Is there sugar in beer? The short answer is yes there is a small amount of sugar in beer, typically between 0 – 1 gram. However, as a result of the brewing process, different beers undergo this is not always the case and some beers especially light and non-alcoholic brands can have much higher amounts of sugar.
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Is There Sugar in Beer?
Even though there is sugar in beer, it may come as a surprise to learn that sugar itself is actually not one of the ingredients in a beer recipe, all beers have 4 main ingredients, grains, hops, yeast, and water. If you understand how fermentation works whereby yeast consumes sugars and converts them to alcohol you may be wondering how this happens in a beer recipe if there is no sugar.
The answer is that it is a result of the grains. The grains contain starches, and during the brewing process, the starches are extracted from the grains and become the fermentable sugar the yeast requires to do its job effectively.
But here is the thing with beer, the sugar from the starches does not make it into the final product that you drink, the yeast during fermentation consumes the sugars and converts them into alcohol and CO2. So much so that by the time the beer is ready to be served to you it typically contains less than 1 gram of sugar.
Although not added as an ingredient but rather produced during the brewing process it is clear that sugar is an integral component of making beer, without it there would be no beer as we know it.
The amount of sugar that remains after fermentation is determined by what is referred to as the beer’s gravity.
The Gravity of Beer
The gravity of the beer is a measurement of the density of unfermented beer also called wort as compared to the density of water. In the case of making beer or any alcohol, it is a method used to determine how much sugar is left in the wort during the fermentation stage. As the yeast converts the sugar to alcohol, the alcohol level increases, the number of sugars decreases and as a result, the gravity reading of the beer will change.
Gravity readings are taken using either a hydrometer or a refractometer. When a beer is first brewed the brewer will take an original gravity reading also referred to as the OG. Periodic gravity readings can be taken during the fermentation process, and when the gravity has stopped moving for 2-3 consecutive days indicates to the brewer that the yeast has consumed all of the sugar it intends to and the beer is ready to be packaged.
At this point, the brewer will compare the original gravity reading to the final gravity reading referred to as FG. The difference between them will indicate the amount of sugar that was fermented, using a calculation the brewer will be able to determine the ABV of the beer.
Typically beers that start with a higher level of sugar content are referred to as high-gravity beers and should result in a beer with higher alcohol content.
As you can see there is a direct correlation between the sugar content decreasing and the alcohol content increasing.
How Much Sugar in Beer?
By the end of the fermentation process, the sugar content in regular beer is in the majority of cases reported at 0 grams, meaning there is no sugar in most of the beer you purchase. Some brands do have a slight amount of sugar ranging from 0.3 grams up to 1 gram, which is almost nonexistent.
Is There Sugar in Light Beer?
Although the sugar content in light beer is still very minimal, again typically under 1 gram, it may be surprising to some to find out that there is more sugar in light beer than regular beer. Since it is a light beer it should stand to reason that it should have less sugar, but this is not the case.
It is important to note that when we are referring to a light beer we are not necessarily referring to just beers with lower ABVs, but rather beers that are being commercially marketed as being lower in calories.
They accomplish a lower calorie level in some commercial light beers by adding an enzyme to them to convert the calorie-dense carbohydrates into sugars, resulting in the beer having fewer calories but also slightly higher amounts of sugar.
Is There Sugar in Non-alcoholic Beer?
There is a misconception that non-alcoholic beer is a healthier beverage, and although it is true that it has no alcohol which can help improve the health of people who drink too much, the fact is that non-alcoholic beer has significantly more sugar than regular beer.
Although there are a few methods available to a brewer to make non-alcoholic beer, the most commonly used method involves restricting or reducing the formation of alcohol, which means that the yeast is not permitted to convert the sugars within the beer into alcohol resulting in them remaining in the final product.
Another method used to make non-alcoholic beer is to brew it in the same fashion as a regular beer, allowing the yeast to convert the sugars to alcohol, when this is completed the brewer then puts the beer through a process of removing the alcohol.
Removing the alcohol has a significant negative impact on the flavor of the beer so to counter this different flavoring adjuncts are added; and in order to improve the taste of the beer, these adjuncts, of course, have high sugar contents. This process results in these beers having 25 – 30 grams of sugar, significantly higher than regular beer.
The Amount of Sugar in Beer Brands
When it comes to the varying sugar levels in commercial beers, they fall within the range we have previously stated.
Regular beers such as Budweiser, Heineken, Corona, and Icehouse, all have sugar amounts ranging from 0 grams to just under 1 gram.
Light beers such as Bud Light, Coors Light, and Miller Lite also have sugar amounts ranging from 0 – 1 gram.
Most non-alcoholic beers we looked at have 25 – 20 grams of sugar.
As for craft beer, fans will be pleased to hear that the amount of sugar within them is equivalent to that of regular commercial beer, i.e. 0 – 1 grams.
Frequently Asked Questions
Does beer convert to sugar in the body?
Many people have the false belief that alcohol is converted to sugar through the liver. The body does convert alcohol into substances that are more easily broken down, however, none of those substances are sugar.
What alcohol is lowest in sugar?
Although beer is low in sugar, it does have a significant amount of calories, your better alternatives are spirits such as gin, vodka, whiskey, and rum, however, watch out for what you mix with them as most mixes are full of sugar.
Which has more sugar coke or beer?
Sodas have significantly more sugar per can than beer. Where a beer has from 0 – 1 gram of sugar a can of soda can have as much as 40 grams of sugar.
To recap, sugar is not added to beer, however, it is a key component in the beer-making process as it is what the yeast consumes and converts into alcohol. The sugar in a beer comes from the grains as a result of a technique referred to as mashing. The majority of the sugar is converted to alcohol leaving a sugar content of typically less than 1 gram per serving for regular beers.
P.S. If you make your own beer or wish to start, be sure to pick up our gift to you of Big Robb’s top 5 favorite beer recipes from his brewpub. Details are on the side of the blog or on the bottom if you are on your phone.