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Wallet-Pinching Light Beers; What Really Matters In Good Beer

Updated on January 31, 2012

Have you ever stopped and wondered what's in that mass-produced American macro brew that your holding? Well, besides alcohol of course. The truth about what's in the popular beers may leave you feeling a bit ripped off.

Real beer is supposed to contain malted barley at its roots, but mainstream companies are taking shortcuts by using a rice-base for their brews. Hops, the flavoring and stabilizing unit of beer, is scarcely distributed in these major breweries products. Some companies use corn as an alternative, which does nothing more than fill you up as a cheap imitation for malted barley. So what exactly are you paying for then?

Rice, water, yeast, and alcohol. That's about it. Unofficial reports suggest that these beers turn out to be more than 98% water in the end products. So essentially when you buy a twelve-pack of Bud Light, you're paying for an overpriced collection of water bottles with a bit of ethanol mixed in. At least you can always rely on it to fill you up.

Light Beer

Light beer is marketed to make you believe that by drinking it, your saving your body hundreds of calories. A good example is the MGD 64 commercial provided to the right. The commercial shows a guy bicycling on a stand-alone bike in order to burn off the calories from the beer he just drank. All of his buddies are standing around him holding MGD 64's, a beer whose marketing worships its low contents of 64 calories. There's only one problem with this. Light beer is called light for a reason. Not only is it light on taste, but its light on alcohol as well. Take a look at the bottles of one of these low calorie beers. Chances are good that they don't include the ABV, or Alcohol-By-Volume, in print on the bottle. The companies themselves are even ashamed as to how little ingredients they are putting into their beer.

According to, one of the most respected beer community websites on the internet today, MGD 64 contains only 2.8% alcohol. In other words, if you want to get drunk you'd better buy a twelve pack of the stuff. Yet herein lies another problem. By the time your trying to rapidly down four or five beers in succession just to feel a buzz, your stomach is going to be so bursting with water that your not going to even be capable of drinking any more. Not to mention the trips to the bathroom you'll be taking every ten minutes for the entire evening.

Budweiser select 55 weighs in at an even lower 2.4% ABV. If your out to get drunk and have a good time, avoid these beers at all costs unless you've eaten absolutely nothing during the day. Otherwise, you won't feel a thing. But how about the taste? Just as empty as the ingredients. Having gone through a few six-packs of MGD 64, I can rightfully declare that each bottle has smelled and tasted of dirty dishwater to me. I also gave the Lemonade version a try, and couldn't force more than two down my throat before giving the rest away. These 'calorie-saving light beers' are ridiculous marketing ploys to get you to overpay for terrible beer. Don't get me wrong, I enjoy a regular Miller High Life or Miller Light every once and awhile to change things up. But the quality of these highly advertised products can be considered abysmal at best.

Both MGD 64 and Bud Select have failing average scores on the beeradvocate website. The scores average between 50 and 54 out of 100, and are collected based on hundreds of reviews.

What About 'Regular Beer'?

As I've shown, these mass-producing companies water down their life's work, hardly flavoring it with hops and providing you the bare minimum of rice grain needed to mask the alcohol. A bottle of Budweiser has an ABV of 5%, which isn't terrible if your main concern is feeling a buzz. But if your like me, I drink for pleasure. I don't want to cringe at the poison in my glass. I want to enjoy the actual taste of the beer. These macro beers seem so fresh and relaxing at the end of a long day because they are served entirely too cold and in typically in a bottle. Drinking beer from a glass, even various types of glasses, gives the brew a completely different taste at times when compared to drinking from the bottle. It all has to do with the shape of the glass and the concentration of liquid at the end of a beer bottle. Miller's Vortex bottleneck is a promising sounding idea, designed to improve the pour and taste of the beer. The reality is much more another marketing ploy. The only discussed benefit of the neck design is that it makes it easier for college students to chug. The ridges do nothing to stir up the taste of the nearly tasteless beer.

Me holding onto the new gimmicky product I experimented with.
Me holding onto the new gimmicky product I experimented with. | Source

I was at the store today, in fact. I was shopping and decided to swing by and see if there were any new spring seasonal releases in the beer cooler. Besides Samuel Adams Alpine Spring, which is actually a decent unfiltered springtime brew by the way, the only new product I saw was from Bud Light.

Marketed as 'Bud Light Platinum', the approach is that of a more alcoholic and sophisticated beverage. While I'll admit that the bottle captures the eyes, it doesn't mean the liquid inside is any better than I'd tasted from the company in the past. Still, I decided to give the product a try. At $6.99 a six pack, it seemed a fair price. My initial thoughts on the beer proved my compulsive buying wrong once again. The beer is absolutely terrible.

This is a good example of how the beer you drink SHOULDN'T look.
This is a good example of how the beer you drink SHOULDN'T look. | Source

Upon my pouring of the beer, I am reminded of the very reason I stay away from this stuff. I might as well have scooped my glass into a dirty lav. and brought it back out. Another urine colored beer to stain my glass. But looks arent everything, I thought. So I decided to give it a good smell; only to realize I couldn't smell a thing. Nothing at all.

Then I began the tasting process, swirling the liquid around a bit and breathing it in through my mouth and nostrils. The brew has a completely watery taste. I'm not even quite sure that the company changed their recipe with the exception of adding an additional percentage of alcohol to the vat. This beer is a plain, bland, fizzy and carbonated disaster. It tastes exceptionally bad in my mouth. And for those of you looking for a buzz? I know our bodies are all different, but I forced myself to drink three of these in rapid succession and I barely felt a thing.

Getting Into Craft Beer

This article is mainly about saving people money by avoiding highly-marketed and publicized brews. These companies even pay retailers for more shelf space in their stores. The explanation of craft beer belongs in a different article. However, I thought it would be informative to include a few tips on introducing yourself to craft beer.

1. Search your local area for specialty beer shops.

Visit a handful of these shops to find out who is fairest in price and selection. Many places will have 'singles' available for you to by, otherwise known as single 12oz beers that can bought instead of a six pack. This is a great try before you invest too much money. Which leads us into our number two.

2. Buy Bombers and Singles at First

Before you invest almost ten dollars, sometimes up to twenty-two dollars, for a 4-pack or 6-pack, see if your shop has singles available. Some beers are only bottled in bombers, which are 650ml to 750ml larger bottles of beer. Bombers are best to split with friends unless you plan on spending the evening in alone. Prices vary based on quality, rarity, company, and store.

3. Don't be blinded by prices

When you walk into the store and see a six pack of Sierra Nevada Torpedo priced at $9 sitting next to a six pack of Yuengling Light priced below six dollars, instincts are going to tell you to grab the least expensive product. But really think about what you are paying for. If you really care about a good, solid beer made with malted barley and fresh ingredients, you'll reach for the more expensive bottle. I have never once been disappointed in the price I spent for a good-quality beer over a poor-quality gimmick. Think in terms of the traditional Beer Advocate review standards: Appearance, Smell, Taste, Mouthfeel, and Overall.

4. Don't be turned off by a single craft beer you didn't like

The joy about craft brewing is that each beer you pick up and try is going to taste different than the last. Styles range from amber lagers to cocoa porters, to triple IPA's to chocolate espresso stouts. Each beer is a new experience. Delaware brewery Dogfish Head takes immense pride in releasing sometimes strange but unique beers. Three Floyds Brewery out of Indiana is also another fabulous brewery that prides itself in unique, flavorful and delicious beers. Any Macrobrew you pick up is going to taste nearly the same, if not exactly the same, as the last.

Recommended Brews

'Regular Beer' such as Miller, Bud, or Coors are fine to drink socially if you don't mind gargling on corn-based water. But I much rather prefer real beer; something with actual taste with a base of malted barley.

I, myself, am more of a lonely drinker. I enjoy nothing more than drinking a few craft beers in my living room while sitting back at the end of the day. My entire list of recommendations for good craft beer belong in an entirely different article, so look for that soon. Based on once again unofficial evidence that I have been told by beer distributors, it is said that two barrels of a solid craft beer contain as many ingredients as 200 barrels of mass-produced beer from Anheuser-Busch; the company responsible for Budweiser, Michelob, O'Douls, and Busch just to name a few. In other words, compare drinking something with 1% flavor to something at 100%. Believe it or not, and it take it as you wish; but I believe it to be the truth.

I advise everyone to truly think about what they are getting out of the money they spend on beer. Low calories beer is tasteless and forces you to drink it in large quantities; thus not really saving you the calories it claims to at the end of the night. I would rather take the extra calories in higher-quality beer, which in turn you can choose to drink less of and still feel good if that is your goal. Drinking beer shouldn't be about washing away your troubles of the day, but more about celebrating the days to come. Take pride in enjoying each and every quality of the beer that you are drinking.

Bell's Hopslam. One of my top beers of all time.
Bell's Hopslam. One of my top beers of all time. | Source

Here is a list of my top 5 favorite beers. Some are seasonal and others are very hard to come by.

Bell's Hopslam - A world-class Imperial IPA brewed with honey. 10% ABV.

Troegs Nugget Nectar - Not even comparable in freshness and taste to any other red ale I've ever had. Wonderfully delicious with notes of grapefruit, citrus, and fresh hops. 7.5% ABV.

Three Floyds Broo Doo - An amazingly different IPA. Light malt with consistent fruit and citrus notes. Thick hops and powerfully flavored. 7% ABV.

Great Divide Espresso Oak-Aged Yeti Imperial Stout - A caramelized black and brown hue that tastes of rich, bold espresso and coffee beans. Robust with a faint bourbon burn. 9.5% ABV.

Victory At Sea Coffee Vanilla Imperial Porter - One of my favorite porters to date, built with a perfect background of vanilla and coffee. Smooth and chocolaty; perfectly paired with dessert. 10% ABV.

Each beer can be viewed with a search on Google, or by visiting Beer Advocate.


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