Light Beer vs Dark Beer What Are The Differences? (2023)

When it comes to light beer vs dark beer although there can be differences between these beer styles most of those perceived differences are in fact misconceptions and the reality is the only bona fide consistent difference between them is their color.

As you will see in this article dark beers can in fact be light beers and just because a light beer is light in color does not mean that it is light in alcohol content or calories; the color of the beer has nowhere near the influence on its characteristics of flavor, taste, aroma, abv, and calorie count that many people believe it does.

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Light Beer vs Dark Beer

When discussing light-colored beer vs dark-colored beer, if you painted them both with a broad brush and focused on their differences in the traditional sense one could say that light beers overall are lighter tasting, have a lighter mouthfeel, and are more refreshing drinks. They are preferably consumed on a hot summer day whereas darker beers are in general more of a drink to be consumed in the winter months due to them being heartier beers with a fuller body and bolder taste.

However, as you will see in this article these beliefs are not always accurate because both of these beers can and are so much more than how they are perceived in the traditional sense; in fact, in many cases, dark beer will have the characteristics we just described for a light beer and vice versa.

What is Light Beer?

This depends on what you mean by light beer. In the context of comparing light beer to dark beer in this article, we are referring to the actual color of the beer. However light beer can also refer to beers that are low in calories and alcohol content. Typically a light beer in that context will have an approximate ABV of 4% or less and have less than 100 calories in a bottle or can.

The thing to keep in mind is that the color of the beer has no bearing on it being light in this context, many dark beers are considered light when referring to their ABV and caloric content, Guinness Draught is one such example, being very dark almost black in color it fits the criteria to be considered a light beer in this content coming in with an ABV of 4.2%.

This is an important distinction to keep in mind when you are searching for a beer that has a low ABV and low-calorie count, do not judge the beer by its color, just because it is a lighter color does not mean it is a “light beer” in this context. In fact, numerous light-colored beers are in fact very high in ABV and calories.

For the purposes of this article when we discuss light beer we are referring to the actual color of the beer.

Light Beer Colors

Typically the darkest a beer would be to still be considered a light beer is a light amber or bronze colored beer, from there they proceed down the color spectrum from golden, to a light golden color, to straw-like hues. A general rule of thumb is light beers are no darker than medium amber which is approximately a 12 on the SRM scale, which is a scale used for measuring the color intensity of a beer.

The Flavors of Light Beer

It is very difficult to pinpoint the exact flavor of light beer, this is because there are so many factors that come into play in determining the taste of a beer. All of the ingredients play an important factor, the grains used will influence the taste, what strain of hops are used, and when they are used during the brewing process play a huge role in defining the flavor of the beer and the strain of yeast used can drastically alter a beer’s taste.

In general light, beers do have a lighter, more refreshing taste and are considered easy drinking beers. Their taste is typically influenced in a large part by their hops. Depending on the strain of hops used and whether the beer is dry hopped a light beer can have a variety of flavors, it can be bitter and dry or have what is considered a hoppy taste that is typically characterized by being citrusy, flowery, or passion fruit like.

ABV of Light Beer

Again one of the main misconceptions is that light beer has less alcohol than dark beer, this is simply not true, light beer can range in ABV from nonalcoholic beer all the way up to 30%, with the average being around 4.5 – 6%. IPA’s are one of the most popular styles of light beers and they typically range from 6 – 9% ABV.

What is Dark Beer?

Keeping in mind that some dark beers can actually have low alcohol by volume and be low in calories in the majority of cases and in the traditional sense of this beer style they are typically considered to be a richer and more robust tasting beer, with a fuller mouthfeel and a higher calorie count. Most would consider them to be a winter beer that warms the body on cold days and to some, they would be a sipping beer where one or two would be enjoyed in a sitting.

Dark Beer Colors

As we have learned these beers get their darker color from the malts that are used to brew them. Any beer with an SRM higher than 12 is considered to be a dark beer. Colors typically range from copper to ruby to dark brown and then black.

The Flavors of Dark Beer

The flavor of dark beers is typically characterized by having notes of coffee, chocolate, roasted nuts, and carmel. Some fruit flavors such as plums, raisins, and currants can be detected in some styles. Most flavored seasonal beers such as pumpkin beers are dark beers.

ABV of Dark Beer

Although the majority of casual beer drinkers consider dark beers to have a higher ABV than light beer, this is simply not true. As you have seen, the color of the grain used to brew the beer has no bearing on the alcohol content, the amount of grain used is what determines the percentage of alcohol.

As such dark beers can range in alcohol from low to high. Most Dark Lagers have an ABV of 4.5 – 6%. Stouts and Porters range from 4 – 5.5%. Black IPAs are now becoming popular and they have an ABV in line with their lighter-colored counterparts ranging from 6 – 9%.

Light Beer vs Dark Beer Ingredients

All beers regardless of their color are brewed using the following four base ingredients:

Water – brewing water is very important for good quality beer.

Grains – grains determine the color of the beer and contribute to its aroma, taste, and mouthfeel, as well as alcohol content.

Hops – add bitterness and balance the sweetness from the malt, they also provide flavor and aroma and can affect the clarity of the beer.

Yeast – is responsible for the sugars in the wort being converted to alcohol, the strain of yeast can also affect the flavor of the beer.

For the most part, the grains are what determines the color of the beer. You will see some articles claiming hops are what gives a light beer its color, this is false. Grains are harvested and become malt that is used for making beer. When grain goes through the malting process it is dried and also roasted. The higher degree they are roasted determines their color and flavor.

The darker the malt used the darker the beer will be, the opposite is also true, the lighter the malt the lighter the color of the beer will be. In some light beers, grains such as rice and corn are also used which contributes to their lighter color.

Light Beer vs Dark Beer Misconceptions

Light Beer vs Dark Beer What Are The Differences? (1)

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We have already briefly covered many of the misconceptions about these beers but it is worth repeating and emphasizing certain misconceptions that seem to run strong with people…

Dark Beer is Higher in Alcohol – The color of a beer is directly related to the type of grain used to make it i.e. the grain’s color or degree of roast. Alcohol on the other hand is determined by the amount of sugar content available for the yeast to convert to alcohol. The more grains used, the more sugar will be available for the yeast to convert. Therefore the color of the grain has no bearing on the alcohol content and it is solely dependent on the amount of sugar made available to the yeast.

Light Beer is Healthier – The majority of calories in a beer actually come from the alcohol. Alcohol contains more calories per gram than most foods, where protein and carbohydrates contain 4 calories per gram, Alcohol contains 7 calories per gram, which is very similar to fat which contains 9 calories per gram. So it is not the color of the beer that determines if it is lower in calories but rather the alcohol percentage.

Dark Beers are Always Ales – This is another misconception. The color of the grain or beer has no bearing on whether it is an Ale or a Lager. The difference between Ales and Lagers is the yeast that is used to ferment them. Yeasts that require warmer temperatures and stay at the top of the carboy or fermenter during fermentation are ale yeasts and create ales. Yeasts that require colder fermentation temperatures and stay at the bottom of the fermenter are lager yeasts and create lagers. Lagers also go through a lagering process where they are cold conditioned for 6 – 8 weeks to make the beer clear and crisp. Ales can be dark or light in color as can Lagers, their only difference is the yeast they were brewed with.

Final Word

When it comes to light beer vs dark beer there is a lot of confusion and misconceptions. Either beer can be lighter or heavier in both alcohol content and calories depending on how it was brewed. In the end, it comes down to your taste preference and the style of beer that you prefer, as both have light and heavier tasting styles.

P.S. If you brew your own beer be sure to take advantage of getting Robbs’ top 5 favorite beer recipes from his brewpub. Details on the side of the blog or bottom if on your smart device. Cheers!

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What is the difference between light beer and dark beer? ›

One of the reasons dark beers are dark in color is because they use more barley than light beers. Dark beers are also more complex in flavor and tend to have added ingredients like nuts, caramel, chocolate, and coffee. Meanwhile, lighter beers use less barley and more hops.

What is the difference in taste between dark and light beer? ›

Dark beers usually use more ingredients, including barley, but also added tastes such as coffee, chocolate, caramel, and nuts. While light beers do use barley, they use more hops, and rarely, if ever, use added tastes. This makes for a more simplistic taste versus the complicated ones of dark beer.

Is dark beer better for you than light beer? ›

Calorie-wise, you may be tempted to grab a light lager, but for health benefits, a dark beer is the better choice. Dark beers tend to have the most antioxidants, which help reverse cellular damage that occurs naturally in the body.

What is the difference between light beer and regular beer quizlet? ›

Contain less alcohol and calories than regular beers. In the US, "light" refers to beers containing less than 100 calories.

What makes light beer different? ›

Technically speaking, the only factor that makes something a light beer is that it's low in calories (and as a result, usually lower in alcohol). Remember Miller Lite's slogan "tastes great, less filling"? "Less filling" speaks specifically to calories.

What's the difference in light beer? ›

In some areas, light beer refers to a beer with fewer residual carbohydrates, whereas in other parts a light beer refers to a beer with lower alcohol than most “regular” beers. In the United States, a light beer is a style of beer that has a significantly lower amount of calories than a comparable full-calorie version.

Why is dark beer the best? ›

When it comes to dark beer, it has a much fuller flavor. There's also a higher alcohol content and more calories as well. Dark beers are much more filling than its lighter counterpart. The aroma of the beer will also tell you a lot about it.

Why does light beer have no taste? ›

1. Light beer tastes gross. They essentially taste like beer-flavored water. By cutting the calories, you're significantly reducing (or eliminating) things like hops or yeast, thus leading to the loss of a very key element: flavor!

Is dark beer stronger than light? ›

Although many people assume that darker beers have a higher alcohol content than lighter beers, the truth is that a beer's color has nothing to do with its strength. The color of a beer depends on the type of grain it was made from, and the alcohol content is determined by the amount of grain.

What beer is best for heart health? ›

1) Heart-Friendly Beer

The highest phenol concentrations are available in brews like Yuengling Light Lager, Abita Purple Haze and Left Hand Good Juju. Yuengling provides full flavor while staying light on calories.

Why are dark beers healthier? ›

Dark beer is rich in flavonoids – which contain powerful antioxidants that can help protect against diseases. Stouts are also high in vitamin B, preventing the build up of certain harmful amino acids believed to cause heart problems.

What type of beer is best for health? ›

The healthiest are stouts and porters, and higher hoppy beers, such as DIPAs and Imperial IPAs, Trappist beers, and spontaneous fermented beers, such as Lambics and Gose. Trappist-style beer is probably the most famous of the Belgian beers.

What is the difference between all the beers? ›

The major difference between types of beer comes down to the type of yeast used to ferment it. A beer can qualify as either a lager or an ale, depending on the fermenting process. Ales are created through top fermentation, a process in which yeast ferments at warmer temperatures and settles at the top of the beer.

What is the difference between light beer and strong beer? ›

Once the alcohol content reaches 5.6%, it becomes “strong beer”; at 8.6%, it becomes “extra strong.” There are also designations for light beer, which is anything below 4.1% and even “extra light beer,” which is below 2.5%—although I refuse to accept such a thing exists outside of a bureaucrat's sick imagination.

Do light beers have less alcohol? ›

Low alcohol content can also mean a less expensive beer, especially where excise is determined by alcohol content. This is the primary definition of the term in countries such as Australia and Scotland. In Australia, regular beers have approximately 5% alcohol by volume; light beers may have 2.2–3.2% alcohol.

Why do people drink light beer? ›

These drinks often contain fewer calories and less alcohol than full-strength beers. And for these customers, the thirst-quenching ability and social effect are just as good, if not better, than regular brews and spirits.

What is the most popular light beer? ›

The top selling beer of 2020 is Bud Light:

Bud Light from the Anheuser-Busch InBev Brewery is america's best selling beer brand with it's natural light flavour by restaurants in 2020. Bud Light accounted for 17.8% of the total unit sales, but only 9.4% of the volume sales.

Do all light beers have the same alcohol content? ›

4% ABV Popular Brands of Beer

What stands out to us is the fact that the alcohol content of Bud Light is actually higher than the alcohol content of Busch Light, coming in at 4.2% for Bud Light and 4.1% for Busch Light.

Is light beer just watered down? ›

"'There is no secret recipe. Light beer is just watered down beer,' says Flynn, 70. "It's common procedure throughout the industry. '

Is Bud Light a light beer? ›

Budweiser, at 5% ABV, is a standard American lager with 145 calories per can. Bud Light, on the other hand, is (as the name suggests) a lighter version of the OG beer, with just 4.2% ABV and 110 calories.

Is dark beer good for your heart? ›

Research from the University of Wisconsin says that "dark beer may be better for the heart because it helps to prevent blood clots." Light vs. Dark Beer: FACT: A light beer can come in a variety of colors.

Is Blue Moon a light or dark beer? ›

And although Blue Moon has big-name financial backing (it's owned by MillerCoors), it's emblematic of a light and citrusy style of ale that's been brewed in Europe for centuries.

Is Budweiser a dark beer? ›

Budweiser is a 5.0% ABV Adjunct pale lager that was introduced in 1876 by Adolphus Busch and has become one of the best selling beers in the United States.

Is drinking light beer better for you? ›

Compared with standard beer, light beer contains a similar amount of vitamins and minerals but slightly fewer calories and less alcohol. This makes light beer a better option if you're deciding between the two.

Which beer has the least taste? ›

Best Beers for People Who Don't Like Beer
  • Leinenkugel's Summer Shandy.
  • Bud Light Lime.
  • Shock Top Lemon Shandy.
  • Landshark Island Style Lager.
  • Blue Moon Belgian White.
  • Abita Strawberry Lager.
  • Miller High Life.
  • Samuel Adams Whitewater IPA.
May 16, 2022

What to add to light beer to make it taste better? ›

5 Ways to Make Cheap Beer Taste Better
  1. Beer Salts. Inspired by the Mexican tradition of putting salt and lime in beer, beer salts are a simple (and portable) way to enhance a crisp lager. ...
  2. Cocktail Bitters. ...
  3. Apple Juice (Shandy) ...
  4. Grapefruit Juice. ...
  5. Campari.
Jun 25, 2015

What is the healthiest dark beer? ›

Darker beers, such as stouts and porters, and extra hoppy beers, such as DIPAs and Imperial IPAs are the healthiest, along with Trappist beers and spontaneous fermented beers, such as Lambics and Gose.

Do darker beers have more caffeine? ›

Answer. No, dark beer does not contain any caffeine naturally.

What beer is good for cholesterol? ›

So, if beer naturally contains these sterols, can beer lower your cholesterol? Unfortunately, no. The sterols found in your average beer — sitosterol or ergosterol — are at such low levels that even a whole-grain beer contains too little of them to have much of an impact on reducing cholesterol.

How many beers a day is healthy? ›

Moderate alcohol use for healthy adults generally means up to one drink a day for women and up to two drinks a day for men. Examples of one drink include: Beer: 12 fluid ounces (355 milliliters) Wine: 5 fluid ounces (148 milliliters)

What alcohol is easiest on your heart? ›

When it comes to a healthier alcohol, red wine is top of the list. Red wine contains antioxidants, which can protect your cells from damage, and polyphenols, which can promote heart health. White wine and rose contain those too, just in smaller quantities.

Why drinking beer every night is unhealthy? ›

If drinking beer is your thing, it's best to do it in moderation, not every night. While drinking beer every day may relax you during these tough times, there are some significant downsides: weight gain, poor sleep, bad gastrointestinal inflammation, and other issues that can outlast your time spent in quarantine.

Is dark beer good for men? ›

Drinking darker beers can also act as an aphrodisiac, boosting the libido and giving longer, more intense erections. The iron in darker beer helps red blood cells create haemoglobin, which carries oxygen around the body. This improves circulation and gives a stronger erection, says Dr Van Kirk.

Is beer healthier than Coke? ›

In fact, a standard can (330 ml) of cola contains as much as 7 teaspoons of sugar! So in weighty matters (both literally and metaphorically), alcohol emerges as a clear winner. There's not much to choose between alcohol and soft drinks when it comes to nutritional benefits. Neither drink has any dietary value.

What beer is easiest on the liver? ›

Long drinks lists can be overwhelming, but if your liver got to choose, it would probably go with something brimming with hops. Yep, just like the majority of craft beer drinkers, it would probably grab an IPA.

Do doctors recommend beer? ›

Studies have concluded that beer can also reduce the risk of suffering a heart attack. Unlike their non-drinking counterparts, beer drinkers are less vulnerable of experiencing dementia or Alzheimer's disease. Because of the presence of certain vitamins, beer has a ton of healthy nourishing benefits for the skin.

What is the most popular beer in America? ›

Corona and Bud Light are the most well-known beer brands in the United States. Both these brands are recognized by 85% of respondents in the U.S. Next on the list is the most valuable beer brand in the world, Budweiser, reaching a brand awareness of 84%.

What type of beer is Michelob Ultra? ›

Containing only 95 calories and 2.6 carbs, Michelob ULTRA is a light lager brewed with the perfect balance of Herkules hops and wholesome grains, producing a light citrus aroma and a crisp, refreshing finish.

Is light beer low strength? ›

Light beer

Light (low-alcohol) beer is about 2.7 per cent alcohol (compared to 4.6 per cent alcohol in a standard beer) and has the same number of kilojoules as a low-carb beer.

Is Corona a light beer? ›

Our Review. Corona is a light and crisp pale Mexican lager that's wildly popular in the U.S. Its flavor profile is not overly complex, with sweet notes and a bit of hoppy skunkiness on the palate that places it squarely between mass-produced light American lagers and heavier, more complex beer from Europe.

Does Michelob Ultra have less alcohol? ›

Michelob Ultra is a light beer in its truest form — a beer made to taste superior while respecting healthy lifestyles. With a light pour and a fizzy, slight head, Michelob Ultra is crisp and refreshing while having 4.2% alcohol by volume (ABV).

Is Bud Light better than Coors Light? ›

Coors Light has fewer calories — 102 per 12-ounce can, compared to 103 for Bud Light (per Greatist). However, Coors Light is higher in carbohydrates, at 5 grams compared to Bud Light's 4.6 grams. The two beers are brewed differently, with Bud Light using rice while Coors Light uses corn.

Is Coors Light less alcohol? ›

Coors Light Beer is an American style light lager. Crisp, clean and refreshing, this light beer has a 4.2% alcohol by volume. Full of Rocky Mountain refreshment, this light calorie beer has a light body with clean malt notes and low bitterness.

Are Darker beers better? ›

Fact: They can be, but the color of a beer has nothing to do with its alcohol content. Myth: Dark beer has a harsher and stronger flavor than lighter beers. Fact: Color has no flavor. Although some dark beers can have a more robust character, many are quite smooth and are more pleasantly balanced than many IPAs.

What is the benefit of dark beer? ›

Dark beer is rich in flavonoids – which contain powerful antioxidants that can help protect against diseases. Stouts are also high in vitamin B, preventing the build up of certain harmful amino acids believed to cause heart problems.

Is Corona light or dark beer? ›

Corona is a Pale Lager

A pale lager (also known as a pilsner) is a very pale golden-colored beer. Others describe its color to be blonde or even light orange. Some people might even say it's bottled sunshine—we know we would, considering the sun is its namesake. Pale lagers are typically lighter in taste.

What type of beer is the healthiest? ›

The healthiest are stouts and porters, and higher hoppy beers, such as DIPAs and Imperial IPAs, Trappist beers, and spontaneous fermented beers, such as Lambics and Gose. Trappist-style beer is probably the most famous of the Belgian beers.

What beer is best for your heart? ›

1) Heart-Friendly Beer

The highest phenol concentrations are available in brews like Yuengling Light Lager, Abita Purple Haze and Left Hand Good Juju. Yuengling provides full flavor while staying light on calories.

Why is light beer better for you? ›

Compared with standard beer, light beer contains a similar amount of vitamins and minerals but slightly fewer calories and less alcohol. This makes light beer a better option if you're deciding between the two.

What type of beer is Blue Moon? ›

A wheat beer brewed with Valencia orange peel for a subtle sweetness and bright, citrus aroma. Blue Moon® Belgian White Belgian-Style Wheat Ale is garnished with an orange slice to heighten the citrus aroma and taste.

Is Coors Light a light or dark beer? ›

Coors Light is a 4.2% (US) ABV light beer brewed in Golden, Colorado; Albany, Georgia; Elkton, Virginia; Fort Worth, Texas; Irwindale, California; and Milwaukee, Wisconsin. It was first produced in 1978 by the Coors Brewing Company.

What is the number 1 best beer? ›

Budweiser. Budweiser beer is an American lager brewed by Anheuser-Busch. With the unofficial title of “The King of Beers,” it is no wonder why Budweiser tops this list of America's most popular beers.

What is the least harmful beer to drink? ›

Spin the bottle: The ultimate list of healthier beers
  • Yuengling Light Lager.
  • Abita Purple Haze.
  • Guinness Draught.
  • Sam Adams Light Lager.
  • Deschutes Brewery Da Shootz.
  • Full Sail Session Lager.
  • Pacifico Clara.
  • Sierra Nevada Pale Ale.
Jul 27, 2020


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