Buzzkill: A health-conscious craft beer drinker’s guide

A game of cards and pints of beer are enjoyed at the Summit Brewing taproom in St. Paul, Minn. Friday, Sept. 20, 2013. Summit Brewing opened their taproom and patio area last September. (Jeffrey Thompson/MPR News file)

The Gopher State has entered a second Golden Age of beer. Minnesota brewers are making higher quality beer than ever before. From hyper-hopped IPAs to smooth stouts and easy drinking pilsners Minnesota craft brewers are keeping beer enthusiasts on their toes for the next new release.

Binge drinking continues to be a problem across the country, but so far the health industry hasn’t found a rise in higher alcohol craft beers to be increasing alcohol related deaths. Brewers and craft beer industry folks suggest that people drinking stronger, higher-quality beers tend to have fewer in one sitting.

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But what is a health conscious craft beer drinker to do in this time of abundant delicious beer?

Katherine Zeratsky, a clinical dietitian with the Mayo Clinic, helps us out with some answers:

Dangerous Man Brewing Co. owner Rob Miller fills a growler at the Minneapolis, Minn. brewery Thursday, Jan. 10, 2013. Dangerous Man Brewing Co., one of several new breweries opening around the state, will only sell its beer in the brewery's taproom. (Jeffrey Thompson/MPR News file)

What are the health benefits of beer?

Potentially, beer like wine contains plant compounds, polyphenols that may have a protective or health promoting effect. Red wine over white wines seem to provide greater benefits. This is attributed to the way they are processed. One might say the same for dark vs. light beer. The darker colors (come) from the plant compounds. I think of it as we tell people to eat a variety of colors in their diet to get a variety of nutrients or polyphenols.

There may also be a protective role the alcohol itself is playing on the blood and the cells in it.

Brewer Mike Lundell performs tests on a batch of beer at Summit Brewing in St. Paul, Minn. Friday, Sept. 20, 2013. (Jeffrey Thompson/MPR News file)

What health problems can beer cause?

Aside from safety, yes, alcohol is a toxin and is treated by the liver as such.

Excessive alcohol intake damage your liver as well as other organs. There are a significant amount of calories in beer. Often times since these are swallowed rather than chewed, they are forgotten in terms of one’s calorie tally for the day. This leads to the concern of excessive calorie consumption and weight gain. Additionally, if someone is consuming more calories in beer than in nutritious foods, you could affect nutritional status. We see malnutrition with alcoholism.

In this Aug. 8, 2013 photo, Bent Paddle Brewing Company's Neil Caron right, gives a tour of the brewery to a group from the Duluth Experience  in Duluth, Minn. (AP Photo/The Duluth News-Tribune, Clint Austin)

Craft beers tend to have higher alcohol content than major beers. Are you seeing changes in the health problems related to these changes in beer consumption?

I have not seen this specifically but as it relates to the above question, there may be a concern for too much alcohol consumption for an individual. If more alcohol is consumed in one drink, especially if people are using the 1 -2 drink rule, the rule is essentially being bent.

612Brew co-founders Robert Kasak, left, and Ryan Libby clean up after sanitizing a fermenting tank Saturday, Jan. 12, 2013 at the brewery and taproom set to open next month. The first batches of beers were being brewed over the weekend. (Jennifer Simonson/MPR News file)

What kind of practical consumption guidance do you have for someone who enjoys craft beer?

Like anything, moderation…. From the research we have, 1 drink for women and 2 for men appears it may beneficial to some. Consider drinking it with a meal to curb the effects of the alcohol and to remind you that this is part of your meal (calories).