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Light beer refers to beer which is reduced in alcohol content or in calories, compared to regular beers. Light beers may be chosen by beer drinkers who wish to manage their alcohol consumption or their calorie intake; however, they are sometimes criticised for being less flavourful than full-strength beers, tasting or actually being watered down.
Light beers with significantly lower alcohol content allow consumers to drink more beers in a shorter period without becoming intoxicated. Low alcohol content can also mean a less expensive beer, especially where excise is determined by alcohol content.
This is the primary definition of the term in countries such as Australia and Scotland. In Australia, regular beers have approximately 5% alcohol by volume; light beers may have 2.2%–3.2% alcohol. In Scotland, the term derives from shilling categories, where 'light' customarily means a beer with less than 3.5% alcohol by volume.
Reducing the energy content of beer is accomplished by a large reduction in the carbohydrate content and a small reduction in the alcohol content, since both carbohydrates and alcohol contribute to the energy intake of beer. (Unlike reduced-alcohol light beers, the alcohol reduction is not primarily intended to produce a less intoxicating beverage.)