The debate between regular beers and their light lager variant has lasted for decades and is not going away soon. It very much applies to Busch and Busch Light too. While the reputation of both beers cannot be called into question, which is the better of the two beers is a very valid question to ask. We will answer it here, starting with this quick answer.
Busch is an American lager, while Busch Light is a light American lager. Being a light lager, Busch Light has a lower alcohol content, bitterness profile, and calorie count. It is also more refreshing and thirst-quenching than Busch. However, as both beers use the same basic ingredients, they have very similar flavor and color profiles.
As useful as a quick answer is, it doesn’t give away the full gist. To decide which of these beers is better, we must first compare them extensively. Here, we will examine their individual history, classification, and brewing process. Also, we will consider beer characteristics, like flavor, mouthfeel, smell, calories, alcohol content, and appearance. Let’s begin!
The Busch brand officially began in 1955 with Busch Bavarian, the first beer Anheuser-Busch made after prohibition. The official slogan the beer ran with was “Clear and Bright as Mountain Air.”
In 1979, AB InBev changed the beer’s name to just Busch Beer, doing away with the Bavarian bit. That was not the only thing the company changed, though, as the beer became lighter and sweeter.
In 1989, the Busch brand fully delved into the light beer industry with Busch Light Draft. Five years later, the brand dropped Draft from the name. The company introduced Busch Light after pressure from fans, who wanted a light beer offering of the original. This was because of the light beer craze in the 70s and 80s and many major beer brands offering light versions of their flagship products.
Today, both beers are among the top ten best-selling in the country. Busch Light occupies the ninth position, while Busch is right behind it in the tenth position.
The first classification step of beers is between ales and lagers. Since Busch and Busch Light are bottom-fermented at cold temperatures, they are regarded as lagers. After this initial classification comes the more specific sub-classification of beer.
According to the Beer Judge Certification Program (BJCP), Busch is an American lager. This is because it satisfies the bitterness, color intensity, and alcohol content requirements outlined in the BJCP guidelines. Precisely, these requirements are an International Bitterness Units (IBU) value between 8 and 18, Standard Reference Method (SRM) between 2 and 3.5, and alcohol by volume (ABV) between 4.2% and 5.3%.
As the name indicates, Busch Light is the light version of Busch beer. It meets the BJCP requirements to be classified as a light American lager. These requirements include an IBU between 8 and 12, SRM between 2 and 3, and ABV between 2.8% and 4.2%.
Neither of the beers has particularly strong flavors. They have a similar flavor profile, which is crisp, balanced, and pleasant. Also, they both have hints of corn. It may be surprising to many that the beers have similar flavors, considering they have different styles. There’s a valid reason for that.
In the 70s, when light beers became a thing, some big beer brands started making light offerings of their major beer. This was also the case with Busch. However, despite fans wanting a beer lower in calories, they did not want a drop in the taste of the original beer. So, Busch made Busch Light in a way to still deliver the classic Busch taste.
Neither beer has a strong lingering bitter aftertaste. Still, the original is slightly more bitter than the light version and may leave a skunky bitter aftertaste for a few moments after drinking.
Generally speaking, while Busch Light feels slightly watered down, both beers have very similar taste and flavor profiles. However, although there’s not a world of difference between their individual tastes, the difference in taste is still quite discernable for experienced drinkers.
Both beers are carbonated, giving a feeling of refreshment as they make their way down the throat. The finish is also dry and clean for both beers.
Since Busch has a higher calorie count and alcohol content, it is the heavier of the two beers. You may notice this if you pay close attention to both beers while drinking. Nonetheless, both beers are very drinkable.
Busch and Busch Light are not very aromatic beers but have a corn-like scent. Busch has a stronger smell than Busch Light, but that’s not saying much, considering Busch is not very aromatic.
Both beers are relatively low-calorie options when you compare them to their peers in the industry. Busch, especially, has 114 calories per 12 fl. oz. (one can) compared to the industry average of 153 for regular beers. Busch Light also follows suit, having 95 calories per can, compared to an average of 104 for many light beers.
Busch has more calories than Busch Light. This is the same trend with the carb content of the two beers, with Busch having 6.9g while Busch Light has 3.2g.
At the end of the day, both beers are light-calorie beers, but Busch Light has fewer calories than Busch.
The alcohol content of a beer, measured in alcohol by volume (ABV), states how much pure alcohol is present in the beer. Standard beers often have more alcohol than light beers. This is the same with Busch and Busch Light.
Busch Light has an ABV of 4.1%, while Busch has an ABV of 4.3%. The difference in alcohol content is 0.2%. If you restrict yourself to one or two cans, you shouldn’t notice any difference in effects. But if you drink large quantities over short periods, that seemingly small difference becomes far more significant. Then, you will find Busch Light more drinkable than Busch.
Busch and Busch Light have a golden-yellow color with a white foamy head. However, Busch has a deeper hue of the two. The difference is quite evident when you place both beers alongside each other in a clear glass cup.
The foamy head dies down fast in the two beers.
Brewing Process And Ingredients
Busch and Busch Light have the same basic ingredients – water, barley malt, rice adjunct, and hops. Also, they use the same fermentation method, which is bottom fermentation.
The difference in calories, alcohol content, and taste between the beers is associated with the individual brewing process of the beers. AB InBev will not make the full details of the brewing available to the public, but Busch Light is expected to use fewer sugars during manufacturing.
The lower the sugars contained in the beer, the less food is available for yeast, and consequently, the lower the alcohol content of both beers. Alternatively, the manufacturing company can use a special strain of yeast that doesn’t produce as much alcohol in the final brew.
The Busch brand is one of the biggest beer brands in the United States. The two main players of the brand are Busch Light and Busch. They both appear on the list of top ten best-selling American beers.
In 2018, Busch Light shipped 6.2 million barrels of beer, having a 3.3% beer market share. On the other hand, Busch shipped 4.2 million barrels, having a 2% market share. This shows Busch Light is the more successful brand.
Both beers have similar marketing and advertising themes, usually for outdoor activities and in nature. This is typified in the similarity between their cans, too. There are mountains in the background of both cans, with the difference being a lighter color in Busch Light.
The Busch brand sponsors Ducks Unlimited, a private organization for preserving wetlands. Also, Busch is associated with the National Forest Foundation, the official nonprofit partner of the U.S. Forest Service.
What Do People Think About Both Beers?
Busch and Busch Light are both popular beers in the country today. Both beers have gained lots of fans and critics along the way. The public opinion of the beers is best reflected by what the beers are rated on beer review platforms. For the sake of this article, we will examine five of the best beer review platforms online.
From the average score of the beers on these platforms, there’s little difference in which beer is better. The first four platforms are the most popular online today. Their ratings reflect what many experienced drinkers think about the beers.
As you can see, both beers take one platform each, scoring the same in the other two. This indicates that many experienced drinkers don’t think there’s a gulf between the two beers.
The final platform there is not as experienced as its predecessors and more accurately reflects the opinions of average drinkers. Again, there’s nothing to separate both beers.
Overall, Busch has a marginal lead over Busch Light. However, just like their sales, branding, and beer characteristics, there is little difference between the beers.
We can say for a fact that both beers are decent offerings. They are both low-calorie options compared to other beers of similar styles. They taste, look, and smell almost the same and there is no clear-cut winner when trying to choose the better of the two.
Frankly, it boils down to preferences. Busch Light is your go-to option if you are a big fan of light beers. Conversely, Busch will be perfect for you if you want a heavier beer than light lagers but not as heavy as typical traditional beers.