Beyond TODAY: Why Craft Beer is Better for You Than Milk

Beyond TODAY is an extension of our weekly column for the TODAY Show food blog. Here we’ll look at the same subject from another angle, which will likely be far geekier. This edition is from the archives, all about the nutritional goodness in craft beer.  Click here to see our latest TODAY Show post.

About a year ago, I 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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37 Comments on “Beyond TODAY: Why Craft Beer is Better for You Than Milk”

  1. BeerBanker
    March 1, 2012 at 2:29 pm #

    I’m sorry, but “thinks Guinness is a gift from God” ?!? You’re either cruel or he’s deluded…

    • March 1, 2012 at 2:53 pm #

      People can enjoy Guinness (even if I don’t)…

    • March 1, 2012 at 3:34 pm #

      Guinness has been called ‘liquid bread’ in the past. Whether you like it or not (I do), its chock-full of goodies.

    • ScottG
      March 2, 2012 at 6:02 pm #

      If you’ve not had Guinness in Dublin (or a bottle of their Foreign Extra, which is contract brewed in various foreign locales), you haven’t had Guinness. You know how most craft beer is local and local/fresh tastes better than shipped across the world? Same applies to Guinness.

      • Manny
        March 2, 2012 at 11:02 pm #

        I never had Guinness until my family and I vacationed in Ireland last summer. It really was very very good.

  2. BeerBanker
    March 1, 2012 at 2:31 pm #

    Or has a very vengeful God.

    • March 2, 2012 at 10:26 am #

      Naw…that’s the Coors Light God!

  3. March 1, 2012 at 2:47 pm #

    I have to train more…much more.

    • March 1, 2012 at 2:53 pm #

      12 oz curls, FTW!!! 🙂

  4. March 1, 2012 at 3:31 pm #

    I’ve been exercising my elbow and getting good nutrition at the same time since about 1964 when I joined Uncle Sam’s Army! And to think they served milk in the mess instead of craft beer–what were they thinking?

    • March 1, 2012 at 3:33 pm #

      That’s government for you. They also think a tomato is magically transformed into a veggie if it’s made into ketchup, so what do you expect?

  5. March 1, 2012 at 5:01 pm #

    Being a homebrewer and knowing the benefits of good beer made from malt, hop, water and yeast also non-pasteurized nutritional value saved the world in the middle ages of Europe. Reinheitsgebot the Munich purity law of 1516 they knew it then.
    Most of the American public is controlled by marketing and mega-breweries.

    Great article

    • March 1, 2012 at 5:13 pm #

      I wrote a post here a while back about how beer drinkers were naturally selected to survive from ancient times because the alcohol in beer killed off all the little critters, maing it the safest drink around. Beer drinkers lived longer, had more babies and passed on their genes. We all owe our LIVES to beer!!!

  6. March 1, 2012 at 5:36 pm #

    Reblogged this on best west beer and commented:
    Sometimes it’s good to be lactose intolerant.

    • March 2, 2012 at 10:24 am #

      Intolerance is awful, unless it involves lactose…

      • March 2, 2012 at 11:39 am #

        Yeah, I really can’t stand intolerance ;-P

      • March 13, 2012 at 10:23 pm #

        Love your blog! Just getting on my feet over here.

  7. "Soapy" Milnes
    March 1, 2012 at 8:22 pm #

    Well there goes that 10 year old Dairy Gold I’ve been cellaring.

    • March 2, 2012 at 10:25 am #

      Ewww! 🙂

  8. John King
    March 2, 2012 at 9:10 am #

    Actually, many studies have shown how chocolate milk is great for post-workout recovery…although beer is tasty after a long, hot run….milk does a body good. Google that!

    • March 2, 2012 at 10:23 am #

      Let’s meet in the middle with a Brooklyn Black Chocolate Stout!

      • John King
        March 2, 2012 at 11:38 am #

        I like your style.

  9. March 4, 2012 at 1:17 pm #

    i don’t mean to rain on your parade, but you should probably look through this:

    just because there are vitamins in beer doesn’t mean they will be absorbed into your body, as alcohol has an effect on nutrient absorption.

    • March 4, 2012 at 2:12 pm #


    • March 4, 2012 at 2:34 pm #

      I just read the paper. Looks like there’s not enough alcohol in beer to interfere with metabolizing the goodies it has on board. If you’re a vomiting vodka swilling alcoholic, maybe, but a healthy person having a craft beer should be able to benefit from the nutrients in a beer.

  10. March 15, 2012 at 8:15 pm #

    cattle milk is a modified form of sweat. craft beer is a modified form of .. um .. cereals. intersting to me when viewed thru that lens. prosit!

    • March 15, 2012 at 8:21 pm #

      Yeah, the whole milk thing is totally bizarre (sweat or not) when you think about it. Drinking the milk of another species? Eww.

  11. March 21, 2012 at 10:19 am #

    Have you see Pumping Iron? Best quote of the documentary: “Milk is for babies. When you grow up you have to drink beer.” -Arnold Schwarzenegger

    • March 21, 2012 at 10:27 am #

      Best thing is that I can hear it in his voice when you wrote it!

  12. Greg
    March 27, 2012 at 3:05 pm #

    If I could figure out how to tastefully froth up some Dale’s for my morning latte, then I’d be in business…

  13. April 6, 2012 at 12:18 pm #

    There’s evidence which suggest beer may be a better post-workout drink than water. Science!

    • April 9, 2012 at 11:09 am #

      Hooray, science! I think I did a post very similar to the one you linked to, Ryan. Screw Gatorade – gimme an IPA!!


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