Beer vs Wine: What’s the Difference?

After a day’s work, many of us like to start our evenings off with a cold beer or a nice glass of wine. Some may really prefer beer and some may really prefer wine. However, if you’re a fan of both, you may struggle between which to choose. We’re here to help. So, if you’re interested in the differences of wine and beer from a fermentation, alcohol, or health perspective, then you’ve come to the right place.

Beer vs Wine

What is Beer and What is Wine?

If you’re of legal drinking age, I hope you can tell the difference between beer and wine. But, do you know their differences? We’ll go over the production process and types of beer and wine to give you a brief run down.

Beer: What You Need to Know

We have a whole website about beer and haven’t come close to teaching you all there is to know. So, we certainly can’t do it in a paragraph or two. Here are the basics. There are 4 ingredients used in making beer – water, grain, hops, and yeast. Water is simply your base liquid. Grains – primarily barley – provide your sugar. Other grains such as wheat are also commonly used. Hops provide the flavor and aroma of the beer. Lastly, yeast is used to ferment the “wort”, or the concoction of water, grain, and hops. Yeast feeds on sugars from the grain and produces ethanol (alcohol) as its byproduct.

Know that you know how it’s made, we can talk about the types of beer. While there are hundreds of different types of beer, we are going to focus on just two. That’s because all the types of beer can be broken down as a lager or an ale. While there are general differences between the two, the real difference comes down to yeast. Ales use a yeast known as Saccharomyces cerevisiae and lager yeast is Saccharomyces uvarum.

Wine: What You Need to Know

While the product is quite different, the winemaking process isn’t that much different than that of beer. Vinification requires water, grape juice, and yeast. In fact, it actually uses the same strain of yeast as ales, Saccharomyces cerevisiae. Just instead of using grain and hops for sugar and flavor, it uses grape juice.

The big difference between wines is the type of grapes they use. First, you can’t use any grape laying around, it must be a wine grape. During fermentation yeast feeds on sugar, so you must use grapes that have high sugar content. These grapes are then used to produce different kinds of red wine and white wine. Below are popular types of each.

  • Pinot Nior – Red. Dry and acidic.
  • Pinot Grigio – White. Dry, crisp and light.
  • Cabernet Sauvignon – Red. Bold, lots of flavor, high alcohol, lots of tannins
  • Sauvignon Blanc – White. High acidity, earthy and grapefruit flavors.
  • Merlot – Red. Dry, moderate acidity and alcohol levels.
  • Chardonnay – White. Dry and fruity.
  • Zinfandel – Red. Light bodied, high alcohol and acidity.
  • Riesling – White. Aromatic and sweet.

The difference between all these wines is the type of grape used. Furthermore, you can make white wine with red grapes. You simply must peel the red skin before creating ‘must’, the wort equivalent to wine. When you go a step further and distill wine, you are left with a for of liquor known as brandy. One popular type of brandy is cognac, which you can read about over at Barrel and Brew

Beer vs Wine Alcohol Content

One important thing to consider before drinking beer or wine is the alcohol content. Will a glass of wine get you more drunk than a beer? Well, that wholeheartedly depends on what type of wine and beer you are drinking. let’s take a look at the ABV of beer and wine.

Typical Beer Alcohol Content

Most beers contain 4-6% alcohol by volume. A standard beer is 12 ounces which equates to .6 ounces of alcohol. However, some beers may come in less than 4% or way more than 6%. For example, a Voodoo Ranger Imperial IPA has 9% ABV and so it would have 1.08 ounces of alcohol. Things can also take a turn when we start talking about a 16oz beer that is commonly served at bars and restaurants. To read more about ABV and alcohol content, check out How Many Beers Equals a Shot.

Typical Wine Alcohol Content

Most wines will vary from 11-16% ABV, but can differentiate more depending on the type of wine. A standard glass of wine is 12% ABV and a 5 ounce pour. As you will note, this equals .6 ounces of alcohol. This means a standard glass of wine and can of beer contain the same amount of alcohol. However, Zinfandel is usually a stronger wine that averages 14-17% ABV. All of this just means that you should be aware of what and how much you are pouring. ABV will also play a large part in our next section, health effects.

Beer vs Wine – Which is Healthier?

Both beer and wine have been shown to have certain positive health effects in moderation. However, there is a narrative that wine is a healthier option than beer, but this isn’t quite true. Let’s take a look at some of the health benefits of beer and wine.

Is wine healthier than beer?

Beer Health Benefits

Beer has been shown to be more nutritional than wine. It is packed with vitamin B, has protein, fiber, niacin, and other minerals. Studies have shown that beer can strengthen bones and promote healthy intestines. Furthermore, hops can reduce anxiety and stress levels.

For my beer lovers out there, I’m sure this sounds amazing. You can now use it as a great excuse to crack an evening beer. However, you must remember that these health effects are reported in moderation which, according to health professionals, is 1-2 drinks a day.

Wine Health Benefits

One benefit to wine is that there are more polyphenols in a glass than beer. Polyphenols have been linked to slowing down heart disease. So, this is one reason for the idea that a glass of wine is healthy for the heart. Resveratrol is one of the polyphenols found in wine, and it is good for the skin and aging process as well. While wine may not have as many nutrients as beer, there are still health benefits to a glass or two a night.

Calories in Beer and Wine

One reason that wine is thought to be healthier than beer is calories. I mean, when you think of a ‘dad-bod’ we’re talking about a little something called a beer-gut. So, lets take a look to see just how many calories are in your beer and wine.

We are taught in health class and by google that there are only 3 macronutrients – carbs, proteins, and fats. These 3 nutrients are thought of to be the calorie, or energy, producers. However, there is a 4th macronutrient that is left out because it has not survival benefits – from a physical perspective anyway. That 4th macronutrient is alcohol and it contains 7 calories per gram.

Even though beer has less alcohol than wine, it typically has more calories due to carbohydrates. A typical beer has between 150-200 calories and 10-15g of carbs. Meanwhile, your average wine has 125 calories and 3-4g of carbs. However, this is your typical beer and glass of wine. If you go for an 8% IPA, you may be looking at over 200 calories. Or, if you choose a 17% Zinfandel, you could be looking at excess calories as well.

The Differences Between Beer and Wine

From a brewing and vinification standpoint, beer and wine are quite similar. Wine uses grape juice, water, and yeast whereas beer uses water, grains, hops, and yeast. The product, however, is very different.

First and most obviously, beer and wine have very different tastes. This isn’t hard to imagine if you haven’t had either. Grains and hops have a very different flavor than grapes. Second, wine is typically 2-3x stronger than beer. You’re average wine is 12-14% with stronger options closer to 20%. Beer is typically 4-6% with stronger options around 8%. This isn’t to say all beers and wines fall in these ranges though.

From a health perspective, both beer and wine are healthy in moderation. The key word is IN MODERATION. 1-2 drinks a day can promote gastrointestinal health, bone density, and cardiovascular health. (This does not mean 0 drinks Sunday through Friday and 14 drinks on Saturday). Beer contains more nutrients than wine, but typically contains more calories and carbs too. Light beer would be your best option from a caloric standpoint as many options have less than 100 calories.

Frequently Asked Questions

Below are common questions about the differences between beer and wine. many of these are answered in the article above.

Is Wine Healthier than Beer?

No, not necessarily. Wine has less calories and carbs than beer unless you are drinking light beer. Beer also has more nutrients than wine. Regardless of what you decide, both beer and wine can be healthy in moderation.

How Many Calories are in Wine?

A typical glass of wine has 125 calories and 3-4g of carbs. The higher alcohol content, the more calories the wine will likely have.

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