KELLY MCEVERS, HOST:
Bottles and cans of leading brands of beer will soon be sold with some information that you might or might not want to know, the number of calories you are about to drink. Unlike rules that require food companies to label their products, calorie labels are not required on most alcoholic drinks. But in a push to be more transparent, leaders in the beer industry say posting calories is the right thing to do.
Here's NPR's Allison Aubrey.
ALLISON AUBREY, BYLINE: Light beer has long bragged about its low calorie count.
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UNIDENTIFIED MAN #1: You may wonder how we pack all that great taste into just 96 calories.
AUBREY: Miller Lite once featured women in bikinis to popularize its well-known tagline.
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UNIDENTIFIED MAN #2: Taste's great.
UNIDENTIFIED MAN #3: Less filling.
AUBREY: But when it comes to disclosing calories in beer, light beer has been the exception to the rule. Most beer brands have left us guessing. So who knew that, say, bolder-tasting stouts and IPAs can have double or, in some cases, triple the amount of calories compared to lighter beers?
Lindsay Moyer of the watchdog group Center for Science in the Public Interest analyzed the range of calories in different beers.
LINDSAY MOYER: I was surprised. I was surprised to find how high in calories some of these higher alcohol craft beers can get.
AUBREY: For example, a 12-ounce bottle of Sierra Nevada Torpedo Extra IPA has 240 calories. Compare that to the 145 calories in a regular Budweiser. And the calorie counts go even higher.
MOYER: Brooklyn Brewery Chocolate Stout beer, for example, has 320 calories. And beers like that tend to be higher in both alcohol and carbohydrates.
AUBREY: So if that one beer you plan to drink becomes two because, hey, who's counting?
MOYER: You're looking at upwards of 500 calories easily.
AUBREY: Now, ignoring the calories in your beer is about to get harder. Soon, calorie counts may be staring you in the face when you pick up a beer bottle. The Beer Institute, a trade group that represents industry giants including Anheuser-Busch, MillerCoors, Heineken USA and some craft brewers, has announced a new initiative aimed at transparency.
Beer Institute CEO Jim McGreevy says six leading beer companies, which produce 80 percent of all the beer sold in the U.S., have agreed to begin labeling calories, carbs and alcohol content.
JIM MCGREEVY: We've seen poll after poll, Allison, that indicates that consumers are interested in knowing the calorie and other kinds of information that are in their products.
AUBREY: Now, not all brewers will add labels right away. The company behind Redhook and Kona Brewing tells us it's still working out whether to post calories on bottles or on their company website. And the Brewers Association, a trade group for craft brewers, says these new labels may not be feasible financially for some smaller brewers.
As for Beer Institute CEO McGreevy, I asked him if he'll begin paying attention to calorie counts on the beers he drinks.
Do you count calories yourself?
AUBREY: McGreevy says labels have already started to appear, but it'll take three years to complete the rollout. And he says he hopes the wine and spirit industries will follow suit. Allison Aubrey, NPR News.
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