Michelob Ultra and Busch Light are two of the top ten selling beers in the United States. These beers have a lot of similarities, including their manufacturing company. However, they are not the same beer, leading to people asking which is better. We will consider that in this article, but before we go into the details, here’s an overview of the beers.

Michelob Ultra and Busch Light are light American lagers. Busch Light has an alcohol content of 4.1%, while Michelob Ultra has an alcohol content of 4.2%. They have the same number of calories per can, but Michelob Ultra has fewer carbs. Also, they are both very refreshing and crisp beers.

This short answer doesn’t do enough justice to which of the beers is better. In this article, we will walk you through the history, classification, and brewing process of these beers. Additionally, we will examine the characteristics of the beers, including their flavor, mouthfeel, smell, calorie count, alcohol content, and appearance. Let’s get started!


In the mid-70s to early-80s, light beers had become very popular in the United States. This was because people started paying more attention to the calories they consumed. Consequently, many significant beer brands made light variants of their beers, including the Busch and Michelob brands.

Michelob is one of the oldest beer brands in the United States, with Aldophus Busch first introducing it to the American market in 1896. This brand was also the first from AB InBev to have a light variant in Michelob Light.

However, Michelob Light did not live up to expectations, and Michelob Ultra was created in 2002 to revive the Michelob light beer brand. It’s fair to say it did just that!

The Busch brand’s first beer, Busch Bavarian, was launched in 1955. This was also the first AB InBev beer after prohibition ended. Fourteen years later, AB InBev made Busch Bavarian lighter and sweeter, but the beer still didn’t qualify as a light beer.

In 1989, AB InBev officially entered the light beer industry with Busch Light Draft, which later became just Busch Light. This step into the light beer industry was a response to the increasing pressure from fans of the original Busch beer who wanted a light beer.

Busch Light is currently the eighth best-selling beer in the United States, with Michelob Ultra holding the fourth position.

Beer Classification

The broadest form of classification of any beer is as a lager or ale. The difference between the two boils down to their fermentation method. Lagers are brewed using bottom fermentation at cold temperatures, whereas ales are brewed using top fermentation at warm temperatures. Considering that both beers use the bottom fermentation technique, they are classified as lagers.

Following this classification, a more precise sub-classification into the distinct lager types is necessary. We will follow the guidelines of the Beer Judge Certification Program (BJCP) for this.

According to standard guidelines, Michelob Ultra and Busch Light are both light American lagers. This is because they have an International Bitterness Units (IBU) value between 8 and 12, a Standard Reference Method (SRM) value between 2 and 3, and an alcohol by volume (ABV) value between 2.8 percent and 4.2 percent.

If you’re interested in knowing more about this type of beer, and why Busch Light is categorized as such, read this post: What Kind Of Beer Is Busch Light? (Explained).


Both the Michelob and Busch brands take the term light beers a little too literally! Seriously, Michelob Ultra and Busch Light are two of the lightest-tasting beers in the industry.

This is not to say they are totally flavorless, though. Busch Light has fruity notes, while Michelob Ultra has a citrusy flavor. Nonetheless, these flavors are quite mild; some may not even notice them. As you would imagine, neither of these beers are bitter, and there are also no bitter aftertastes.

Busch Light uses corn adjunct, the commonest adjunct lager among brewers in the United States. However, it’s not so straightforward to notice the corn flavor, except you’re an expert or drink the beer mindfully.

Michelob Ultra also uses adjunct grains, but rice, not corn. However, their grainy notes are virtually non-existent, and you wouldn’t taste rice when you drink the beer.

Both of these beers are crisp and refreshing. You will find them particularly handy on warm summer days.

Ultimately, it’s a coin toss when it comes down to which is the better-tasting beer. They are both neutral and feel watered down. Still, I’m more inclined towards Michelob Ultra.


Michelob Ultra and Busch Light are both carbonated beers, contributing significantly to their refreshing and crisp mouthfeel. The beers are also dry and clean. Further, they don’t leave any lasting bitter aftertaste.

Because they have a similar calorie count and close carbs and alcohol content values, they feel equally light in the mouth.


Busch Light states that it uses corn in its manufacture, and if you smell it long enough, you may notice some corn and malty aromas. Michelob Ultra has a mild citrusy and malty aroma.

Generally, however, they both smell like nothing, which is not a bad feature for a beer. You will not be able to tell them apart under normal circumstances from just their smell.


Since the 70s, beers have progressively gotten lighter, catering to the dietary needs of beer drinkers around the country. Busch Light debuted in 1989, well over a decade after light beers first penetrated the market. Michelob Ultra came even later, debuting in 2002, to breathe life into the dying Michelob light beer line.

Since both of these beers are relatively recent, especially compared to other significant brands, they are lower in calories than many light beers in the market. According to the official website of the two beers, they both have 95 calories per 12 fl. oz. (one can) of beer. Therefore, they are both excellent options for drinkers watching their calorie intake.

However, when it comes to carbs content, Michelob Ultra takes the throne for the lighter beer. It has 2.6g per can, compared to Busch Light’s 3.2g per can. This is why many regard Michelob Ultra as America’s healthiest beer.

While both beers would be great if you’re on a diet, Michelob Ultra is the lighter of the two beers yet.

Alcohol Content

One of the hallmarks of light beers is having a lower alcohol content than traditional beers. Alcohol content here is measured in alcohol by volume (ABV), simply how much pure alcohol beer has. According to the Beer Judge Certification Program, light American beers should have an alcohol content of no more than 4.2% and no less than 2.8%.

Michelob Ultra has an alcohol content of 4.2%, compared to Busch Light’s 4.1%. While there’s a difference between the two, you will not notice it under normal drinking conditions. It is only with increased consumption that the 0.1% difference in alcohol content starts to reflect on drinkability.


Michelob Ultra has a pale, translucent yellow appearance, which is very similar to the straw-like appearance of Busch Light. You will not notice any significant differences between the two beers. And yes, this is even when they are placed side by side in clear glasses.

The only real difference in appearance is the beer container, which is expected considering they are two different brands.

Brewing Process And Ingredients

Both beers are manufactured by AB InBev, meaning you wouldn’t expect much difference in their brewing process. This is even more so when you consider that they have the same number of calories.

However, their carbs content is different, and so is their alcohol content, meaning they don’t use the same ingredients in the same exact proportions. Busch Light states that it uses hops, barley malt, water, and corn adjunct as its primary ingredients. Michelob Ultra uses hops, barley malt, water, and rice adjunct.  

What Do People Think About Both Beers?

Before we conclude which of these beers is better, it makes sense to examine first what other beer lovers think. For this, we will examine five of the most popular beer review sites online. They are as follows.

PlatformBusch LightMichelob Ultra
Average Score5.96.2

Michelob Ultra leads Busch Light on the rating chart, just like on the sales chart. While the gap between the two may seem large, you’ll be surprised to know there’s more to it. Let me explain.

The first four platforms are the most experienced of these and show the views of older and more experienced drinkers. From the table, Busch Light and Michelob Ultra are equal on three of the four platforms, with the latter taking a slight edge on the last platform.

Considering Busch Light and Michelob Ultra have similar nutritional and taste profiles, it’s not surprising that older drinkers don’t see much difference between them.

However, the final platform on the list, which reflects the views of less experienced drinkers, is very telling. Michelob Ultra blows Busch light out of the water here. Despite their nutritional similarities, many younger drinkers believe Michelob Ultra is better-tasting. It is also logical that younger people consider Busch Light inferior to a diet beer because it has more calories and carbs.

Final Thoughts

Michelob Ultra has made major waves in the last few years, while Busch Light has been one of the most consistent American beers for three decades. They are both great options for people on a diet, even though Michelob Ultra is the healthier option.

I prefer Michelob Ultra too, and it’s hard to see Busch Light beating it anytime soon.