What is light beer?

Two extended arms clink mugs of light beer in front of a backdrop of summery trees.

What makes beer “light”? We’ll tell you how it’s made, what to pair it with and who has a stellar selection of the best light beers in Canada. (Hint: It’s us)

Sometimes you’re in the mood for a beer that doesn’t feel too heavy — on your palate or with your favourite grub. That’s when light beer is a bright idea.

These golden suds are great for people who want a brew that contains less alcohol or fewer calories. Light beers are also crisp, uncomplicated and super-refreshing on a hot day. And choosing a lightened-up beer doesn’t mean you have to sacrifice flavour.

Ready for some light reading? Check out our guide to this ultra-popular style.

What is light beer, exactly? What makes it light?

In Canada, the “light” designation is all about alcohol level. It applies to any beer that contains between 2.6 per cent and four per cent alcohol by volume (ABV). And if it’s 1.1 per cent to 2.6 per cent ABV, it’s designated “extra light.”

What does that mean for you? You get a brew that contains less alcohol but doesn’t skimp on flavour and refreshment.

How is light beer made?

Some beer styles — like Berliner Weisse (Berlin-style white beer) and English-style pale ale (also known as “bitter”) — were just born this way. These two brews fit the light definition because they are traditionally made with four per cent ABV or less.

Light beer went mainstream in the 1970s, when American and Canadian brewers launched light versions of their popular pale lagers. The hype grew as people tried and loved these chill, food-friendly suds. And the rest is history.

Now, how do brewers make a lighter rendition of a beer, while ensuring it’s still delicious? They’ve got a few ways:

  • Simple: Dilution. As the saying goes, just add water. The more H20, the lower the proportion of alcohol.
  • More complicated: Brewing tricks. One method is to extend the mashing process to give natural enzymes more time to break down carbohydrates. Introducing extra enzymes can do the same thing. Basically, #science. If you’re a bit fuzzy on the whole process, read up on how beer is made. (Or not — you don’t need to know how to make beer to enjoy it!)

Is light beer lower in calories?

Unlike the United States, Canada defines light beer by the alcohol percentage (ABV). So there’s no guarantee that the calorie count will be lower.

However, alcohol accounts for most of the calories in beer. That means many light beers contain fewer calories than higher-ABV brews. (You didn’t expect a big, burly Baltic porter to be low-cal, anyway, right?)

If you want to know the exact number of calories in a particular light beer, check the brewer’s website or contact the company directly.

What foods should I pair with light beer?

A lot of light beers are super-zesty and refreshing. No surprise, then, that light lagers work well with salty and spicy foods that make you thirsty. Why not snuggle up your favourite to a plate of Nachos with Lager, Cheddar and Jack Cheese Sauce?

Light beers also play nicely with dishes that have a citrusy zip — think sunny, summery Italian Pasta Salad with Lemon Lager Dressing. For the ultimate pairing, why not serve your go-to light brew with a dish that’s salty, spicy and citrusy? Our juicy, finger-licking Grilled Shrimp Tacos with Smoky Beer Marinade are just right.

Where do I get the best light beer in Canada?

Our selection of 1,000+ brands includes dozens of light beers, so there’s sure to be one that’s right for you. And if it’s been a while since you’ve sampled this category, maybe it’s time for a little light refreshment?

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