Diets high in glycaemic index (GI) and glycaemic load (GL) have been associated with a higher diabetes risk. Beer explained a large proportion of variation in GI in a Finnish and an American study. However, few beers have been tested according to International Organization for Standardization (ISO) methodology. We tested the GI of beer and estimated its contribution to dietary GI and GL in the Netherlands. GI testing of pilsner beer (Pilsner Urquell) was conducted at The University of Sydney according to ISO international standards with glucose as the reference food. Subsequently, GI and GL values were assigned to 2556 food items in the 2011 Dutch food composition table using a six-step methodology and consulting four databases. This table was linked to dietary data from 2106 adults in the Dutch National Food Consumption Survey 2007–2010. Stepwise linear regression identified contribution to inter-individual variation in dietary GI and GL. The GI of pilsner beer was 89 (sd 5). Beer consumption contributed to 9·6 and 5·3 % inter-individual variation in GI and GL, respectively. Other foods that contributed to the inter-individual variation in GI and GL included potatoes, bread, soft drinks, sugar, candy, wine, coffee and tea. The results were more pronounced in men than in women. In conclusion, beer is a high-GI food. Despite its relatively low carbohydrate content (approximately 4–5 g/100 ml), it still made a contribution to dietary GL, especially in men. Next to potatoes, bread, sugar and sugar-sweetened beverages, beer captured a considerable proportion of between-person variability in GI and GL in the Dutch diet.