Taste Test: Light Beer

By Carolyn Malcoun, September/October 2009

These 4 brews sacrifice calories, not flavor.

"I brew my own and dang proud of it.. If I go out it has to be a microbrewery. JHOUGH "

The term “light” is a powerful marketing tool even though it doesn’t really mean much when it comes to beer. Light beer is the fastest-growing beer category in the U.S., taking 48 percent of the market in 2007. So it’s not surprising that some craft breweries, such as New Belgium Brewing Company, Shipyard Brewing Company and Redhook Ale Brewery, have jumped into the light-beer market in recent years—with great success. “Skinny Dip is our best-selling seasonal release of all time,” said Bryan Simpson, media relations director of New Belgium Brewing. Even Michelob has gotten in the game. After their successful launch of Michelob ULTRA, “we saw a clear demand for new light beer options and that led us to create Michelob ULTRA Amber,” says Dan Shannon, senior director of Michelob ULTRA Brands at Anheuser-Busch.

Jim Koch, founder and brewer of Samuel Adams, worked on their light beer doggedly. It’s actually the brewery’s second light beer (the first, Lightship, was on the market for about 12 years) and it took 24 different batches over two years to fine-tune Sam Adams Light. “What I wanted to do was completely rethink light beer,” he said. “I wanted to make a light beer for good-beer drinkers—because even good-beer drinkers occasionally want a light beer.”

And Sam Adams Light is the light beer that won the gold medal in the non-light-beer category. And you know what? It tastes good, as do a few other light offerings on the market. So good that a beer lover like me actually wants to drink them.

Next: Average Calorie Counts for Light Beers »

Get a full year of EatingWell magazine.
World Wide Web Health Award Winner Web Award Winner World Wide Web Health Award Winner Interactive Media Award Winner