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Wednesday, January 14, 2015

Is Beer Healthier than Wine?

Red wine is supposed to be heart healthy. A number of experts have said a couple drinks a day is actually better than none at all. The right amount seems to be one-two drinks for women and two-three for men. No, I don't know why women got short-changed here--not sure if it's weight or metabolism or sexism (j/k on that last one). 

Some have said white wine, beer or even spirits is just about as healthy as red wine in moderate doses. Now along comes a beer expert saying the sudsy stuff is healthier than red wine. The gentleman making these claims is Charlie Bamforth, Professor of Brewing Science at UC Davis (I know, a great job or what). He's written books and filmed documentaries on beer. He likes to stir up the wine folks at UC Davis, home of the premier wine program in the U.S. It's grapes vs. grains for Charlie. He's known as "the pope of foam" around campus.

Professor Bamforth, hard at work
image from
He tells his students in his intro classes that beer is as healthy as wine plus has B vitamins and antioxidants. There's trace elements you also get from beer though he admits to more carbs and calories than wine. He says beer is more like a food, bread especially, than wine or spirits. Charlie recommends avoiding the bigger IPAs and such if you're counting calories, the beers with 8 or 9 or higher percent of alcohol, as these have more calories. Prof. Bamforth is English by birth and perhaps hasn't quite caught on to the current American fashion of double and triple IPAs, Imperial Stouts, etc.

Once he lightly scolded, Ken Grossman, founder of nearby Sierra Nevada Brewing, for making his famous Pale Ale too hoppy and not in the English tradition. Ken replied, "Well, I started in a small warehouse in 1980 with the Pale Ale and now we're making one million barrels a year." The prof replied, "Point taken."

You can read more about Charlie's pitch for beer from NPR here.