser a few years back, and it's one of the few big light beers that's shown any real life since the end of the recession. Coors Light sales actually increased in 2016, which has encouraged Molson Coors to try to expand the brand's 8% share of the total beer market. It's easy drinking, it's inoffensive and it remains a favorite at a time when big light lager is supposedly dying.

14. Heineken Light

Alcohol by volume: 4.0%

Calories: 99

How do you get younger drinkers interested in an imported beer brand their parents drank? Lower the calorie count, sprinkle in some Cascade hops for the beer geeks and get Neil Patrick Harris as your pitchman. Getting beneath that 100-calorie line alone was a huge step, as the competition only gets tougher from here.

13. Corona Light

Alcohol by volume: 4.1%

Calories: 99

Corona sales grow every year and are a huge boost for Constellation Brands, which owns the U.S. rights to Corona and other Grupo Modelo beers from Mexico. At a time when overall beer sales are dragging, Mexican beer sales growth is outpacing that of craft beer. If you can drink that same lime-garnished beer with about 50 fewer calories, why wouldn't you?

12. Amstel Light

Alcohol by volume: 3.5%

Calories: 99

For many years, this simply was Heineken's light beer. However, it comes in a brown bottle that makes it look somewhat heavier than Heineken Light and has alcohol content that makes it "near beer" by most definitions. Amstel still has its place here, but Heineken is still the more recognizable brand in the family.

11. Yuengling Light Lager

Alcohol by volume: 3.8%

Calories: 99

The Brewers Association craft beer industry group changed its definition of a craft brewer a few years back seemingly just to let Yuengling into the club. This Pottsville, Pa., brewery is the oldest active brewery in the nation and survived Prohibition as a dairy. Yuengling Light Lager didn't appear until 2001, but this blend of sweet caramel malt and Cascade and Cluster hops wears its 99 calories as a badge of honor.

10. Milwaukee's Best Light

Alcohol by volume: 4.2%

Calories: 98

There is only so much you can say about economy beers: They're cheap, they're low-calorie and they're widely available. Molson Coors' stable of them might have an impact if you do a one-for-one swap with a higher-calorie beer. But if you're just going to buy a big pack of them and double up, it isn't going to help the cause much.

9. Shipyard Light

Alcohol by volume: 3.2%

Calories: 97

Yep, the alcohol content is drifting into near-beer territory again, but this Portland, Maine, brewer's been at this long enough to know that isn't a bad thing. More than 25 years ago, founding brewer Alan Pugsley set up Shipyard in Portland, Maine, by brewing beers in the tradition of his English counterparts. That meant making beers you could enjoy multiples of during a long day at the pub. One of the few ales on this list amid a sea of light lager, Shipyard Light uses light malts and benign German and Pacific Northwest hops to make a mild beer that won't weigh a drinker down.

8. Miller Lite

Alcohol by volume: 4.2%

Calories: 96

Joseph L. Owades, a biochemist with Rheingold in New York, brought Chicago brewer Meister Bräu's a formula he'd first sold in 1967 as "Gablinger's Diet Beer." That formula became Meister Bräu Lite in the late 1960s, but couldn't prevent the brewery from falling on tough times. In 1972 Meister Brau sold its labels to Miller Brewing, which relaunced Mester Brau Lite as "Lite Beer from Miller" in 1973. A whole lot of athlete-laden commercials later, Miller Lite is now poised to supplant Budweiser as the No. 3 beer in the U.S. later this year.

7. Natural Light

Alcohol by volume: 4.2%

Calories: 95

The cheap light lagers once heavily favored by college students now litter this list based solely on the merits of their calorie content. Anheuser-Busch first brewed this one in 1977 and it's now the sixth best-selling beer in the nation. The 6.6 million barrels of Natural Light sold in 2016 were double that of Keystone Light and triple that of the best-selling craft beer in the country, Yuengling Lager.

6. Michelob Ultra

Alcohol by volume: 4.2%

Calories: 95

It's a light beer, and not even the lightest on this list. However, it's Michelob Ultra's marketing that have made it one of the top 10 best-selling beers in the country almost overnight. Imagine if Anheuser-Busch InBev tried to shoot commercials with people scaling rocks, riding bicycles or competing in decathlon before swigging a Natural Light. They're fundamentally the same beer, but Michelob Ultra's health-conscious public persona helped its sales grow 20% in 2016 alone and spawn numerous flavored varieties.

I.C. Light Mango

Alcohol by volume: 3.8%

Calories: 95

Pittsburgh Brewing Company's Iron City beer isn't known for it's incredible flavor or its health benefits. It's known as a cheap beer with a deep Western Pennsylvania heritage that just happens to have a light version. However, some enterprising person in Pittsburgh noticed that a beer that fits a similar profile is now doing incredible business by spiking relatively flavorless light beer with a bit of fruit. I.C. Light Mango is following the Michelob Ultra blueprint, and it just may be the answer for selling light beer to a demographic that hates it.

4. Busch Light

Alcohol by volume: 4.1%

Calories: 95

The Busch family's namesake brand is yet another economy light beer separated from Michelob Ultra by little more than marketing. Yet, thanks to some help from a kitschy marketing campaign of its own, Busch has also seen a slight increase in sales numbers within the last couple of years. Apparently, if you pronounce it "Buschhhhhh," plunk it down in a mountain stream and emphasize how few calories it has, people will go for it.


Alcohol by volume: 2.8%

Calories: 64

This beer started its life as Miller Genuine Draft 64 before anyone realized that the generation they were targeting A) Didn't know what Miller Genuine Draft was and B) Wouldn't have drank it if they had. At 2.8% alcohol, this is roughly half the alcohol content of a Budweiser and drifting close to non-alcoholic beer territory. That said, even non-alcoholic beers like O'Doul's have more carbs (13.3) than this beer (2.4).

2. Beck's Premium Light

Alcohol by volume: 2.3%

Calories: 64

Two years ago, Anheuser-Busch InBev had to pay customers who felt deceived when they discovered that their cases of Beck's -- a brand with a considerable German heritage -- were brewed in St. Louis. Beck's Premium Light is incredibly up front about what it is. Its alcohol content is about half that of several other light beers on this list. That's the tradeoff consumers make for a calorie count this low, but if it's between this and no beer, Beck's isn't lying by calling this low-octane brew is beer.

Budweiser Select 55

Alcohol by volume: 2.5%

Calories: 55

This is it: The fewest calories and carbs (1.8) you'll find in any beer on the market. How does it taste, you ask? Well, the essence of beer is still there if you swish it around long enough, but the honest answer is simply this: It tastes like a beer with minimal calories and carbs. Keep your expectations as low as those counts and you'll be OK.

This article is commentary by an independent contributor. At the time of publication, the author held no positions in the stocks mentioned.