I consider myself something of a beer nerd. I have more than 2,000 unique check-ins on Untappd. I write an erratically maintained beer blog. I’ve drunk Westveleteren XII, Pliny the Elder, and all the New England hype juice you care to name. I’ve even got a hop tattoo, for Christ’s sake.
So, why is it that the beer you’ll find in my fridge more than any other is… Bud Light?
Maybe it shouldn’t be that much of a surprise. It’s not exactly as if it’s an obscure beverage – it’s the best-selling beer in the US, after all. But why would I, a fully paid up, pastry-stout loving beer geek drink Bud Light? Allow me to explain…
It’s cheap. Even compared to your other stack-em-high, sell-em-cheap brands, it usually rides in a few pence cheaper. While it might not be as cost efficient as your over-carbonated Flemish stubbies, I like the fact it comes in actual 440ml cans and not some dollhouse bottle that I’ll lose down the back of the sofa.
Of course, it’s only cheap because of the economy of scale that its producer (I hesitate to even say brewer), AB InBev, can take advantage of. And while I’d love to just drop in the image of Sonic the Hedgehog surrounded by a banner reading “There’s no such thing as ethical consumerism under capitalism” that I somehow reference all the time, I have to admit, I’m not 100% comfortable with how I’m directing my purchasing power. At the same time, I have nursery fees to pay in suburban London, so my hypocrisy will continue for the foreseeable future. At least I can drink the guilt away!
It’s tasty. I mean, it’s not actually tasty. In fact, it’s a carefully composed study in how not to taste of anything. But that is an achievement in itself. If the world of beer were transposed onto a map, this region of cheap lager would be labelled “here be monsters”. The unwary drinker is assailed on all sides by off-flavours and inconsistency. But Bud Light is pure. There’s none of the fuzzy, fluffy, ricey sweetness that its heavy cousin Budweiser serves up. There’s no skunking, no banana-notes, no cardboard, no butter. It’s crisp and clean, with a mere sense memory of grain and a barely imperceptible nod of the head towards a grassy hop. It tastes of Bud Light and nothing else. It’s pure.
It’s sessionable. Recently, low ABV beer has become big news, with breweries devoted to alcohol free beers emerging to cash in on millennials’ move away from booze and the wish of dedicated drinkers to take things easy every now and then. Some low ABV beers, like the Kernel’s fabled Table Beer, have become legends in their own fermentation time. But Bud Light has nearly all of them beat. Clocking in at a puny 3.5% (in the US it’s 4.2% – we are truly blessed!), this is real table lager, with an alcohol content that gestures back to the weak, sustaining ale of bygone monks and the cask bitters of your forefathers. You can knock back one while you’re cooking and one while you’re eating, and hell, even one while you sit in your pants watching Netflix afterwards, and not even notice the next day. Forget DIPAs and imperial pilsners, this is the true choice of the worker who wants to crush a few brewskies after their shift at the data mine.
It’s low calorie. Look, all I’m saying is, I’ve lost almost a stone since Christmas and it’s not like I’m eating any less chocolate.
It’s got friends in high places. Dave Chang is a food legend who’s made part of his reputation on being a committed contrarian. As Michael Kiser puts it in an essay on Chang’s documentary series, Ugly Delicious, “Dave Chang takes the temperature of whatever room he’s in at the time, then dresses inappropriately for it.” And there is one issue on which he has been outspokenly obnoxious, yet utterly sincere – his love for cheap beer, particularly Bud Light. Why is this? Many reasons, but partly, its culinary power: “It pairs really well with food. All food. Think about how well champagne pairs with almost anything. Champagne is not a flavor bomb! It’s bubbly and has a little hint of acid and tannin and is cool and crisp and refreshing. Cheap beer is, no joke, the champagne of beers.”
If that’s not worth a toast with a frosty can of Bud Light, I don’t know what is.
– Josh Farrington (https://twitter.com/joshfarrington)