Both light beers from the famous Michelob brand, there are bound to be questions about which is the better option. While the Michelob Ultra has raced into a clear lead on the sales chart, does it actually taste better than the Michelob Light? We will address that in detail in this article, but before then, check out this quick answer.

Michelob Ultra and Michelob Light are light American lagers. Michelob Light has an alcohol content of 4.3%, while Michelob Ultra has an alcohol content of 4.2%. Michelob Light is the heavier of the two beers in terms of calories and carbs. While both beers use similar ingredients, Michelob Ultra has the lighter, more refreshing taste of the two beers.

That’s a quick answer to the question, but it doesn’t tell the full story of both beers. Below, we will duly examine key aspects of both beers, including their history and how they are classified. Then, to properly compare the two, we will consider their beer characteristics, including flavor, aroma, mouthfeel, calories, alcohol content, and appearance. Keep reading!


In 1978, AB InBev introduced Michelob Light into the market. This was the company’s first entry into the light beer market, which, I must say, took off a couple of years before that. Americans were increasingly favoring light and diet beers because of the increased awareness of their calorie intake.

However, Michelob Light did not take the market by storm or come close to the lofty expectations AB InBev set for it. The company would later focus its marketing on Bud Light, which was a lot more successful after its debut.

About two and a half decades after Michelob Light was first developed, it was clear to the Michelob brand that their light beer market was dying and fast too. In an effort to salvage its light beer line, the brand launched Michelob Ultra in 2002. This new beer was originally targeted at adults on an Atkins diet. However, the brand’s marketing focus changed to younger individuals barely two years later due to the beer’s massive popularity among that audience.

Since then, Michelob Ultra has continued to widen the gap between it and Michelob Light. In fact, Michelob Ultra has challenged every top beer in the United States and is very much holding its own too. It is the fastest growing beer since Bud Light and is currently one of the few beers on a steady increase.

Today, Michelob has essentially discontinued marketing of Michelob Light, centering their efforts on pushing Michelob Ultra from its current fourth position on the beer sales chart to number one. And I don’t blame them, given the insane rise of Michelob Ultra.

Beer Classification

Both of these beers are lagers. This is the first step to classifying any beer, and it hinges on the technique brewers use when brewing. There are two broad types of beers – lagers and ales. The former uses bottom-fermenting yeast at low temperatures, while the latter uses top-fermenting yeast at warm temperatures.

Since Michelob beers use the bottom fermentation technique, they are lagers. Next up is the more specific classification.

Michelob Light and Michelob Ultra are both light American lagers. There’s not much surprise there, as they are both light variants of the same beer brand. They are classified as light American lagers 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.

This classification is based on the guidelines of one of the most reputable beer certifying organizations, the Beer Judge Certification Program (BJCP).


Michelob Ultra and Michelob Light have fairly similar flavor profiles. The major difference is basically one beer being stronger in flavor notes than the other. The more intense beer here would be Michelob Light. Let’s go into more detail about their flavor profiles.

Both beers have mild citrusy flavors. You may not even notice them at all if you drink the beer rapidly. Michelob Light has the more prominent flavors, but that’s not saying a lot since Michelob Ultra is virtually as close to water as you would get in a light beer.

While neither of the beers is particularly sweet, Michelob Light is definitely the sweeter of the two beers. You could even describe the beer as semisweet and can feel pale malt notes if you try hard enough to discern a taste. Although Michelob Ultra cannot be said to be sweet, it is not close to bitter either. None of the beers have a bitter aftertaste, which is often an admirable trait among light beers.

Michelob Ultra uses rice as a grain adjunct, although that doesn’t contribute too much to its flavor. On the other hand, Michelob Light appears to use corn as an adjunct. You may actually notice corn notes when you pay close attention when drinking. All in all, the adjuncts the respective beers use aren’t really significant in their eventual taste.

Both beers are watered down compared to the regular Michelob beer. They are also both refreshing and crisp beers, and you will enjoy either on a sunny day.

It’s hard to pick a clear winner in terms of the better-tasting beer. Michelob Light has a more prominent flavor, but that doesn’t necessarily make it better than Michelob Ultra. If you’re going for a light beer with little flavor, Ultra would be the clear winner. Michelob Light may suit you better if you prefer your beer to have a little more character.


Both of these beers are carbonated and refreshing. There is no bitter aftertaste with both beers, although Michelob Light leaves a longer-lasting impression on the tongue. They are both light beers and don’t feel heavy in the mouth. There is really no clear difference between the two beers here.


They both have no smell, basically. Yes, there may be a mild citrusy aroma if smelt very hard for very long, but let’s be serious; no one will actually do that. Naturally, you wouldn’t perceive any real smell from both beers.


This is an interesting segment as they are both light beers of the same brand. Michelob Ultra is perhaps the lightest in calories of all the major light beers in the United States. While it holds a tie with Bush Light when measuring calories, both at 95, it’s not close in terms of carbs. Michelob Ultra has 2.6g of carbs in a can. How then does this compare to Michelob Light?

Michelob has stopped marketing Michelob Light, so it is difficult to know the amount of calories the beer contains. Notwithstanding, multiple reports suggest Michelob Light has between 100 and 120 calories in one can of beer. Irrespective of the actual value, it most surely is less than Michelob Ultra’s.

Therefore, Michelob Ultra is the way to go if you’re looking for a more diet-favorable beer.

Alcohol Content

As you would imagine, this measures how much pure alcohol beer contains. It is measured in alcohol by volume (ABV). According to the BJCP, light American lagers have between 2.8 percent and 4.2 percent alcohol.

Comparatively, Michelob Ultra has 4.2% ABV, while Michelob Light has 4.3%. There is only a slight difference between the alcohol content values of both beers, and you will not notice any difference on this front when you drink in moderate quantities. The difference is only magnified in relatively large amounts.


Both beers have a pale, medium-yellow straw color. However, Michelob Ultra appears to be marginally paler than Michelob Light. The difference is barely noticeable under normal conditions. They also have the same amber bottles.

The surest way to differentiate them from just looking is through their labels.

What Do People Think About Both Beers?

This is an important question we need to ask about the two beers. While public opinion is in no way absolute, it offers relevant indication about which of the two beers is actually better. As we cannot get the opinion of every human who has tried the beers, we will rely on online beer review platforms.

PlatformMichelob LightMichelob Ultra
Average Score6.16.2

Michelob Ultra takes the lead here, albeit a small one. Honestly, I’m a little surprised the ratings are this close, considering the massive difference between the two beers on the sales chart. Let’s dig in for more context.

The first four platforms are the most experienced platforms on the internet today, reflecting the views of older and more experienced drinkers. From the results, the beers take two platforms each. That’s basically saying older audiences aren’t entirely convinced there’s a better beer among the two.

The final platform on the list reflects the views of less experienced drinkers, and Michelob Ultra takes the win here. This does not surprise me, as Michelob Ultra has always been hugely popular among younger people.

Final Thoughts

Forget the brand success or a moment; Michelob Ultra and Michelob Light are not that far apart in beer characteristics. Michelob Light is the heavier of the two beers and has a more prominent taste to show for it. Its counterpart, Michelob Ultra, is more refreshing and watered down.

In terms of which is better, though, I have to go for Michelob Ultra. I think its unique taste is simply better than Michelob Light. Then, it’s the far more nutritious beer too.