3 Surprising Myths About Guinness Beer

Is Guinness really good for you? Here's what you should know about some common myths about one of the most popular Irish beer brands.

Guinness is one of the world's most popular Irish beer brands, with an alcohol by volume (ABV), the strength of an alcoholic beverage, between 4% and 7.5%. Also, the calories in one 12-ounce Guinness beer are between 114 and 194 calories, depending on the variety. 

Chances are you've heard lots about Guinness, but not everything you've heard may be true. Here are some common myths about the stout. 

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Myth: Guinness Is High in Alcohol

Guinness beers don't always have more alcohol than most other beers. In fact, some versions contain less alcohol by volume than a typical draught. For example, Guinness Draught clocks in at just 4.2%.

However, there's some truth to the myth. Guinness offers several different brews with higher or lower alcohol content than your average beer.

Here's the lowdown for 12 ounces of the following Guinness brews:

  • Nitro Cold Brew Coffee has 4% ABV.
  • Baltimore Blonde Lager has 5% ABV.
  • Extra Stout has 5.6% ABV.
  • Foreign Extra Stout has 7.5% ABV.

Myth: Guinness Is High in Calories

Guinness is a brew known for its creamy texture, dark color, and rich, caramel-tinged flavor. That means it must be high in calories, right?

Not so fast. For example, one 12-ounce serving of Guinness Draught has 125 calories, just 15 calories more than the same serving of Bud Light.

Alcohol is beer's primary calorie source. Since the Guinness Draught is just 4.2% ABV, it's relatively low in calories. So, if you choose one of the varieties with higher alcohol content, you'll also get more calories. 

The dark color and sweetness come from small amounts of roasted barley used in the brewing process. And that thick, creamy texture? Most beers are carbonated with carbon dioxide, but Guinness uses a mix of carbon dioxide and nitrogen. Nitrogen bubbles are smaller than carbon dioxide ones, which produces a smoother "mouthfeel."

Here's the calorie content per 12 ounces:

  • Nitro Cold Brew Coffee has 114 calories.
  • Baltimore Blonde Lager has 167 calories.
  • Extra Stout has 180 calories.
  • Foreign Extra Stout has 194 calories.

Myth: 'Guinness Is Good for You'

This one's more of a half-myth. "Guinness is Good for You" became a catchy marketing slogan in the late 1920s. However, the brand didn't base the claim on scientific evidence that drinking beer had any health benefits. Instead, the claim came from interviews with pubgoers who said they felt better after drinking Guinness beers. 

Based on anecdotal evidence, healthcare providers who believed that Guinness beers had a lot of iron even wrote in favor of the brew. However, in truth, Guinness beers have just a little iron. 

Benefits of Alcohol Consumption

Still, some experts claim that moderate alcohol intake could be good for you. For example, a 2019 study found that moderate drinking—one and two drinks per day for women and men, respectively—reduced the risk of heart attack or dying of cardiovascular disease. 

However, the researchers cautioned that you should weigh the benefits with your personal risks, such as a family history of cancer or alcohol use disorder.

Also, a 2019 review found that drinking moderate amounts of beer could benefit your gut microbiome, the balance of healthy and harmful bacteria in your digestive tract. Although, the researchers noted that further studies were needed.

Risks of Alcohol Consumption

In contrast, others have called the health benefits of moderate drinking into question. Plus, stepping over the line into excessive drinking causes many other health problems, like liver damage, cancer, and decreased brain function.

Further, the following people shouldn't drink any amount of alcohol:

  • People who are pregnant or might be pregnant
  • People younger than 21
  • People with certain health conditions or are taking medications that can interact with alcohol
  • People recovering from alcohol use disorder or unable to control the amount they drink

A Quick Review

Guinness's ABV and calories vary per 12 ounces but may be less than your average beer, depending on the type. Guinness might have originally overstated the health benefits of their brew. Still, some evidence suggests moderate alcohol consumption may have some health benefits. However, always weigh those benefits against the risks.

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Health.com uses only high-quality sources, including peer-reviewed studies, to support the facts within our articles. Read our editorial process to learn more about how we fact-check and keep our content accurate, reliable, and trustworthy.
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  6. Guinness. Guinness extra stout: The original Guinness recipe.

  7. Bud Light. Bud Light.

  8. Royal College of Physicians Museum. Guinness is good for you?

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  10. Quesada-Molina M, Muñoz-Garach A, Tinahones FJ, et al. A new perspective on the health benefits of moderate beer consumption: Involvement of the gut microbiotaMetabolites. 2019;9(11):272. doi:10.3390/metabo9110272

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  12. Department of Agriculture. Dietary guidelines for Americans, 2020–2025

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