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I've found several possible translations, but none that seem to be generally used, at least according to my googling:

  • bière allégée
  • bière basses calories
  • bière faible en calories
  • bière « light »

Which is the most idiomatic term for low-calorie beer?

  • 1
    Low cal. I hadn't realized that "light beer" could mean either one - I'll edit my question. – lkl Nov 25 '15 at 21:02
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    In daily life, we rather use bière light. It is also called as such in shops. – user6768 Nov 26 '15 at 6:06
  • On appelle ça une Kro ou une Heineken / We call it a Kro or a Heineken ;) – Sir_Glancelot_du_Lag Nov 26 '15 at 8:30
  • In Québec, we would say : de la ''light'' – milk2go Nov 26 '15 at 13:49
  • Do you plan on using this phrase in a specific context? If it's to order it at a bar, you need to ask for “bière sans alcool” or settle for a light pils/pale lager like, indeed Kronenbourg, 1664, Jupiler, etc. You won't find anything else. Incidentally, I am not sure what's “light” in a product like “Bud light” because it's actually very similar to the regular pils served in France. – Relaxed Nov 26 '15 at 17:20
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Not really idiomatic but I believe bière light is much more used than the other suggestions, at least in France.

If avoiding the anglicism is needed, I would use Bière légère* like Coors is doing, all remaining choices (allégée, basse calories, faible en calories) being more or less unattractive.

I wouldn't use bière sans alcool either, given the fact well known light beers like Bud Light and similar are not alcool-less.

* As the various comments and other answers clearly show, "Light beer" is already ambiguous is English. Retaining "Light" in Bière light or using the controversial légère in Bière légère to translate "light" keeps this ambiguity which is what a good translation should do, imho.

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    +1 for “bière light” but “bière légère” is definitely out, almost everybody would understand a light-bodied blond beer. – Relaxed Nov 26 '15 at 17:03
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    @Relaxed That's precisely why I would choose "bière légère", which looks to be commonly used in Quebec. All remaining suggestions (allégée, basse calories, faible en calories) are more or less unattractive. Also, well known light beers like Bud Light or Coors Light are not "sans alcool". – jlliagre Nov 26 '15 at 20:29
  • @jiliagre That might be Québec-specific then, in France that's what you would get when ordering “une bière” or “un demi” anyway, so “légère” does not really make sense. – Relaxed Nov 26 '15 at 20:42
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    @Làchus'n'AI "Light beer" doesn't seem to be well defined in English. Légère is clearly keeping this fuzziness so looks a good translation to me ;-) – jlliagre Nov 26 '15 at 21:25
  • There is no such thing as “1664 légère”, I still find the translation very misleading in this context, fuzziness or not. – Relaxed Nov 26 '15 at 21:56
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I would say “light” as it is the most idiomatic way to say “low-cal” in French when referring to soda and other beverages. “Allégé” is sometimes used as well, e.g. for cream.

But I must say I don't recall ever seeing such a beer anywhere in France. French people tend to classify beer mostly by colour, even if it's a bad proxy for taste, and possibly by their alcohol content. That might be why you failed to find any common phrase for this.

What you will find instead is low-alcohol beer, which is inherently low-cal, but it's not called that. It's called “sans alcool” or “0%” instead (there is a subtle difference, “0,0%” only appeared recently with better filtering techniques, older “no alcohol” beers do in fact contain a little alcohol).

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