I'd like to take a moment to discuss something that I normally don’t write about. But since I get to build a patio cover this summer, probably during the hottest time of the year, I want to talk about Light Beers or what some might call “lawn mowing” beers. I have a feeling I’ll be drinking more of these than microbrews!
What is light beer? Light beer is beer which has been brewed in a special way to reduce the overall alcohol or caloric content, and in some cases, both. Many people drink light beer because they enjoy the flavor or because they believe it is healthier than regular beer. Most light beers are brewed as pale lagers like Pilsner, a traditional Czech lager. Originally, light beers were meant to have lower alcohol contents so that people could enjoy several without feeling intoxicated. Over time, people began to demand low calorie versions of beer and light beers in the sense of “light on calories” arose. Americans now drink more light beer than any other kind and more varieties have frothed up recently to quench that thirst.
I’ve tasted many of these light beers, some of which tasted like sparkling hydrogen peroxide…mmmm. Here are some of my favorite lighter, lower carbohydrate “macro” brews which actually have a more tolerable flavor. All of my information below about calories and carbohydrates is based on a 12 ounce serving.
With only 114 calories and 3.7 grams of carbohydrates, Michelob Ultra “Amber” from Anheuser Busch has some really good qualities. The color is definitely darker than other light beers and has a fuller flavor with hints of caramel and pale biscuit undertones. It's not a mild beer. Consumers who are looking for a no-taste beer to guzzle might not like this one. It has a bitter hint to its flavor, and a nice finish…I also enjoy the 5.0% alcohol by volume. Be on the lookout for three new flavors (Lime Cactus, Pomegranate Raspberry and Tuscan Orange Grapefruit) hitting our markets soon.
Another favorite, weighing in at only 99 calories but 6.8 grams of carbohydrates is Heineken Premium Light. Okay, I’ll admit it, I like the bottle and labeling. The labels are transparent stick-ons, so for consumers with nervous habits, they’re kind of fun to try to remove. The bottle itself seems taller and thinner than a regular Heineken bottle. The appearance of the beer is crystal clear in the glass with a pale, golden yellow color. The smell has a hint of corn, a bit grassy with a crisp-bitter aroma that I associate with the Euro light lager. No skunkiness (hey, I worry, the bottle was green). The taste is crisp and a little bitter (like the smell). The bitterness has that almost “steely” quality to it. It’s richer and better than an American light lager, that’s for sure.
One more from Anheuser Busch is Budweiser Select. This beer was one of my favorite low carb, light beers until their advertisers destroyed its image for me (I’m getting over it now). This beer only has 99 calories with 3.1 grams of carbs (I personally like the 4.3% of alcohol by volume as well). When poured into a glass, it has a very light straw color with a mild, almost non-existent aroma of malt, barley and hint of rice. The taste has little or no bitterness, but you really taste the balance of the malts and barley which masks the typical flavor of the alcohol. This beer has a crisp and refreshing finish which can be enjoyed all day long.
Two light beers on the market which I personally haven’t acquired a taste for (yet), but definitely would recommend a “try it anyway”, are from a couple of big named breweries. The first beer that came out a couple of years ago is from The Boston Beer Company who brings us the Samuel Adams line. It’s still a lager (that’s a little watered down) called Sam Adams Light. This beer has a smooth, complex roasted malt character that with the subtle orange fruit notes from the hops. Having only 116 calories, Sam Adams Light finishes crisp and smooth without any lingering bitterness.
The other beer, just released to us this spring, has to be the first “light ale” that I’ve ever heard of and tried. It’s from one of my favorite breweries, the Redhook Ale Brewery, and properly given the name Slim Chance Light Ale. Even though Slim Chance is considered a light beer, it still has an aroma of raw grain with light yeast “bready” notes. Raw, earthy malts is what you taste first in this beer, but a faint hint of “citrusy” hops and vanilla cream like flavors finish the beer. At 125 calories per serving, this makes a great light beer for those who want to drink out of a microbrew bottle and still watch their weight.
Just a side note, for those that are watching the weight and still crave a beer that’s dark and tastes like coffee, chocolate, roasted malts and toffee, Guinness Draught only has 125 calories per 12oz serving…believe it or not.
You want to have something a little more “orangey” you say? Then Shock Top Belgian White is what you need from our buddies at Anheuser Busch. This beer’s appearance is cloudy and murky along with a golden orange to yellow color. The smell has a hint of wheat and a lot of citrus tones, manly orange and coriander. This beer tasted like a light, wheat beer with an orange fruit flavor. I think what surprised me the most about the flavor of this beer is that the wheat wasn’t overpowering and neither was the orange though is definitely very present, a good refreshing finish.
A returning favorite from Missoula, Montana that’s a “must try” (at least two or three) is Big Sky’s Summer Honey (Great on Tap, if you can find it and let me know if you do). Summer Honey is a full-flavored, summer seasonal ale that is brewed during the early days of spring and released around the first of May each year. This beer is brewed with a unique, balanced blend of spices, Northwest Hops, and Montana honey. There’s a scent of lemon over some hints of malt and sweet honey. The flavor is loaded (but just right) with honey and “wheatish” malt. Floral hop flavors and a bit of lemon zest help to round it out. It finishes surprisingly short and dry given the amount of flavor packed into each sip, and it lingers for a few moments with a combination of malt and floral hops as well as a very light touch of pine. Get these beers while you can, they go pretty fast.
Okay, now I get to tell you about my favorite beer for this summer that you have to try. It’s from the Widmer Brothers who brought us one my “all time favorites” from last winter called “Brrr”. Their new beer is called Drifter Pale Ale of which we won’t talk about calories due to its alcohol content. You can find Drifter on tap around town and in bottles at practically every market. It’s a clear, copper colored ale that has a smell of light hops and a mild malts that give it a buttery caramel scent. The initial taste is characterized by the hops of which “cleanses the pallet” and gets you ready for the “citrusy” flavor of the beer. This beer finishes very smooth and before you know it, your ready for another pint…but watch out, the 5.7% alcohol by volume will get creep up on you.