Unbearable LitenessA light-beer competition yields disconcerting results.BAR TABBy Max LinskyThree weeks ago, I was put on a diet. 1,500 calories a day. 1,500 calories a day.
It's been tough, but I've kicked bread. And cheese. I've cut out pizza, pasta, chips, pretzels, candy, Rice Krispies - I've even cut off a profound relationship with Eggo waffles. (O how I miss you, sweet golden discs of love. We'll be together soon.)
But I haven't parted with beer. Not even close. My father had a beer every day when he got home from work - it was a value instilled in me from a very young age. And I'm not about to stop now. As they say back in New York, diet schmiet. I'm having my fucking beer.
But, of course, I don't need to have a black-and-tan every night. I'm committed to the diet, and just one of those tasty shakes will have me tipping the scales. So it's time to find out, once and for all, which light beer is the best.
Our highly scientific ranking system was based on four criteria: carbs, calories, alcohol content and taste. The factors were weighted in ascending order, the most important being taste. Each of the 11 beers was given a 1-11 ranking, and the final tally determined the overall winner, like gymnastic judging in the Olympics.
That's where the athletic comparisons end.
To be as accurate as possible, I set up a blind taste test with a motley assortment of Planet staffers, who ranked the beers on a 1-10 scale. We had an avowed Bud Light man, a guy who'll drink anything, a dutiful boss who was funding the experiment and a young man whose beer of choice is cider (think of him as the control).
We ran the gamut from "good" beers (Beck's Light) to Busch Light, which one staffer claimed he "wouldn't even drink when I was in college." We were brave. We were honest. And by the end, we were shocked.
THE LOSERS Sam Adams Light (Taste: 4.2, Cume Score: 13.1)
An early favorite before the competition began, the beer that's "always a good decision" turned out to be a very bad idea. It was an upset of monumental proportions, which proved, finally, that real beers have no business going on diets.
Busch Light (Taste: 3.3, Score: 14.3)
Though it came in last place, one would have to consider beating Sam Adams a moral victory for this notoriously crappy brew. Well done.
Beck's Light (Taste: 3.6, Score: 16.85)
Another disappointing performance. Beck's was panned by the panel, prompting one staffer to even question its designation as "light." "Nonexistent," he thought, would be more accurate.
Bud Light (Taste: 4.2, Score: 20.8)
Senior Editor Eric Snider, a Bud Light drinker for 20 years, became a living Miller Lite commercial after calling out his favorite beer as having "not much taste." Nothing earth-shattering there, but Snider did rank five of the 10 other brews above the BL. No word on whether a switch is planned.
THE MIDDLE OF THE ROAD Amstel Light (Taste: 4.2, Score: 25.55)
On the health front, Amstel Light did okay, but was crippled by a frighteningly low alcohol content. The system worked here - it doesn't matter if the carbs and cals are down if you don't get a buzz.
Michelob Light (Taste 5.5, Score: 28.7)
Though several tasters enjoyed Michelob's lack of skunkiness, its total score was hurt by one review. "The taste of the water the glass was washed out with overpowered the taste of the beer." Ouch.
Yuengling Light (Taste: 7, Score: 31.65)
Yuengling was a crowd favorite, drawing rave reviews in the taste test (including one "Hallelujah!!"). But like Amstel, its high hopes were crushed by a lack of booze.
Corona Light (Taste 4, Score: 31.75)
Buoyed by the highest alcohol content (4.5 percent), Corona snuck to the top of the draw. It'll do the trick, but, according to one judge, it tasted "like stale ginger ale with a touch of, um, skunk." Delicious.
Coors Light (Taste: 4.6, Score: 33.7)
With decent marks across the board, Coors Light shot to the top by staying decidedly inoffensive. Which, sources tell me, is exactly what Coors Light aims to do.
THE HEAD OF THE CLASS Miller Lite (Taste 5.7, Score: 42)
With high marks in taste, cals and carbs, Miller Lite rose above the rest of the generic light beers. It may have been the crispness, it may have been the flavor. And after all, it's "lite."
AND YOUR WINNER... Michelob Ultra (Taste 6, Score: 44.35)
Yup, that's right. The beer that everyone loves to hate was our winner. To be fair, it had some advantages. It was last in the taste test (when buds were most numb) and its low-carb tagline proved true (nearly a full gram lower than anyone else). But this win was a shocker, no doubt about it.
Congrats Mich Ultra, you're gonna have to get me through the rest of this wretched diet.
Special thanks to Bonnie Snider, a woman unparalleled in her kindness.