Beer - Yes, You Can Make A Good Light Brew
Light beer... yuck! Most home and craft brewers despise this most bland among bland of mass-produced beers. Yet, sales figures indicate they are very popular products. People must buy them for a reason. Maybe beer drinkers really do want a beer that's less filling. And maybe, some beer drinkers are really concerned about that dreaded beer gut. But, as for the part about it tasting great, we all know that's a bunch of malarkey! But it doesn't have to be that way. You can brew your own version of a great tasting light beer.
Light beers produced by the big commercial breweries are even more insipid than the regular brands. However, it is possible to brew flavorful light beers. The big boys brew them without flavor because that's the way the vast majority of beer drinkers prefer them. How it came to be that way, well, that's another story. Let's face it, home brewers and lovers of craft beer are definitely in the minority. But, as masters of the beer domains, you can brew to suit your tastes. You don't need to be concerned with the tastes of the majority of beer drinkers, which unfortunately prefer that pale yellow, watery, fizzy stuff.
You are free to brew a variety of flavorful, distinctive beers and this includes light beer. That's right, you can make your own lawnmower beer, and it won't taste like carbonated water with a buzz. Okay, so it won't taste like a dopplebock or barley wine either, but a light beer with flavor is not an impossibility.
Light beer was first introduced in the late 1960's by the Rheingold Brewery of Brooklyn. This product was called Gablinger's Diet Beer. Around that same time, Chicago-based Meister Brau came out with their own version. However, neither beer caught on with consumers. The Rheingold beer apparently had big flavor problems. In addition, according to Phillip Van Munching, author of Beer Blast, their marketing scheme just didn't cut it. Meister Brau Lite, though it tasted better, didn't fare well either. When Miller Brewing bought out Meister Brau, they reworked the product, gave it a new name and image and Lite Beer from Miller was born in 1973.
The idea behind this new beer was a beer that was lower in calories, something that wouldn't fill you up if you wanted to have another. The developer of the process used to make Gablinger's Diet Beer, upon inquiring as to why some people didn't drink beer, found two answers to be most prominent. It seems that non-beer drinkers didn't like the taste of beer and were also worried that it would make them gain weight. Gablinger's, with around 100 calories, addressed the latter concern, but the former took a bit more work.
The most common process today employs enzymes that turn the normally unfermentable dextrin responsible for the malt derived flavors and aromas of beer into fermentable sugars. This results in a beer with much less flavor, body, and color; slightly fewer calories; but more alcohol. They are then often diluted with water to lower the alcohol level, and this dilutes the flavor even more. The thing that many beer drinkers don't know is that in actuality, most of the calories in beer come from the alcohol. Alcohol has approximately seven calories per gram while carbohydrates have about four per gram. So, if you lower the alcohol and leave more of the flavor producing carbohydrates in the beer, you can brew a light beer with flavor.