I know several people who refuse to drink stouts, or will only have 2 as opposed to 4 if we were drinking something else (generally a bock or lighter beer). I feel like I drank less of them too, and it is always to the same end; feeling too full to drink another.

I remember looking it up at some point and the Calories & ABV were negligibly different.

There must be a reason, I know several people who feel the same way. Since then I've just assumed that it is psychosomatic and that the fuller taste makes you feel more full.

  • Guinness is actually about 19 calories lighter than original Budweiser. Commented Jan 10, 2017 at 19:03

2 Answers 2


I think a some of it is psychological - I too remember struggling to drink down a pint of Guinness. But now I can put away plenty! The darker color and dense head give the perception of a bigger beer.

But in reality most pub Stouts such as Guinness are quite light beers, in terms of their physical density (specific gravity) so it's not that they are physically harder to drink.

Some reasons that Stouts can taste and feel heavier:

  • Stouts tends to be more bitter, so tougher to drink for those not used to it
  • Serving on N2 ("Nitro") creates the illusion of a thicker mouthfeel (it's not fully understood at present quite why that is)
  • The lower CO2 levels removes a certain "light" quality from the beer. Beers with more CO2 feel lighter, effervescent and easier to drink.

Of course, there are some stouts that really are fuller bodied, but I focused on Guinness simply because that's the one most available throughout the world and yet is counter-intuitively lighter than typical pub beers.

  • Lol @ density comment. Ok, yeah we're on the same page then. The CO2 / N2 explanation does seem more compelling than a purely psychological one. When I get a chance I'll go buy both a CO2 and a N2 version of my favorite stout and see if I can add some anecdotal evidence.
    – darwhen
    Commented Jan 29, 2014 at 8:10
  • +1 but I'm not entirely convinced that its purely psychological... Stouts and dark nitro lagers leave me with a distinctly different gut feel.
    – apaul
    Commented Aug 19, 2015 at 4:02

the beers you mention as filling are heavier beers, with much higher starch contents than the lighter beers that are less filling.

Basically in brewing you have the following process: before you add yeast you convert some (or all in theory) of the starches to sugar. Then you add yeast. Then that converts the sugars into alcohol. Starches remain as starches.

This is a property that older beers made use of to a large extent. Remember that the darker, heavier beers evolved as a bread substitute for fasting monks. They wouldn't be much of a bread substitute if they weren't filling.

  • -1 This is not true - it is not because the beer is physically denser/heavier. Guinness is a lighter beer than most, which is the reason it can be layered on top of others to make half/half beers
    – mdma
    Commented Jan 28, 2014 at 22:52
  • 1
    He didn't mention Guinness.
    – object88
    Commented Jan 28, 2014 at 23:01
  • I can't edit my comment, but I meant Guinness as an example of a popular stout - not that it was mentioned in the answer. I've seen people struggle with that, getting full, yet it's a much lighter beer.
    – mdma
    Commented Jan 29, 2014 at 15:31
  • Right, but still talking about dark heavy beers. Heavy beers are usually pretty dark, but not all dark beers are heavy. I don't think you will ever see a heavy IPA or pilsner. But you might see a light stout. Commented Jan 29, 2014 at 15:48
  • Do you know the final gravity of these heavy beers so we can talk specifics? I think you do see quite heavy IPAs - those that start at 1.070 upwards can finish 1.018-1.024, yet they are not perceived as being heavy.
    – mdma
    Commented Jan 29, 2014 at 19:15

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