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How Light is Light Beer?

American’s have a taste for beer, to the tune of around 196 million barrels, or 28 gallons per every man, woman and child in the country, every year. At 150 calories for every 12 oz. serving, it’s no wonder health conscious Americans embraced the concept of ‘light’ beer, which weighs in at only around 110 calories per 12 oz. serving.

The challenge is determining what exactly constitutes a light beer. The US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) regulations for so-called ‘light’ products requires at least 33% fewer calories than contained is in a reference standard calorie product. But beer is regulated by the by the US Alcohol and Tobacco Tax and Trade Bureau (TTB), which defines a ‘light’ beer as one with a meaningful decrease in calories compared with a reference, full-strength version, and requires beers labeled as ‘light’ to include a statement of average analysis on the label that includes the contents per serving for calories, fat, carbohydrates, and protein.

With its “Tastes Great, Less Filling” advertising campaign, Miller Lite became the first nationally available light beer in the US in 1973. Coors reintroduced its Coors Light brand in 1978 (the Colorado-based brewer had originally produced Coors Light in the early 1940s, but discontinued production at the onset of World War II), and Bud Light rolled out in 1982. Today, 7 of the top 10 beers sold in the US is a light beer, and light beers account for 46 percent of US beer sales.

Keep in mind that the ‘light’ designation only refers to calories, not alcohol content. While most light beers achieve their calorie reduction at least in part by reducing the alcohol content, it is not a requirement. Check the label, and always drink responsibly.

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