Nathan Berrong works at CNN's satellite desk and writes Eatocracy's beer column, "Berrong on Beer." He Tweets at @nathanberrong and logs beers at Untappd.
Last week, a class action lawsuit was filed against Anheuser-Busch InBev, claiming that several of the company’s beers had been watered down with the intention of lowering the alcohol level. If the allegations are true, the alcohol percentages advertised on the labels are incorrect, which is a violation of state and federal laws.
CNN affiliate KSDK and other media outlets conducted their own tests on several of the beers in question and found the ABV to match what is listed on the label. This would seem to make the lawsuit bogus, but the plaintiff's attorney, Josh Boxer, stands by the suit and will continue to defend his clients’ allegations.
Regardless of the outcome of this lawsuit, the takeaway for me is this: Would anyone notice if their Budweiser, Bud Light, Michelob, etc, was actually watered down? Would it really affect the taste of the beer? And when you choose a beer to drink from your local beer store, refrigerator or restaurant, what causes you to pick one beer over another? The simple answer for me - it’s all about the taste. But it also goes much deeper than that.
When it comes to taste, I want my beer to taste like something. Something tangible. Something familiar. If asked, I want to be able to describe the taste to others. Ask any drinker of macro lagers to describe the taste of said beers and the most common response will invariably be “it tastes like beer." But what does beer actually taste like? There’s not a simple answer to that question, but a starting point would be looking at the four main ingredients required to make beer: water, malt, yeast and hops.
Many large-scale breweries also add up to 30% rice or corn syrup to the brewing process. These are known as adjuncts and something that is generally frowned upon in the craft beer world. They're viewed as cost-saving ingredients, rather than something to impart more flavor into the beer. Having said that, water and rice are the two main flavors I detect when drinking something like a Budweiser or Michelob Ultra - two ingredients that hardly contain any flavor at all.
If one of these beers was to be watered down, as the lawsuit alleges, I don’t believe I would notice a difference. There’s a Jim Gaffigan joke where he riffs on bottled water and it goes something like “this is more watery than water." That’s what I imagine a more watered down version of Budweiser to taste like; “this tastes more Budweiser-y than Budweiser."
After talking about the lawsuit on CNN Newsroom with Brooke Baldwin, my friend Tes, a loyal Budweiser drinker, responded to me saying, “I do care about the taste and, as a lover of Budweiser, I choose to drink it because sometimes I want a beer to taste like nothing but still have alcohol in it.” I have to agree, it tastes like nothing in particular and that’s not necessarily a bad thing. It’s just not usually what I’m looking for when choosing a beer.
The beers I seek out have flavors ranging from grapefruits - a common descriptor for many IPAs - to coffee and chocolate, found in various imperial stouts. There are Christmas-style beers that taste of gingerbread and subtle English mild ales that have flavors of toffee and caramel. These are flavors that are familiar to most and can be identified easily when drinking the beer. I cannot say the same about the beers listed in the lawsuit.
Besides taste alone, there’s a myriad of other reasons why I typically shy away from the mass-produced lagers. I like supporting small, independent breweries that are creating unique beers and experimenting with new styles and/or brewing techniques. I want to support breweries that don’t resort to misogynistic depictions of women in their advertising or merchandise. I try to drink local when possible and visit breweries and brewpubs, something that’s difficult to do when drinking beer made in a factory hundreds of miles away.
I love the fact that, by and large, the craft beer community is just that, a community. Brewery collaborations happen all the time, even foregoing legal battles all in the name of furthering this little beer movement. Can you imagine AB-Inbev collaborating with SABMiller (Miller-Coors) on a beer? The two companies share a fierce rivalry akin to that shared between Coke and Pepsi. But in the craft beer world, it’s extremely common to see breweries like Dogfish Head and Sierra Nevada, two of the largest craft beer companies, working together and creating a new beer. These are just a few of the many reasons why I choose to drink the beers I do.
I value the taste of beer more than anything and that usually means beers that fall under the definition of craft breweries, but not always. AB-Inbev, the owners of Shock Top, brewed a great apocalypse-themed beer last year, called End of the World Midnight Wheat. I also regularly seek out Goose Island beers, who lost their craft brewery status after being purchased by AB-Inbev in 2011. Their change in status won’t affect my decision to drink their product so long as they continue to brew quality beer and operate the same way they always have. And then sometimes I just want a beer that tastes like nothing. And that’s OK, too.
Why do you choose to drink the beer you do? Please let me know in the comments below.
Started drinking, when depending on you age you either got 3.2 or 6%. Went to Germany for 3 years, got spoiled, came home and to drink a Genny, Little King, etc. took 30 more years before I could find anything worth drinking. The micro and craft brewers rule! If you're ever in Dayton, Ohio stop by Belmont Party Supply and the shop next door, Brewtensils, you will not be disappointed.
In the early 1990s, Moosehead Light had a great radio commercial: "How does a drinker of other light beers know it's time for their next beer? They think, 'Hmm, that sip wasn't as wet as the last one.'"
A buddy once said "Life's too short to drink industrial beer." Amen to that.
Personally the best tasting beers generally have the highest alcohol content, but that means that one doesn't need to drink nearly as much to have satisfied their taste for beer than they would if they drank the awful ordinary stuff, or even worse the "light" rubbish put out by the likes of Budweiser, Miller, etc.
The most effective solution perhaps is to brew one's own. beer. Used to do that while living in the U.K., where brewing materials were easily available, and one could alter the recipe to suit one's own personal taste.
Wow, Miller and Bud, the most powerful and highly advertised beers on the market are hmm, surprisingly the worst tasting beers out there. Gee, perhaps thats why they need to advertise so much. There is such a diverse selection of micro-brews out there that tastes a hundred times better than the watered down dog-S that is shoved in our face with these horribly thought up tv and radio ads by the previously mentioned. Yet good ole folks still lap it up. The dumb keep getting dumber and the rich keep getting richer, but to each is own I guess.
One minor point the author missed here – corn, and to a lesser extent, rice, aren't necessarily used as cost saving measures in brewing American Light Lagers like Bud. Especially with the increasing demand for corn for ethanol, corn is actually a more expensive ingredient than barley is – I'm not entirely sure how rice compares.
However, both corn and rice add a much more subtle, more light flavor component than barley does, which helps make American Light Lagers taste like, well, American Light Lagers, rather than German lager styles (like Bocks) that are much more malt-forward.
I'd rather drink Schlitz than milk from God's nip-ples
I'd rather drink Schlitz than milk from God's nipples
Beer Snob complains about Beer.
More news at 11
Beer snobs come in ALL varieties. I like to play the "taste test" game with the worst offenders. Your at a party, the guy drinking Bud Light makes some disparaging remarks about the other guy's Miller Lite (or vice versa). Something along the lines of 'How can you drink that swill?"
Last time I was able to line up in a blind taste test Bud Light, Miller Lite, Mich Ultra and ABNL (aka Natty Light). Six guys. The most ANY of them got right? 1 out of 4. Why? THEY'RE ALL THE SAME! Most common mistake ... thinking the Natty was the Ultra.
And my favorite? The guy that thought the Natty was the Bud Light. So, dude, you want an ABNL? F no! I won't drink that p!sswater, they don't call Bud the King for nothin'. OMG, you loser .... first of all you're drinking Bud LIGHT, not Budweiser. Let's not even mention the fact that your couldn't pick your precious Bud Light out of a line up of only four beers.
Last night had a beer from Portland Brewery, Rose Hip Gold, Belgian-style pale. Soooo good.
There must be some truth to it. Back in the sixties/seventies a common comment on the taste of this brand was said to be "It tastes like P*ss water".
I have always understood that American Beer tasted like Moose pee pee with the exception of microbrewers American beer is horrible..
“I do care about the taste and, as a lover of Budweiser, I choose to drink it because sometimes I want a beer to taste like nothing but still have alcohol in it.”
Hmm. That's a very alcoholic thing to say, especially when sometimes becomes all the time and any alcohol will do, including rubbing alcohol.
An American tourist walks into a London pub and asks the barman if they have American beers. The barman says no. The tourist then asks if they have anything like American beers. "Sir," the barman replies, "we have tap water."
As a homebrewer I was chatting with a pal the other day about these mass produced beers. I could not begin to think there are enough hops grown in the world for these big breweries, Ha! He says.. The hops are artificial. Said the big Drug Co Pfizer makes them.. Rice corn artificial hops no wonder that stuff tastes so terrible!
A-B InBev (of which I am NOT a fan) is the world's largest purchaser of hops. Your friend is misinformed. MillerCoors does use hop extract, but it is still made from hops.
Budweiser is the worst beer I've ever had.....and I've had a lot. It doesn't really amaze me that so many Americans drink it because so many of them really don't know what they're eating or drinking. They dine on 'happy meals' , KFC and drink gallons of sodas with huge amounts of high fructose syrup ,so why not drink this crappy beer too. They're all going to die from clogged arteries, diabetes and other diet related deaths anyway.
Yay, another hipster telling people what they should eat and drink.
Budweiser has had one consistent thing going for it since they began making it. It's always set the "gold standard" for the worst "beer" possible. Pisswater. Plain and simple. Disgraceful substance.
I hear you about the mudweiser. I am an avid home brewer and pretty much drink nothing but my homebrew, and when I'm out, I drink microbrews like Sierra Nevada, Highland's Brewing, Cigar City Brewing, etc. Last fall I went to an out door concert and friend of mine bought a draft mudweiser and I tasted it. Bear in mind, I had not tasted a mudweiser, probably since the 70's. The first think I said to him was "I think this beer has gone bad". He started laughing and said "man, you are a real beer snob, that's what budweiser tastes like". The only question I have is How do they get that beer to taste so awful? There is not one pleasing thing. It is thin, sour, the after taste (the most important part of the beer profile in my opinion) is just miserable. It tastes like something has gone bad in the beer. In homebrew, you call it an "infected batch" meaning bacteria contaminated it, before the yeast stated the fermentation.
When I was a Kid living in Washington State in the late Paleolithic Era; All you could Buy was REALLY Bad Beer – like OLY or Ranier – You had to drive across the State Line just to get COORS which was considered BETTER Tasting. When AB brought BUD to Our State we thought it was an Improvement. NOW in the NEOLITHIC Era; after I made some Beer and Decades of Microbrew Beer at the Local Pubs – I can't Drink that Commercial SWILL Anymore.
Oh god, Rainier was horrible! My dad drank the stuff all the time. When I was little (like 4), he let me take a sip of it. It was so bad I didn't drink beer again until I was in my 20s!
I generally prefer watery beers. I'm a Michelob Ultra fan. Tastes like apple cider with a clean kick. But, I also like fish that doesn't taste fishy.
I enjoy good beers too,I will never purchase anything from buttweiser,mgd etc. I enjoy Shocktop and Blue moon and buy them regularly. wheat ales and beers go great with many different foods. There are many a good micro brew,too much to list in fact so ill just keep it short and sweet. Budweiser and other cheap garbage beers are for drunks and alcoholics.
I enjoy good beers too,I will never purchase anything from buttweiser,mgd etc. I enjoy Shocktop and Blue moon and buy them regularly"
Irony is everywhere: Shocktop is owned by "buttweiser", and Blue Moon is owned by MillerCoors. Nice job there! You're really sending a message to the macros! ;)
Shock Top is made by the makers of Budweiser and Blue Moon is made by MillerCoors, so I guess you DO buy from them.
My grandfather told me when I was a little boy that beer tasted like dirty dishwater with a pickle in in....he must have been referring to Bud
Bud, Bud Light, and Coors Light use rice in their brewing process, and no wheat. I know because I have a wheat allergy and can drink them without throwing up. At least from my allergy anyway - sometimes the taste makes me queasy. Corona uses corn. Most other beers use wheat. All are technically considered impurities, which means that most beers Americans drink are just "beer-like" beverages.
It isn't just the alcohol that makes a beer taste good. But the amount in the bottle should match the label. All Bud has to do is change it to "up to 5% alcohol" and they can water it down as much as they want.
the make devices to test the alcohol content , someone should tell brooke & this guy from that website that i dont know how to spell & was hardest website to remember
Nothing beats a cool Red Stripe – the great Jamaican beer... but only the Red Stripe that is brewed IN Jamaica. The Canadian & Penisylvania knockoff versions blow Jamaican goats.
What's the difference between this and the size of the average candy bar constantly diminishing over the past 40 years?
The candy bar doesn't get you drunk after 5, or 15.
That's why I go to World of Beer establishments. Over 1000 beers to choose from in drafts, bottles, and cans from all over the world. Can't remember when I last had a Bud, Miller, etc.
The simple uterance of the brands "budweiser", "miller", "coors", "genny", indicates that the beer is 99.97% water. If the ABV is under 6%, you have urinated your money down the drain (literally).
An ABV under 6% does not mean it's a waste, especially if the goal is drinking good beer without getting buzzed or drunk. There's plenty of great session ales...Stone Levitation, Lagunitas Fractional IPA, Founders All Day IPA...the list goes on and on.
I sent a sample of Budweiser to the local lab. Here's the report...
"Your horse has a kidney infection".
Has anyone else here tried Budweiser Black Crown?
It's darn tasty.
For a short period of time after AB-Inbev purchased Anhauser Busch, they produced a series of near micro brew quality beers sold under the Michelob brand name, one of which was a Porter. They also had a wheat beer and several others that were excellent. They suddenly vanished from the store shelves as quckly as they had appeared. Since then I have never had reason to buy any beer brewed by AB-Inbev. Too bad because they had an amazing product and an excellent price.
Have you?? I won't till you try first..
I have to agree with that, I hate AB usually, but I tried it and I'll be jiggered, it's good!
ImBev should be accused of labeling horse urine as beer.
I have been drinking Bud over 30 years. Each of the places they are brewed have a different taste. The one in Los Angles is the worst. Their taste has diminished (all locations) over the years. If it is not being watered down, what is it? I prefer to get the Japanese beer, Singapore and beer called "Anchor". But not the present one with that name. It had over 12% alcohol and the taste was great. I still drink but, but only it taste better then then the other choices.The others are extremely hard to find in my location. If you know of a place to purchase these beers in NC you can replay to this post and I will be very happy.
I HATED beer when I was in my earlier college years, and I found out why when a friend of mine convinced me to try his beer from the best local brewery in my area, BENT RIVER BREWERY.
I was drinking CHEAP, CRAPPY beer at house parties, bars, etc...
I fell in love with beer when I tried Uncommon Stout, an Oatmeal stout brewed with a good hint of coffee.
Since then, I've been in love with craft beers ever since....
Well Brett, you do have to admit that it would get pretty freakin expensive buying quality beer for a collage house party. Especially on a students get.
When people say that American beer is bad they are referring to only one type of beer and this American lager (pale lager). There are many different styles of beer made in the US. All have European origins and American lager as is know today originally came from German immigrants! Pale lager is popular because it is light and easily drinkable appealing to the masses. If you want more flavor in you beer try ales. They don't all have the super high alcohol content associated with IPAs. I drink only ales and consider even craft lagers to be not that good.
I agree that lagers–even craft lagers–are not good. IPAs are, for me, beer at its highest level, but I also enjoy other types of beer.
There is a time and place for every beer. Here are some examples:
January – A Victory Storm King that warms on the way down while looking at my neighborhood covered in snow.
February – A Belgian Triple because it is still freezing outside.
March – Fuller’s ESB to help pass the time until spring comes.
April – Any American Amber to celebrate the return of warm weather.
May – Pilsner Urquell with fish on the grill.
June – A Budweiser in a plastic cup paired with a hotdog at Camden Yards.
July – Coors Light so cold that there are ice crystals in it at the beach.
August – A super hoppy IPA perfect for hot days and cool nights.
September – A Sierra Tumbler brown ale while watching the trees turn.
October – An English Mild while raking leaves.
November – A smoked porter with some kick to it to stand up to Aunt Maggie’s roasted turkey.
December – A Bigfoot barley wine that is strong enough to make me act foolish in front of family.
Wow – you completely hit the nail on the head, in every case. You must be my brother from another mother.
Got to agree with the author. I like full bodied beers. If all someone has is Bud or Coors in the fridge, I'll have a glass of wine please...
Since I started brewing my own beer, I am a bit of a beer snob. To me, nothing beats a good IPA, although I do enjoy a good beer no matter what the style is. I usually have a sixer of Miller Lite in my fridge–they function well as Bloody Mary chasers. Cheers!
I keep a six of domestic swill in my fridge to keep my low rent friends out of my good beer.
I find that darker beers go best with the dank buds I like to smoke. But maybe it's just me.
Best comment I've read lately!
Agree: people who are real beer drinkers like to drink REAL beer that has a describable taste. I have said for 30 years Bud was watered down (really or just tastes like it is!) and I could tell the difference blindfolded from a Bud/Coors/Miller/etc. (feeling Miller High Life is a good beer for certain days). People like coffee like particular coffee, same with tea, etc. and Pepsi vs. Coke. Beer is a wider variety of differences, and some people can like many different kinds, but the fun is trying something new.
I hope you aren't putting down Bud and calling Miller/Coors real beer in the same sentence. That's just silly. Miller/Coors/Bud are almost identical. Sure you can tell the difference, but they are all barely beer. Drink some craft beers and different types of beer (not made by a macro brewery). It'll open your eyes.
I'm surprised they weren't sued for adding beer to their bottled water first.
surprised all this talk about Budweiser isn't in Spanish
Let us all agree to disagree. I never disparage another man's (woman's) beer. Let us all rejoice that there are many, many different beers, for many, many different people to enjoy. Maybe another's favorite beer tastes like swill to you, but as long as that beer makes that other beer drinker happy, I say REJOICE... and have another beer! Amen!
While in London, I noticed how popular US Budweiser was with the ladies. They were all drinking it. So, when I was at dinner in a restaurant with a bunch of guys in Texas, one after one, they ordered their national drink...Bud Lite.
When it came to my turn, I asked if they had any "Men's beer."
Cool story bro!
We spent the majority of our honeymoon in Belgium (I knew I married the right women when she allowed me to plan the honeymoon around beer!). We sat down at an outdoor restaurant in Brussels. When the watress realized we were American, she immediated asked if we wanted "diet beer". Pretty sad.
I have lived in China for nearly a decade and beer here ranges from watery to about 5%. I prefer the beers from north China, but there are a few good ones from the south. One particular is HaiZhu, which I heard is brewed by a Japanese JV brewery. The reason I mention China beers is that last year a very nice American man told me that he thought a great business opportunity would be would be micro-breweries because Chinese beers are no good. This man had travelled China extensively and I was very surprised when he said there were no good beers in China. I say this because in my opinion, American beer is very average at best so I didn't agree with him but I didn't say anything. In the end, I rationalized people like a taste that they are used to and it's no big deal. I'll drink a Bud if I am thirsty, but it would be nice if tasted more like beer than water. Cheers from China – Gan bei (bottoms up)!
I am in China, too! The beers here are just plain awful. When I have to look at the back of a bottle to see if I can even find a beer over 4% ABV, its a sad state of affairs. Recently, I have heard there are a few nice micro brews popping up. I've heard its possible to get some western microbrews on Taobao, too.
You ought to give Qingdao Stout a try! It reminds me of Spaten Optimator and is quite a nice brew for a large Chinese brewer. It's my go to here in China!
There were no outside consultants used to test levels of anything. This is a flagrant nuisance lawsuit meant to bring AB down a bit. To each his own as far as taste...but I will pit American Beer Snobs against any in the world...we have really set the standard there.
good, because Bud just sucks.
C'mon Scrape...you can do better than that. Most of these Budweiser detractors have at least a paragraph to give their opinion of an American-Union-made-Missouri company like AB.
No, I think "sucks" pretty much sums it up.
Budweiser is for peasants....and there are so many of them.
I never drank beer till i turned 21 because all i knew was miller, bud and coors. i had tried em but were all terrible. The first time I stepped into a Binnys Beverage d Depot chnaged my life after i found the magic that is craft beers
All I'm going to say is if you haven't tried Old Chub, then you don't know American beers. Old Chub! (should be screamed from the highest peaks of the tallest mountains). Discovered it this weekend at the Austin Specialty Beer Fest...fun to say, delicious to drink.
Bud Light is for drinking during a softball game to warm you up for real beer afterwards.
OLD CHUB! Rolls off the tongue, looked it up...looks interesting will have to try. Thanks
Don't forget the Brits, they make some very fine brews as well. Big fan of Boddington's. It's a nice cream ale out of Manchester I believe.
Better still – the Belgians!!! Give me a tasty Chimay, or a Delerium Tremens and I'm a happy camper!!
Mmmm, I love a good Cornish bitter.
Hey Bluto, guess who owns Boddingtons? Take a wild guess.
Just because something is popular (being the company advertises the heck out of it – basically brain washing a lot of people) has absolutely nothing to do with it being a quality product.
Also goes for the game you're watching while inebriated
I was with you up to here: "I want to support breweries that don’t resort to misogynistic depictions of women in their advertising or merchandise."
Man how I miss when showing attractive women in commercials wasn't labeled as misogynistic depictions by "new-age" men who want to remove any shred of human nature from us. We are attracted to hot women. Why do you fight it?
I'm with you on this one. Political Correctness has run amok.
Would there be a lawsuit filed against McDonalds if the BigMac had less fat contained in it than listed on the label?
I could understand suing if it had more alcohol than labeled, but not fractionally less.
This is just America suing over everything. In addition to better gun control, lets have better "stupid lawsuit" control.
Bad analogy. With McDonald's most people view the fat content as the maximum you'd want to see. With beer, the alcohol content is the minimum desired. So you'd sue McD's if the fat content exceeded the labeled value and with a brewer you'd complain if the alcohol content was lacking.
I am a homebrewer, and I try to drink what I make before anything else. I think my beer is better than the local craft brewery, and in that regard, I am not alone.
Homebrew is a great hobby, and poses not threat to the industry, yet in Alabama and Mississippi, brewing your own beer is technically illegal. Something all homebrewers hope will change soon.
Kudos on the article. I couldn't agree more.
Forgive the crappy grammar. I am an engineer, not an english major.
That's all right. I know seven engineers and only one of em can spell
American beer is like making love in a canoe. It's f*ing close to water. ~ Eric Idle
Eric Idle must not have tried an American beers since the 80's. I'll put American beers – especially West Coast American beers – against any beers in the world.
Yuck. Watery, imitation plasticky corn syrup
I'm a huge IPA fan. I love Lagunitas and Stone (West Coats brews in the hizouse...). I'll put CA breweries against any in teh world.
Having said that, I worked land-scaping in the summer in Las vegas during college and, after digging holes in rocky ground and laying in irrigations systems when it's 115 degrees in the shade – man, an ice cold watery bud at one degree above freezing really hist the spot. Fact is, the temperatures in the Southwestern US is why American beers evolved to be watery in the first place.
At that point you might as well just drink actual water.
On the site, yes. But afterwards you want to get snokered. It was college, after all.
When I drink beer I do it to get drunk with friends. I don't care what it tastes like and prefer no taste to some concocted bitter slag. If it doesn't have the alcohol I paid for then Houston, we have a problem.
Drink whiskey or vodka. You'll get drunk faster.
Funny some of the "bitter slag" as you call it have higher alcohol content than most watered down bud beers. Lagunitas Maximilian is at 7.5%, or Hop Notch also 7.5%. You should just admit that you have no taste, that is what it boils down to.
I'm thinking he/she did just that.
I believe beer, like Scotch, is an acquired taste. I have never been able to "acquire" either...
Statistically men prefer the bitterness of beer more than women. While there are exceptions, most women prefer the sweeter alcoholic drinks.
I prefer women to the bitterness of beer.
I prefer beer to bitter women
Well then you should try Bitter Woman IPA by Tyranena, LOL!
Try craft hefeweizens or dunkelweizens. Not "American Wheat" but cloudy weizens. I hated beer until I visited Germany. Most of what you'll get in the States can't compare to German, BUT it beats the bitter stuff we hate!
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