It turns out there’s no such thing as a beer belly ; it’s a "lifestyle belly" apparently
IT WOULD appear that Bridget Jones might be able to ditch the Big Pants sooner if she switched from Chardonnay to beer. But beer is the favoured tipple of the lard-ass, isn’t it? Well, yes it is, to a point, but according to the Beautiful Beer Campaign by the British Beer and Pub Association (BBPA) this has very little to do with beer’s calorific content.
Switching the focus to men for a moment, it turns out there’s no such thing as a beer belly; it’s a "lifestyle belly" apparently, and it’s a direct result of the extracurricular activities (read "eating") that often go hand in hand with heavy beer drinking.
I’m afraid it’s a question of good old-fashioned class at the end of the day. In simple terms, regular wine drinkers tend to be better educated, aspirational types. You know the sort: doesn’t smoke, doesn’t eat red meat, doesn’t drink spirits (an absolute killer in the calorie front) and doesn’t step on the cracks in the pavement.
We don’t make (much) wine in this country, so it must be posh, mustn’t it? In a cruel twist of fate, beer drinking actually increases your appetite, which is not great news if you’re a fully paid-up member of the couch potato club.
A sedentary lifestyle, remote-control in one hand, a tinny in the other; tucking into curries and kebabs late at night instead of a sensible six o’clock salad; taking taxis between hostelries, rather than breaking into a gentle walk – these aspects of our lives are known in scientific circles as "confounders", and these are what confound the stereotypical beer drinker.
And I emphasise "stereotypical" because beer, which is about 93% water, has actually been used as an isotonic sports drink by athletes in Germany (not hurdlers or high-jumpers, obviously, as they’d keep spilling it).
Consider the cold, hard calorific facts: according to the BBPA, 100ml of wine (at 12% alcohol) contains 77 calories while exactly the same amount of beer (at 4.6% alcohol) contains only 41 calories. That’s almost half the calories.
Beer also has less calories than 100ml of milk (64 calories) and even orange juice (42 calories). Beer drinkers – male or female – should be aware that a 100 gram packet of peanuts packs 600 calories while the quarter-pounder with fries, wolfed down at the bus-stop on the way home from the pub contains a beltbusting 960 calories.
So it’s not the beer, it’s the damn confounders that are to blame for a "lifestyle belly". There were shaven-headed women in black dungarees when I was at college who were partial to a pint or three.
I guess they were making lifestyle comments of their own, but that’s another story. Bearing in mind all of the above, the £1 million Beautiful Beer campaign is seeking to tackle an 18% decline over the last 10 years in beer consumption, and the fact that only 14% of women drink beer in pubs, while 36% choose wine.
Presumably, the remaining 50% drink Malibu and Baileys cocktails with chocolate flakes, a sparkler and a cherry on top.
"But beer is swilled in pints, while wine is sipped daintily from glasses," I hear you say. Isn’t it the sheer volume of beer that makes it unsuitable for the calorifically challenged? Well, a cunning part of the Beautiful Beer Campaign is the introduction of 18.5cl (third of a pint) beer glasses to attract the fairer sex and eliminate the volume problem at a stroke.
If you match your Semillonsipping sisters, glass for thirdof- a-pint glass, you’re getting roughly half the calories. What’s more, these are stemmed, tulip-shaped glasses which mean women will be able to get their little fingers around the stem and avoid sloshing beer all over their shoes.
Perhaps the Beautiful Beer Campaign could recruit the services of Little Britain’s Emily Howard to get their point across – "I’d like a ladies’ glass for a ladies’ beer, thank you." Interestingly, third-pint glasses are nothing new.
They were popular in Victorian times for "falling down" beers like porters and barley wines, but why shouldn’t third-millennium women feel the benefit of the third-pint measure too? At last, the answer to the loaded question "Does my beer look big in this?" can be answered with an assured negative.
And why should we stop patronising the ladies here? There is no better drink – certainly no wine – to match with Death By Chocolate or Hot Chocolate Fudge Cake than a dark-roasted malty stout, or a rich, raisiny Trappist ale.
That should keep the girlies happy. But will the wine industry ever get its act together and start selling wine by the pint to attract the lager lout? Actually, it’s nearly there already with 250cl pub measures of New World blockbuster wines at 14% alcohol.
These goldfish-bowl servings of head-banging wines only confirm what I’ve suspected all along – that Chardonnay is more of a chav’s drink than Chimay (that’s posh Belgian beer, by the way).
The Boys’ Beer Book by Jonny Goodall (£4.99, Mitchell Beazley) is available in all good bookshops.