Dark Beer vs. Light Beer: What’s the Difference?

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All beer enthusiasts have their preferences when it comes to color, taste, and type of beer. Nowadays, you can find different light or dark beers with various aromas, alcohol content, and grain combinations.

However, there are many myths when it comes to the differences between dark beer vs. light beer. Some of them are true, but connoisseurs have debunked most of them. Let’s talk about that.

Beer Color

The first and the most striking difference between light and dark beer is visual, meaning that their colors are not the same. In general, the beer color depends on numerous factors, such as grains, roasting process, mashing, and fermentation.

Therefore, you can notice a difference in color shades when putting two dark beer brands next to each other. The same goes for light ones, no matter what type it is. Both of them have a wide range of colors. Let’s see.

You can find light beers in the following colors:

  • Pale straw
  • Straw
  • Pale gold
  • Gold
  • Light amber

Dark beers take up more space on the color chart, and they can be:

  • Medium amber
  • Deep amber
  • Amber brown
  • Brown
  • Ruby brown
  • Deep brown
  • Black

Keep in mind that you can always spot subtle variations between beer colors in the same category. For example, porters generally have a ruby brown color, but two porter brands will differ slightly. The one can have more reddish than brown color and vice versa.

Beer Type

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Brewers make two different beer categories, depending on the fermentation temperature. They make ale using warm fermentation, while lager is created at a low temperature. Most people believe that ales are dark beers while lagers have a light color, but both are actually available in various colors.

For instance, you can find blond and pale ale, like Golden Ale and Double Bean Blonde. Even though dark lagers are not so typical, some liquor stores offer Smoke & Dagger Black Lager and Munich Dunkel.

Still, there are some exceptions. Porters and stouts always have brown-red to dark colors, while most sour beers, like pilsner and IPA, are available in different light shades.

Dark Beer vs. Light Beer – Alcohol Content

One of the popular misconceptions is that dark beer contains more alcohol than light beer. Thus, many people consider dark beer a decadent beverage. However, the truth is that ABV (alcohol by volume) has little to nothing with a beer color.

Always keep in mind that the beer gains its color thanks to grains, while yeast is the ingredient responsible for making alcohol. Therefore, some light beers have a high ABV.

For example, Golden Monkey reaches 9.5% ABV, while Nutty Daddy contains only slightly less alcohol, 8% ABV. That means these light beer types have twice as much alcohol as Guinness with its modest 4.2% ABV.

The alcohol content in beer


ABV value
Amstel light


Bud Ice

Corona extra


Dragon stout

Blonde bock


Cherry stout


Many dark beers you can find on the market contain more alcohol than light lagers. In such a case, ABV will depend on the beer type, the brewer, and the brewing process without a direct link with the beer color and its alcoholic strength.

On the other hand, a subtle refreshing taste of light beer can create the illusion that you are consuming a beverage with less alcohol. Be careful since overdoing the number of beers leads to drunkenness, whether you drink dark or light beer.

Dark Beer vs. Light Beer – Ingredients Differences

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There are four main beer ingredients, including grains, yeast, hops, and water. Grains are the one that determines the difference between dark and light beer by defining beer color. Most beers contain barley, wheat, oats, or some combination thereof, but brewers also use corn, rye, and rice.

As you can expect, dark beers have a higher barley percentage than light ones, while light beers usually contain more hops. Plus, one of the brewing stages is roasting grains, which lasts shorter in light beer brewing. The more you prepare grains during this phase, the darker beer you will get, regardless of the grain combination.

Besides grains, dark and light beers differ by additional ingredients that add aroma and flavor. Thus, breweries often enhance light beer with flower or fruit flavors, while dark beers have a more intense taste with added coffee, caramel, or coffee.

Dark Beer vs. Light Beer – Flavor Distinctions

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As I have already mentioned, light and dark beers differ in taste. Many beer connoisseurs often point out that light beers have a weak and flat flavor.

That is a reason most brewers enhance this beer type with flowery or fruit aromas. Plus, most bartenders serve light beers, like Corona, with a lime or lemon slice you should put in a bottle before drinking.

On the other hand, dark beers are characterized by an intense flavor that leaves an aftertaste in your mouth. For instance, many porters and stouts have nut and coffee supplements.

Dark beer can also taste roast or bitter and has a dark chocolate aroma in some cases. Plus, many craft beers have seasonal flavors like pumpkin, spicy, or ginger. Some experts claim that dark beers are more enjoyable during cold, winter months while light beers are meant for drinking in the summer.

Dark Beer vs. Light Beer – Food Pairing

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If you prefer dark to light beer, you will probably enjoy it while eating food like smoked meat, pork, beef, turkey, or grilled sausages. This beer also pairs well with spicy food because it improves meals taste.

Contrary, bland food like chicken, pasta, fish, or pizza goes better with light ones. Avoid dark beer when having such a meal since it can suppress the delicate flavors of these foods.

Of course, you can enjoy both types of beer after a delicious dinner no matter what was on the menu. Plus, light beer is an excellent option in combination with snacks such as chips or popcorn.

Dark Beer vs. Light Beer – Calory Intake

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Even though there is a common belief that light beers contain fewer calories, that is not true. The calorie number in a beer bottle will primarily depend on the amount of sugar, the type of beer, and the brand. Therefore, the Corona Extra contains 148 calories, while the Guinness draft has only 126 calories per 12 ounces (355 ml).

Most beers have between 99 and 150 calories. With many brands, the light version of beer differs from the regular one by only 10 or 20 calories. Gold Monkey is the most caloric, with significant 260 calories per 12 ounces (355 ml).

As you can see, the only rule is that there is no rule, and you always need to carefully read a bottle label when you are on a diet. Blindly following the rule that light beers mean fewer carbs is not helpful and can mislead you.

Dark Beer vs. Light Beer – Health Benefits

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In general, drinking beer has a positive effect on your health, regardless of whether you prefer light or dark beer. An occasional bottle of beer reduces the risk of heart disease, kidney stones, osteoporosis, and cancer.

On the other hand, some studies show that dark beer is healthier than light one. It contains more antioxidants, significantly improves the brainpower, and is better for the heart muscle than light beer.

Plus, dark beers contain more iron than light ones. It is crucial for creating hemoglobin and myoglobin and transporting oxygen to the muscles and internal organs.

Personal Preferences

It is no secret that light beers are more prevalent and widespread than dark ones. One of the reasons is the similarity in the tastes of different light beer brands.

On the other hand, it is not enough to try one dark beer and decide whether you like all of them or not. Its taste spectrum is wide and can vary from entirely bitter and heavy to sweet chocolate and fruit notes.

Therefore, people who regularly enjoy dark beer are usually considered good connoisseurs of this beverage. If you can recognize the difference between porter, stout, and Belgian cream ale, you probably prefer dark beer.

At the same time, light beers are more popular among young people, and you can often find kegs with light beer at a student party or gathering at the beach. Beer experts point out that you can always drink light beer while watching a game with friends because it is refreshing and doesn’t require your full attention.

Drinking dark beer is entirely different and a bit hedonistic experience. You can enjoy its flavor complexity only when sipping it slowly. Quality dark beer, like wine, should be smelled, tasted, and drunk without haste.

Finally, you can find the beer type you like best only by trying different types, styles, and flavors. The dilemma of dark beer vs. light beer has no winner, and it all comes down to your personal preferences.


Beers can vary in many categories, including color, grain combination, alcohol content, taste, and type. In the end, a dark and light beer distinction is just that, color variation.

You can choose among various flavors, ABV, and nutritional composition, and your personal preferences will best determine which type of beer is made for you and your pleasure.

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1 thought on “Dark Beer vs. Light Beer: What’s the Difference?”

  1. WOW! My mind is blown. I was wondering what the difference is between light and dark beer but never thought I would leave Beer Gifts a Professional Consultant on Light & Dark brewing! Thanks for that! I fancied myself a little knowledgeable when it came to beer, but you schooled me in types of beer I’ve never even heard of. Wait until my friends get a load of me, next time we’re “Flavoring the local drinking establishments finest refreshments.” What a GREAT article!


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