I’ve often said that my main qualm with the macro brewers (Bud, Miller, Coors) is not that they make bad beer. In fact, they make a very consistent, high-quality product on a gigantic scale. That’s really hard to do with a product like beer.
No, my issue is two-fold: 1) They’ve defined beer as one singular style, and 2) Their interpretation of that style – while extremely clean and refreshing – is not very interesting. So then Budweiser comes out with a new Bud Light…and it’s a wheat beer. That’s a step at remedying my first issue with them. Let’s see how it does on the second one.
First, the formal review. I’ll keep it short and sweet. I’ve done my best to try to judge it by its style…Light Wheat Beer?…like I said, I’ve done my best. Down the hatch!
It has a nice light amber color, darker than I would have expected from a beer with the words “Bud” and “Light” in the name. Pours very effervescent, but retains a surprisingly decent head.
Definite orange on the nose. The aroma is weak, but there. It’s actually quite pleasing.
There is still orange there, but it is not very prominent – it’s definitely a light beer. The profile screams of Blue Moon, no doubt who Bud is targeting with this. The wheat and orange is so slight, though, that it feels like more of an “apology” than an actual flavor note. It ends up coming off flat and a bit acrid because it doesn’t really commit to the orange and follow through.
Very clean, very refreshing. But not terribly interesting.
Surprisingly full for the style and appropriately carbonated.
Overall Impression: 3/4
I was pleasantly surprised, but I can’t say that my expectations were very high going in. One sip, and it is obvious that this beer is engineered to capitalize on Blue Moon’s success, at least from the standpoint of the flavor profile. But it also dances between that and the Bud Light parent brand. And in the end, it underdelivers on the promised flavor of orange peel and coriander.
Final Grade: C (13/20) It’s a Light Wheat Beer…if that’s not a style you’re looking for, then this is not the beer for you. As a footnote, bear in the mind that this beer will more often than not probably be consumed directly from a bottle, so a lot of the tasting notes above kind of go out the window at that point.
So why review Bud Light Wheat, other than for the sheer entertainment? Love or hate the macro brewers, they own the market and therefore shape it. For decades they have stuck to American Light Lager as the singular style for their mainstream brands. But craft brewing continues to grow, and even the macro brewers have tried to get in on the game with their more premium brands (Blue Moon, Michelob).
But Bud is taking their most mainstream brand and adding to its lineup a new style of beer? That strikes me as huge. And as much I and other beer lovers/connoisseurs/snobs might roll our eyes, I propose that this is a good thing. That’s right, I said it. This is great.
Why? Because maybe this will be one more thing that helps get more folks interested in better beer, even if it’s only slightly better than what they are drinking now. The truth is, most Americans only drink American Light Lager because that’s the only option that they’ve been given in the mass market. Once their options are opened – perhaps by a mainstream, trusted product like Bud Light – they might be more likely venture out and try new things like…wait for it…ALES.
It’s the Starbucks effect. Studies have been done that show that when a Starbucks moves in across the street from an independently owned coffee shop, that shop almost always sees their business go UP. Why? Because overall awareness of coffee in that area has been elevated by a known, trusted brand. I have no love for these types of techniques employed by Starbucks (or the macro brewers and their distribution practices), but the data supports this effect indisputably.
Do I think that Bud Light Wheat will change the beer world? No, but I think it’s a recognition of the success of the craft brewing movement and a sign that it isn’t going away. And maybe it will help turn a few more folks on to a world of better beer.
A few months ago, I was at the Dilly Cafe with some friends of my fiancee. I was raving about their beer selection, but it was clear that none of them were big beer drinkers, let alone knowledgeable of things like Belgian sour ales. “Well, what are some beers that you like? Do you like Blue Moon?” I asked. Oh, yeah, they liked Blue Moon a lot when they’ve had it. Before long, they were nose deep in a strange goblet of the challenging, yet very accessible, Tripel Karmeliet. And dammit, they liked it. I’ll have ’em drinking Dogfishhead 120 Minute in no time.
Am I completely off-base? What do you think?