Budweiser and Busch are two of America’s biggest and most popular beer brands. Both enjoy enormous popularity throughout the United States, with an increasing presence abroad. Although both are owned and brewed by Anheuser-Busch, the two are subtly different in taste and character. Which tastes better? Let’s find out.
Budweiser is an American premium lager, while Busch is best categorized as an American adjunct lager. Both beers are smooth, low in bitterness, and faintly malt-flavored. Budweiser has a little more character to the drinking experience. Both of these are characteristically smooth, drinkable, all-American beers.
There’s more to this American tale of two beers, however. In this post, we’ll look at the key characteristics of both Budweiser and Busch to determine which is the superior beer. Factors like appearance, smell, history, flavor, mouthfeel, calories, brewing process and alcohol content are worthy of consideration.
Chief among the features of any decent beer is flavor.
Both Budweiser and Busch are full-strength American lagers. Both are often categorized as “American adjunct lager”, as they are brewed with things like corn and rice to lighten their overall flavor profile. We took a close look at Budweiser here.
Budweiser and Busch both have soft, feather-light flavor profiles. These beers are designed to quench your thirst and allow for an easy drinking experience. These are not beers to be sniffed and contemplated. This is a beer to drink with a couple of friends on a hot day, enjoying a great conversation.
Neither of these beers has much bitterness, although Budweiser has a little hoppy herbiness to its flavor. Both beers mostly taste of faint malt and grains, like a freshly opened box of cereal.
Keen drinkers will notice that Budweiser has a subtle apple-like fruity note on the palate. This slight hint of fruitiness is absent from Busch. Neither beer is overwhelmingly bready or yeasty in flavor. Busch Light has slightly more corn in its palate, but both beers are very mild in flavor and character.
Busch once described their beer as “clear and bright as mountain air”. This perfectly describes the crisp, easy mouthfeel of Busch beer. It’s thoroughly inoffensive in mouthfeel and feels a little lighter than even the famously light mouthfeel of Budweiser.
Both Busch and Budweiser are low on carbonization, with a smooth, watery approach. Neither beer is designed for you to swish it around your mouth and tickle the tongue. Busch might go down a little easier than Budweiser. Despite being a full-strength lager, it’s probably closer to Bud Light than Budweiser in terms of mouthfeel.
Like Busch, Budweiser is remarkably smooth, clear, and very drinkable.
There’s not much to separate these two American lagers by mouthfeel, but comparing them side by side, it’s clear that Busch is a touch lighter and crisper in the mouth.
Very few, if any, American lagers have the strong aroma of some European beers. Budweiser’s smell is dominated by faint notes of grain, malt, and cereal. It’s like a freshly cut loaf of wholegrain bread, with just a touch of dried herbs.
Busch has some more notes of corn in the aroma, which lends the beer’s smell some sweetness. There are faint notes of sharpness, perhaps some grassier hop scents.
Overall, both beers are light and inoffensive to smell, perfect preparation for their flavor profile.
These days, even devoted beer drinkers are looking at the calories in their beverages of choice.
Budweiser has 145 calories per 12oz can, while Busch beer has only 114 calories in the same volume. Budwesier also has higher carb content, with 10.6 grams per serving, while Busch has only 6.9 grams of carbs.
Budweiser’s ABV of 5% is consistent with that of many other domestic lagers, but not Busch. Busch’s ABV is a relatively paltry 4.3%, more in step with Bud Light or another light lager than Budweiser. Perhaps this lower alcohol content has something to do with Busch’s positioning as the beer for sportsmen and outdoor lovers.
Both Budweiser and Busch look very similar in the glass.
A thin white head rapidly gives way with minimal lacing to a pale, golden straw-colored beer. Side by side, they look almost identical, and most drinkers would struggle to tell the difference without being able to taste the beers.
Budweiser’s packaging bears the beer’s iconic red-and-white branding. To complete the American tricolor spectrum, Busch is packaged in a blue can, adorned with images of mountains and trees. Busch is often marketed as a beer for outdoorspeople, so its packaging reflects this.
Budweiser’s packaging may be simple and bold, but there’s something inherently cool about mountains on American beer.
What Do Other People Think About Both Beers?
Both Budweiser and Busch are brewed in the USA for Americans. We took to the internet to see what drinkers think of each of these American lagers. Ratings are on a scale of 1-5.
Generally speaking, although Busch and Budweiser tend to enjoy close scores across the board, most reviewers narrowly preferred Budweiser. Only Drizly’s reviewers preferred Busch, giving it a higher rating of 9.4.
With a higher rating of 6.1 as opposed to 5.7, Budweiser is the clear leader in the court of public opinion.
One Beeradvocate reviewer had this to say about Bud Light:
‘Certainly crisp, very light and pretty jazzy. Cream ‘i corn sweetness with very lightly malted field grains, more sweetness with a tangy edge and green, herbal, maybe even spice blend, like from Grandma’s kitchen.
Overall: It’s pretty much the classic American adjunct light lager through and through. Personally it’s one and done for me.’Source
Brewing Process & Ingredients
Budweiser and Busch are both bottom-fermented. That means the yeast used in the brewing process sinks to the bottom rather than rising to the top. If you’re curious about the details of Budweiser’s brewing process, we’ve written a detailed guide here.
To make Budweiser, Anheuser-Busch combines the following:
- 30% four-row barley malt
- 40% six-row malt
- 30% rice and purified water.
Budweiser uses 70% Hallertau, Saaz, and Tettnanger hops as well as 30% European hops.
Budweiser traces its origins to the region of Budweis, Bohemia, which is now in the Czech Republic. They’ve been brewing crisp, easy-drinking lagers since the thirteenth century. Adolphus Busch, whose family also lent its name to Busch beer, visited Bohemia and was so inspired that he had to brew this “bohemian-style” lager.
Budweiser records seven discrete steps in its brewing process:
- Brew kettle
- Primary fermentation
- Beechwood lagering (the beechwood chips do not flavor the beer as they are boiled beforehand)
Busch describes their ingredients as “a blend of premium hops, exceptional barley malt, fine grains, and crisp water.” As these are similar beers, the brewing process is likely quite similar.
The origin of Busch beer is inseparable from the story of Budweiser.
The story goes that, in 1953, August Anheuser “Gussie” Busch, then CEO of Anheuser-Busch Brewing, purchased the St Louis Cardinals. He hoped to rename the Cardinals’ home ground, Sportsman’s Park, for his flagship beer, Budweiser. In the early post-Prohibition days, naming a baseball park for a beer brand was unthinkable.
As a compromise, Gussie named the park for his family. Busch Stadium it was.
He then went ahead and released a beer – “Busch Bavarian” – two years later, and when they dropped “Bavarian” from the name, Gussie finally got the ballpark named for his beer.
Budweiser has long enjoyed a solid position as the leading All-American beer for the masses. Everything about the brand, from its legendary Superbowl adverts to its simple, recognizable packaging, screams “middle America”. Even the crat beer boom of the 2010s couldn’t dampen Budweiser’s love of the average American.
Anheuser-Busch brews both Budweiser and Busch. Compared to Budweiser’s branding powerhouse, Busch is a little less secure in its market footing. Budweiser advertisements typically appear around the Super Bowl and American football events. Busch’s foothold in baseball isn’t quite as powerful as Budweiser’s football presence.
Busch is mostly branded as a refreshing drink for the American outdoorsman. The branding of the beer usually evokes snow-capped mountains. Busch sponsors Ducks Unlimited, a wetlands conservation nonprofit. They have also worked extensively with the National Forest Foundation, the nonprofit arm of the US Forest Service. Busch’s wholehearted embrace of the American outdoors is perhaps its strongest branding point.
Budweiser is probably better known than Busch outside of the United States, but the brand has endured some branding issues in Europe. There’s another Budweiser brand in Europe, so to avoid confusion, Budweiser is sold as “Bud” in most parts of the European Union.
These beers are quintessentially American, and their brand image reflects this.
Bud vs. Busch
Ultimately, these beers are pretty similar. If you want a clean, crisp beer to enjoy with some buds and an afternoon of sports, either Budweiser or Busch will make a fine choice.