Holy Cow: Craft Beer is Better for You Than Milk

Even the cows agree.

I recently ran across the work of Clyde Soles, who is a photographer, author, mountain climber and a fella who generally feasts on life.   He has literally written the book on how to train to be your best at the grueling sport of mountain climbing.

Scholar, Wild Man and Beer Champion Clyde Soles

A big part of this is nutrition – fueling your body for success.  Many dedicated athletes are nuts about nutrition, as they only want to fill their body with the things that will help them achieve their goals.  In his research on sports nutrition, Clyde came to a wonderful conclusion – craft beer is a terrific food source. In fact, based on Clyde’s findings, I’d say it’s better for you than drinking pasteurized milk.

Clyde spent a lot of time collecting nutritional information about beer.  He has scoured the Interwebs, collecting bits of data from brewers and putting the puzzle pieces together.

Here’s an excerpt from his book, Climbing: Training for Peak Performance (2nd edition) that addresses the nutritional benefits of craft beer and the pitfalls of macrobrews: 

The puritans assert that there is no value in the consumption of beer after a day of climbing. This defies a century of tradition and isn’t entirely true. Mass-produced “beer” that nutritionists and aficionados revile is made with rice, corn, coloring, flavorings, and enzymes. This insipid drink is the equivalent of white bread—bland and lacking most of the good nutrition. A 12-ounce can contains about 1 gram protein, 25 mg sodium, and only a trace of potassium or B vitamins.

But a finely crafted beer is only made with barley, wheat, hops, and water. This is akin to good whole-grain bread, better tasting and better for you. A good microbrew contains about 2.2 grams protein, 75 mg sodium, 195 mg potassium, and 5 to 15 percent of the DRI for riboflavin, niacin, folic acid, and vitamin B-6. Plus the high hops content contains nine flavonoids that you won’t find in sport drinks. Even better, if you can find them, are cask-conditioned ales, which are unfiltered and naturally carbonated; rather like fine artisan bread pulled fresh from the oven.

Beer contains zero fat and zero cholesterol; moderate consumption may even raise your level of HDL (the good cholesterol). The typical 12-ounce serving of light beer has about 100 calories; a normal beer is around 150 calories; stouts run around 225 calories; and a triple bock or barley wine is upwards of 330 calories. Although two-thirds of the carbohydrates in a beer come from alcohol, which does not convert to glycogen, you still get about 12 grams of restorative carbs per bottle.

No, beer isn’t the ultimate recovery drink—but you could do worse. It’s the French fries and nachos that really get you into trouble. To offset the slight dehydrating effects of alcohol, it’s a good idea to consume one glass of water for each beer consumed.

Clyde told me that brewers are reluctant to point out the nutritional value of beer because of FDA and other agency regulations, so they typically keep mum on the subject.  That’s too bad, because as you can see above, craft beer is so much better for you than the macrobrews.  It’s the equivalent of Whole Foods versus fast food.  It could be a great selling point against the big boys.

To be clear, I’m not saying to put down the Gatorade and crack open a can of Dale’s, but I am excited that a fitness expert like Clyde has taken the time to stick up for the nutritional goodness of craft beer.  Especially when he’s preaching to audience that would probably prefer a sports shake to a cold bottle of Arrogant Bastard.

As far as my personal assertion that beer is better for you than milk, 2% milk does have four times the protein of craft beer and is a decent source of calcium, but it also has double the sodium, 8 grams of fat, 30mg of cholesterol, more calories, and comes from the breast of another species that is pumped full of antibiotics and growth hormones.  Eww.  Skim milk is a bit better on the nutritionals, but it’s still from a captive critter and doesn’t stack up to craft beer.  Your opinion may vary, but it’s my blog, so I win.

We all know that craft beer is a good thing.  It tastes good, it’s made by good folks, and it makes you feel good after a hard day.  Now, we can also say that craft beer is good source of nutrients.  That’s pretty awesome news, especially for folks who love good beer and like to take care of themselves, too.

You can count Clyde in that group.  Besides running, climbing and hiking all over nature on a regular basis, he loves IPA’s and thinks Guinness is a gift from God.  I guess you can see what motivated his research.

I’d like to thank him for doing the legwork and allowing us to share the fruits of his labor here.  For more of Clyde’s stuff, pop over to his website and check out his wonderful photo gallery and learn more about his writing.

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Categories: Beer, Lifestyle


Craft beer nerd, frequent beer blogger and occasional home brewer.

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25 Comments on “Holy Cow: Craft Beer is Better for You Than Milk”

  1. July 7, 2010 at 12:55 pm #

    Clyde and this article just made my day! Great Stuff!

    • July 7, 2010 at 1:02 pm #

      Thanks, Matt. I always knew craft beer was nutritionally superior to the macro crap (garbage in, garbage out as they say), but I having someone who is into extreme fitness advocate for craft beer takes it to a whole other level.

      Seeing all the benefits gathered up like that was an eye opener for me, so I guess you can say Clyde made my day as well.

      On a related note (great craft beer) I’m gonna have to get my hands on your stuff soon, Matt. I can’t wait to try what NJ’s newest brewery has to offer.

  2. Don
    July 7, 2010 at 1:11 pm #

    I’m liking the intent here, but are we sure it isn’t a little bit like Philip Morris doing a study of the health benefits of smoking? Does it pass the sniff test? Color me skeptical.

    • July 7, 2010 at 1:16 pm #

      Are you saying my enthusiasm for craft beer has interfered with my journalistic integrity?

      I’ll buy that.

      But Clyde doesn’t have a dog in the fight.

      • Don
        July 7, 2010 at 1:58 pm #

        You don’t know that. Clyde obviously is a driven individual and might just need a rationalization for all his vices. I’m just saying that it could be 100% completely true, or there might be a hint of rationalization in his “research”.

      • July 7, 2010 at 2:00 pm #

        I’ll have to read more of his stuff. If he has a chapter entitled, “Twinkies: The Ultimate Power Fuel” then I might agree with you.

  3. July 7, 2010 at 3:53 pm #

    consume 1 glass of h20 per glass of beer. ha! I started doing that in college to avoid hangovers. I get hangovers in moderation…two glasses of beer and i’m funky in the morning, but mix with 2 glasses of h20 and i’m good to go.

    • July 7, 2010 at 4:11 pm #

      One glass of water per beer is a great rule to follow, except for the whole getting up to pee in the middle of the night thing. Of course that’s not a problem when you mix in whiskey, because you usually just pee the bed.

  4. July 7, 2010 at 6:04 pm #

    I taught this boy to enjoy the “wild things” in life. He has exceeded this beyond my wildest dreams.


    • July 7, 2010 at 8:00 pm #

      That’s terrific Tom. Sounds like Clyde got a good one.

  5. July 7, 2010 at 6:22 pm #

    One word. Adult diapers. OK, that’s two words. Either way, your sure to get a good nights sleep with them if you follow this regimen. You too Nate.

    • July 7, 2010 at 8:02 pm #

      That kinda takes the Russian Roulette fun out of the whole thing, Scott.

  6. July 7, 2010 at 10:47 pm #

    I sing the praises of beer,
    To everyone able to hear,
    Hops, barley and yeast,
    Good water, not least,
    To all who imbibe – good cheer!

    • July 8, 2010 at 9:58 am #

      Wow, an entire blog dedicated to limericks. Talk about laser focus.

      • Don
        July 8, 2010 at 10:20 am #

        There once was a girl from Nantucket…

  7. John
    May 13, 2011 at 9:30 am #

    “Although two-thirds of the carbohydrates in a beer come from alcohol”

    Alcohol does not ‘contain’ carbs, the carbohydrates come from the residual sugars left over from fermentation. Distilled spirits (vodka, rum, gin, etc) contain zero carbohydrates. Shockingly common misunderstanding and i’m unsure where it comes from.

    • May 13, 2011 at 9:48 am #

      Well it comes from this site for one, John! We’re like a misinformation clearing house! 🙂

      Thanks for clearing that up.

  8. Drew
    October 15, 2011 at 10:00 pm #

    “I’m not saying to put down the Gatorade and crack open a can of Dale’s…”

    I read this as I opened a can of Dale’s and thought to myself “I wonder if I can nutritionally justify my beer drinking.”

    And there you were.

    • October 18, 2011 at 12:42 pm #

      Yes, I’m a great inspiration to all who seek to justify their beer drinking. 🙂


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