Mainstream Brewery Spotlight: Anheuser-Busch’s Budweiser Line Reviewed
Discriminating drinkers aren’t immune from the mainstream, and ultra-micro-craft brews aren’t always available when you’re looking for a six pack at your local convenience store. What then about the biggest beer of them all? Today we look at the complete lineup of Budweiser beers, which now includes six different bottlings. Thoughts follow.
As the oldest beer within Anheuser-Busch’s portfolio, Budweiser defines the very meaning of a “brand.” Not only has the Budweiser name produced off-shoots of varying flavors and target demographics, but the beer’s popularity extends beyond what is contained within the bottle. With the iconic Clydesdale mascots and extensive marketing program, even consumers who don’t necessarily like beer are drawn into the fold.
Just like its commercials, Budweiser Lager is a classic. Anheuser-Busch brews Budweiser and its various siblings with rice, and the impact is readily apparent. The aroma and taste take on a neutral characteristic because of it, but it leans towards sweet as a result of the rest of the malt bill. In contrast to some of the lighter Bud offerings, this original Budweiser exhibits a noticeable graininess in the form of buttery cereal grains that add flavor. While not the focus by any stretch, hop influences creep in the nose and flavor by contributing a light fruitiness and earthy spice. C- / $7 per six-pack
For customers looking for a less-filling option, look no further than Bud Light. Weighing in at around 4.2% abv and 110 calories per 12 oz. serving, Bud Light rests easily on the palate without sacrificing much on the flavor front in comparison to Budweiser. The biggest difference comes in the form of a discernible reduction in the amount of hops that shines through, almost to the point where they are non-existent. In terms of taste, the cereal grains are the strongest players as a result of the lack of hops, giving Bud Light an overall neutral flavor. C- / $7 per six-pack
In 2008, Anheuser-Busch departed from traditional brewing methods with the introduction of Bud Light Lime, which is described as Bud Light with 100% natural lime flavoring. This flavoring doesn’t seem to affect the appearance at all, as it looks nearly identical to both Bud Light and Budweiser before it. But if one wonders if the limes were just a subtle marketing gimmick, fear not, as the aroma is surprisingly refreshing with the addition of a big burst of juicy lime. In fact, the lime is one of the few notes that resonates in the nose, even going so far as to shroud the rice and grain that are so familiar to the brand. The abundance of lime carries over into the taste and delivers an interesting combination of sweet and tart. At times, it tends to take on a somewhat artificial quality. However, the crisp, refreshing feel and light, fruity flavor makes Bud Light Lime a nice pairing for a hot summer day and relaxing after a day in the sun. C+ / $7 per six-pack
In the race to the bottom to reduce the caloric content of beers, Anheuser-Busch fired a shot across the bow of its competitors when it released Bud Select 55. As the name accurately portends, Select 55 contains only 55 calories per 12 oz. serving and an abv ranging from 2.4% to 3.2%, making it one of the least alcoholic beers that is mass-distributed within the United States. Of course, this trade off comes with a price, the most distinguishable being the flavor, or lack thereof. Select 55 suffers from a watered down and weak taste, with little lasting flavor. For some, this may be a blessing; for social drinkers, fears of filling up or intoxication can be assuaged to a degree, but for those looking for a beer to drink for enjoyment and depth of flavor, they’d be better off looking elsewhere. D / $7 per six-pack
Bud Light Platinum serves as the self-proclaimed response to a classier, more discerning clientele, such as patrons to clubs and bars who are looking for top-shelf flavor and are willing to pay a premium for it. Platinum does cost about a dollar more per six-pack than the usual Budweiser staples, but that increase is justified by a hefty bump in alcohol content. Despite the ‘Bud Light’ in the title, Bud Light Platinum seems more comparable to the original Budweiser, as Platinum holds a 6.0% abv to 5.0% advantage on Budweiser for only 8 fewer calories (137 for Platinum to 145 for Budweiser), but this is likely just Anheuser-Busch wanting to push the Bud Light Brand, not diet alternatives. On the palate, Bud Light Platinum is an aggressively carbonated beer that is actually fairly sweet. Rice, malted barley, and a kiss of honey make up the bulk of flavor, but the resurgence of spicy hops lends a cracked black pepper note that cuts the sweetness well. C / $8 per six-pack
As the newest entrant into the Anheuser-Bush stable, Budweiser Black Crown seeks to take the brand in a new direction by using more premium ingredients in the brewing process. Like Bud Light Platinum, Black Crown boasts an abv of 6% and is similarly priced, but features distinctive ingredients to distinguish it from the rest of the Bud offerings. These new additions immediately make an impact, as the hue of the beer is many shades darker and settles as a dark amber color. While the rice graininess still flutters in the background, the aroma exhibits a more complex sweetness in the form of lightly toasted caramel, toffee, and honey balanced by a spicy and slightly herbal hop presence. In terms of taste, Black Crown aligns itself more alongside Budweiser as the new sweetness is toned down and the grain resurfaces. The caramel does linger well into the finish, however, giving Black Crown a noticeable — if still unserious — edge. C+ / $8 per six-pack