It’s hot in North Carolina, and at BeerWhere, we find ourselves carrying around a few extra pounds of insulation that’s around our waists and not around our can coolers where it would do more good. That realization sent us in search of lighter offerings from our local brewmasters in the Raleigh-Durham area of North Carolina. We found a handful of beers from Lonerider, R&D, Bull Durham and Hi-Wire that all weigh in at 100 calories or less to try out. For the most part, we were really pleased by what we found.
Lonerider Gold Dust Light IPA
Let’s start with Lonerider’s Gold Dust Light IPA. When craft breweries decided to create a lite beer, going with an India Pale Ale is often their first choice. The basic ingredients of beer are grain, water and hops. Grain adds flavor and calories while hops just add flavor, and IPA use hops in abundance. That means brewers can create a light IPA with a lot of flavor without a lot of calories if they also tamp down the alcohol content (which adds calories of its own).
This is a good beer and seems to fit into the vein of the slightly hazy American IPA. We don’t know what hops they are using, but the flavor profile leans more toward piney and resinous. There’s a light bitterness that hangs around on your tongue in between sips and makes you want to drink more. Good thing this IPA comes in at only 3.9% alcohol by volume and 95 calories and less than 3g of carbs per 12 ounces.
Bull Durham Light
This is a ballpark beer. Literally. Bull Durham Lite Ale is one of two beers brewed at the Durham Bulls Athletic Park, home to the Triple-A Durham Bulls (the other is a kölsch). The Lite Ale is obviously designed for hot days and extra innings at 4% ABV, 99 calories and a bitterness that barely registers at 5.8 on the IBU scale.
BDL is a very pale yellow, crystal clear and forms almost no head when poured, which means it should be easier to get a full cup at the ballpark. The aroma is very slightly floral and fruity. The Lite Ale is brewed with Huell Melon hops. Their characteristic honeydew melon flavor explains the extreme mildness of this beer. It is bubbly, crisp, light and clean with no aftertaste. If you’re looking for intense flavor, look elsewhere. This beer is made to be crushable inning after inning while still leaving room for ballpark burritos and burgers.
Hi-Wire Go-Getter Low Calorie IPA
We’re counting Hi-Wire’s Go Getter as a local because of their Durham taproom. Like Lonerider’s Gold Dust, this is a low-calorie IPA, but it has less of the robust hop flavor that you typically expect from an IPA. The hops give you noticeably more bitterness that you’ll typically get in a light beer. It’s not what you normally get from an IPA but still more than you would expect from the 20 IBU rating.
We sampled Hi-Wire from a growler picked up curbside instead of buying it in a can. It is a very clear, straw-colored beer that forms a thin, bubbly head that quickly settles down to a thin film on the surface. The beer is light and effervescent, and so is the flavor with nothing really standing out as obvious except the hoppiness, which really we couldn’t really characterize as either piney and citrusy, just hoppy.
R&D Lo-Cal Resolution Ale
We thought R&D Brewing’s Lo-Cal Resolution Ale was the clear winner among these lite beers. This is the one we went back and bought more of. It had the most interesting, complex flavor while still coming in at 98 calories and 2.4g of carbs.
Resolution Ale marries very mild fruit notes (melon, peach and nectarine) with a light bitterness that finishes very cleanly. R&D uses Cashmere and Citra hops in this brew, which contribute the fruit flavors. With Citra in the mix, you might expect more citrus flavor in the beer, but we couldn’t detect it. Like most of the other beers here, it is a very pale yellow and struggles to form a thin head that quickly dissolves.