Use this guide to learn everything about beer on keto, including the best low-carb beer and ketogenic beer options.
Do delicious keto beers only exist in your dreams?
The carbs in beer are typically higher than those in wine, hard seltzer, and alcoholic drinks made with vodka, whiskey, or tequila.
So if you’re on a keto diet and want a pint, you’ve probably settled for light beers lacking in flavor, taste, and alcohol before. Or you’ve given up beer altogether.
But these days both major beer brands and local craft breweries are vying to put out low-carb beers health-conscious consumers want.
If you blame beer for why you can’t stick to a ketogenic diet, these low-carb options may keep you on track. They may even help prevent a terrible cheat day.
To appreciate them, however, you must understand why the main ingredients in beer are like kryptonite to your ketosis goals.
Beer ranks lowest on the list of keto alcoholic drinks because a serving contains almost half your daily grams of carbohydrates.
According to the low-carb alcohol rules, liquor such as vodka, whiskey, gin, or tequila has zero carbs. And a glass of red wine may run between 3g and 5g of carbs; a glass of white wine 2.5g to 3.5g.
But the average beer contains 13 grams of carbs — just 12 shy of the typical 25g carb intake limit needed for ketosis.
While that number seems high, it’s nothing compared to hyped pastry stouts full of sweet adjuncts. You’ll be staring down 20g to 50g of carbs (or more!) in a 12 oz. pour of one of those.
So what makes beer so high-carb compared to other types of adult beverages?
If you’re not a beer nerd, here’s a crash course in what goes into this centuries-old libation:
What’s Actually In Beer? (Hint: Carbs)
It takes four basic ingredients to make your average pint of beer:
Required throughout the brewing process, H20 makes up over 95% of a finished beer.
The most common grains used for beer include malted barley, wheat, rye, oats, corn, and rice.
Grains give beers their color and body and add to their flavor and aroma. But they’re also not approved on a keto diet.
Brewers steep their malted grains in water to release the starches and activate enzymes to break them down into fermentable sugar.
They want to extract as much sugar out of the grains as possible. Sugar feeds the yeast, and the yeast creates alcohol.
When the grains are removed, this sugar water becomes known as the wort.
The process of fermentation converts the wort from sugar water to alcohol.
Yeast, or single-celled fungi, eat the sugar and convert the carbs into lightly bubbly carbon dioxide (CO2) and alcohol.
Yeast doesn’t ferment all the sugar in beer so the alcohol by volume (ABV) is lower than wine and liquor.
Everything gets fermented in distilled spirits (aka vodka, gin, whiskey, etc.). This results in zero grams of carbs per serving and higher alcohol content (average 40% ABV)[*].
So the grains and fermentation process determine the number of carbs in beer.
Hops are the female seed cones of the hop plant, and they provide a bitter counterpoint to the sweet grains.
Depending on where they’re grown, hops provide flavors and aromas like citrus and pine to tropical fruits and herbs.
So now that you know what’s in it, you should learn how drinking beer affects your body in ketosis.
Drinking beer in keto has the potential to kick you out of ketosis, sabotage your muscle gains, and increase your health risks.
Here’s what happens when you down that pint:
Your Brain Releases “Feel-Good” Dopamine, Making It Easier To Say Yes To A Second Round
Studies show that your brain releases dopamine just from sipping beer[*]. This not only makes you feel “buzzed” but also fires up your reward center and increases your desire to keep drinking.
Combine this with lowered inhibitions and the chance of making bad decisions skyrockets[*]. You may drink more than you planned or weakly succumb to a cheat meal.
Lower Alcohol Tolerance Means You’ll Get Drunk Sooner
Keto lowers your alcohol tolerance by reducing the carbs (and stored glycogen) in your body that would normally slow down your beer.
Eating carbs gives you something to “soak up” the alcohol so you don’t get too drunk. But the same is not true for high-protein meals[*].
Rather than having carbs in your system to pump the brakes on alcohol, it shoots right through your stomach and into your bloodstream quickly. So the effects of one beer may feel like two if you’re on a lower-carb diet.
Your Body Pauses Fat-Burning and Ketones Plummet
An enzyme called nicotinamide adenine dinucleotide (NAD) breaks down alcohol in the liver[*]. NAD transforms alcohol into glucose, which your cells can use for fuel.
Another enzyme converts alcohol to acetaldehyde. This is what your body wants to eliminate. It’s also to blame for the intoxicating effects of beer.
Higher levels of NAD and acetaldehyde tell your liver to create new fatty acids.
But your body won’t start fatty acid oxidation (i.e., creating and using ketones) until all the alcohol disappears.
So when you drink, ketones plummet. And this could leave you out of the fat-burning zone for one to 12 hours, depending on how much you consume.
Low Blood Sugar + Low Ketones = Carb Cravings!
Processing alcohol pauses ketone production and causes low blood sugar[*].
Low blood sugar and low ketones create a recipe for food cravings. This explains why your hankerings for bar food, pizza, and all-things-carbs hits an all-time high.
You May Sabotage Performance, Muscle Gains, and Recovery
In one study, drinking alcohol after resistance training resulted in a 2x loss in muscle performance[*].
Myofibrillar protein synthesis (MPS) is how your body adapts and responds to exercise. It directly relates to the recovery and growth of muscle[*].
So with this PSA on alcohol out of the way, it’s time to see what you can drink if you still want a brewski.
You can find lots of low-carb beers from many major beer brands, such as:
|Budweiser Select 55[*]||55||1.9||2.4%|
|Beck’s Premier Light[*]||64||4||2.3%|
But let’s be honest.
If you’re a Perfect Keto reader, you care about what goes in your beers just as much as the clean ingredients you eat. And you prize quality or quantity.
Many commercial light beers are nothing but junk, from their ingredients to their beer-flavored-water taste.
Sure, you can grab them in a pinch like all fast food options when you’re at a sports game, concert, or gas station.
Or you could crack open a delicious, low-carb craft beer instead.
The following keto craft beers are fairly well-distributed in the US. Find them at your local package shop, Total Wine, ABC Fine Wine & Spirits, Whole Foods, Krogers, etc.
These low-carb beers and beers for a ketogenic diet are all under five carbs each.
And they’re ranked from fewest carbs to those with the most (for a 12 oz. serving):
#1. Bridge Brewing Company: Prime Time Pale Ale
The slogan on a can of PrimeTime says it all: “No compromises.”
As the lowest carb beer on the list (1.5 carbs), this crisp lager is also higher in ABV than your basic light beer. And it’s bursting with light, juicy, citrus flavor thanks to the Citra and El Dorado hops.
#2. North Coast Brewing Co.: Scrimshaw Pilsner
The motto at North Coast Brewing is: “Making the world a better place, one pint at a time.”
Keto dieters say their Scrimshaw pilsner tastes like beer — not light beer — despite having just two carbs per bottle.
North Coast Brewing offers three other low-carb beers with higher ABVs too:
- La Merle Saison: 4 carbs; 7.9% ABV
- Blue Star Wheat: 4 carbs; 4.5% ABV
- Red Seal Ale: 4 carbs; 5.4% ABV
- Old No. 38 Stout: 5 carbs; 5.4% ABV
#3. Devil’s Backbone Brewing Company: Bright Tangerine Sparkling Ale
This “sparkling ale” is a mix between a beer and a fruity spritzer. You’ll find Bright Tangerine light, dry, and bubbly with a hint of citrus from natural tangerine and Amarillo hops.
Besides being low-calorie and gluten-free, Bright is only two net carbs.
#4. Surly Brewing Co.: Rosé Lager
Inspired by the flavors of Rosé wine, this lightly tart lager has hints of black currants and strawberries. For a little over two carbs per serving, you’ll score a refreshing, fruit-forward, easy-going beer.
#5. R&D Brewing: LoCal Resolution Pale Ale
A delicate, fruity aroma from Cashmere and Citra hops greets your nose while light effervescence tickles your tongue. You’ll be going back for seconds of LoCal Resolution ale (and maybe thirds) since it’s only 2.5 carbs per can.
#6. Saint Archer Brewing Co.: Gold
Saint Archer Gold is a light-bodied lager with smooth, subtle flavors. It embodies the bright, clean finish of a Helles (pale) lager.
#7. Pittsburgh Brewing Co.: I.C. Light
It’s surprising I.C. Light American premium lager is under 100 calories and only 2.8 grams of carbs considering its rich flavor profile.
And that’s not all Pittsburgh Brewing offers for keto dieters.
You can pick up these keto beers too[*]:
- Old German Premium Lager: 2.8 carbs; 4.2% ABV
- American Light Beer: 2.8 carbs; 4.2% ABV
- I.C. Light Mango: 4 carbs; 3.8% ABV
#8. Lagunitas Brewing Co.: DayTime IPA
You may have to give up your other favorite Lagunitas beers, but DayTime is a session IPA you can enjoy in ketosis. It has hoppy bitterness well-balanced with a smooth, clean finish.
With over 200k check-ins on Untappd, you can say it’s pretty popular.
#9. Shiner: Ruby Redbird
Ruby Redbird is brewed with real Rio Red Grapefruit and ginger for light, tart, not-too-sweet, flavorful sipping.
If you’re not into fruited beers, Shiner also makes a killer Light Blonde that’s only 99 calories, 3.8g of carbs, and 4.2% ABV.
#10. Southbound Brewing Company: Light Lager Beer
Southbound Brewing Company nailed Light Lager Beer. Their smooth, slightly bubbly, sessionable pilsner doesn’t disappoint with crisp citrus notes.
#11. Dogfish Head Craft Brewery: Slightly Mighty IPA
If you’re a fan of hoppy, hazy IPAs, Slightly Mighty has a bitterness of 30 IBUs, making it one of the highest on this list. Those mighty hops bring on tropical aromatics like pineapple, mango, coconut, and citrus.
They also brew Slightly Mighty with locally grown barley and monk fruit sweetener, one of the best keto-friendly sugar alternatives.
#12. Brewery Ommegang: Brut IPA
Brut IPAs are like a very dry IPA people compare to dry champagne.
Brewers add special enzymes and yeasts during fermentation to eat up as much sugar as possible. The result is a beer that’s not sweet and contains just a few carbs.
Ommegang’s Brut IPA is light, bone-dry, and dry-hopped with Bravo, Mandarina Bavaria, Citra, and Calypso hops. It’s crisp, floral, and fruity despite the rather high 6.3% ABV.
#13. Kona Brewing Co.: Kanaha Blonde Ale
This light, bright, tropical beer from Hawaii is like sipping on sunshine. The Millennium, Mosaic, and Amarillo hops pair well with juice from real mango in this fruity yet dry blonde ale.
#14. Ballast Point: Lager
Drinkers get grapefruit, honeysuckle, light banana, and spice vibes in this old-fashioned Lager brewed with a touch of Apollo hops.
#15. Deschutes Brewery: Da Shootz! Pilsner
Brewer notes for Da Shootz! say it’s a clean, lightly toasted, bubbly, and refreshing American pilsner. Grassy hints and citrus from the Tettnang, Lemondrop, and Azacca hops make it a complex yet sessionable beer.
#16. Boulevard Brewing Co.: Easy Sport
Easy Sport is a smooth-bodied blonde ale finished with tangerine peel and electrolytes for active partying. It’s slightly sour and tangy, dry, and super refreshing.
This carb-conscious beer is also subtly salty courtesy of those replenishing electrolytes.
#17. Allagash Brewing Co.: Saison
Saisons were traditionally brewed to quench the thirst of farmers returning from long days in the sun. They’re light, a bit spicy or funky, and more dry than sweet (thanks to the Saison yeast).
This highly-rated Belgian farmhouse-style ale features Northern Brewer, Bravo, and Cascade hops. Its crisp, citrus, subtle bitterness balances the malt character.
#18. Omission Beer: Ultimate Light Golden Ale
Omission Beer specifically crafts brews to remove gluten and lower carb count. Their Ultimate Light Golden Ale is a smooth, versatile, full-flavored beer with uncomplicated citrusy flavors from Millennium, Citra, and Galaxy hops.
#19. Four Peaks Brewing Co.: Brut IPA
This bubbly Brut IPA has little-to-no residual sweetness and tastes more like extra dry champagne. With Mosaic, Hallertau Blanc, and Southern Passion hops, you’ll be delighted with aromas of mixed berries, melon, apricot, and white wine.
#20. Sufferfest Beer Co.: Repeat
There’s not much like the gluten-removed Repeat Kolsch. It’s brewed with bee pollen for a floral, honeyed aroma and complex dimension.
It also has a fairly high IBU (25) compared to others on this list to balance that sweetness with crisp, hoppy bitterness.
Now you can work these 20+ beers into your keto meal plans so you don’t unintentionally wreck your weight loss goals.
Follow these four simple rules and you’ll be able to drink beer on a low-carb diet without sabotaging ketosis:
Calculate Your Macros With the Keto Calculator and Track Your Beers Like Food
Calculate your daily keto macronutrient goals and you’ll know exactly how many carbs you can spare for beer.
Just like you track everything you eat, always add your beers to your food tracking app. This will help you stay in line and drink within your macros only.
Eat The Right Meal Beforehand
Though crappy carbs are off-limits, you can still carb-up before drinking to counteract your low alcohol tolerance. Stick to high-fiber carbs so they net out closer to zero.
Think cruciferous veggies (i.e., broccoli, cauliflower, Brussels sprouts, etc.) and avocado (for fiber and filling fat). Chia pudding, protein bars, seed crackers, homemade keto granola, and keto nuts all work too.
These will also fill you up so you drink less (and are less likely to cheat with non-keto foods).
Stay Hydrated Before, During, and After
Beat the diuretic effects of alcohol by smashing water before you drink, after each beer, and when your drinking sesh ends. This may also prevent a monster hangover the next day.
Drinking too much water might flush out crucial electrolytes. So snack on salty keto foods and treats like olives, salted nuts, charcuterie meats, cheese, etc.
You may want to take an electrolyte supplement before or post-drinking too.
Establish a Recovery Plan Before Drinking
Create a plan for the possibility of drinking more than your macros allow. The faster you recover from cheating on keto, the sooner you’ll be back in fat-burning mode.
Intermittent fasting is the best and easiest way to reach Ketoland. Fasting will force your body to torch all the beer carbs as soon as the alcohol leaves your system.
When you can eat, choose fat over carbs. MCT oil, sugar-free fat bombs, and
healthy, fatty foods will help you get back in ketosis ASAP.
Cheers To Low-Carb Beer and Ketogenic Beer Options!
When you’re bored with hard seltzer and craving a crisp, cold beer, these 20+ craft brews for a keto diet deliver.
They’re a new addition to the best and worst low-carb drinks and they may make a ketogenic diet easier and less restrictive for you.
Check out the entire list of alcoholic beverages for a keto diet here!