Although Budweiser is not the most sold beer globally or in the United States, the brand is the most valuable beer brand in the US. The ‘all-American’ beer that many consumers enjoy worldwide has a strong foothold on the supermarket shelf and the pub taps; however, does it also taste good?
Budweiser is considered a decent American lager with a low amount of bitterness and a low amount of carbonization. Although this is not very present, it has a slight herbal taste, and the aftertaste is almost non-existent. The beer is very smooth due to the addition of rice as an ingredient, although it could also be described as ‘watery’.
However, that certainly doesn’t answer the question entirely. Below, we’ll walk you through the complete experience of drinking a Budweiser (I’m drinking one while I’m typing this). We’ll talk about the flavor, mouthfeel, smell, and appearance of the drink. Also, we’ll tell you why Stella Artois tastes the way it does. Read on!
I drink Budweiser for the first time a couple of weeks ago in preparation for this blog post (not to get drunk). What I immediately noticed about its flavor is how different it is from European pale lagers such as Heineken or Stella Artois.
First of all, that’s because it’s an American lager which means the flavor profile is herbal, although the intensity of the flavor is very light. This is mainly because part of the malt is replaced by rice (a typical ingredient for American lagers). As a result, the flavor of Budweiser is what the company describes as ‘crisp’. Personally, I have to agree that the beer does taste crips.
However, whether you’re going to like this beer or not depends on your personal preferences. I would say the beer is a bit too watery for my taste. This is also because the bitterness of the beer is very low. For example, it has an IBU of 12 (that’s the scale of bitterness), whereas Heineken, for example, has an IBU between 20 – 24.
The smoothness of the beer, and the deliberate lack of bitterness, are also expressed in the aftertaste of the beer. The aftertaste disappears very quickly (indeed, almost like you’re drinking water).
The lack of bitterness makes the beer smooth and very drinkable. On the other hand, you could say it creates a flavorless or characterless beer. I would say this is a very drinkable beer, but you wouldn’t want to have it all the time.
Another aspect of Budweiser that I thought was very interesting was the low amount of carbonization in the beer. As you’ll be able to see in the video below, Budweiser does have some carbonization. However, the bubbles are rather large and not that frequent.
Usually, I’m pretty happy when a beer has some carbonization but not too much. This is because beers are generally quite bitter, and the combination of high bitterness and high carbonization can sometimes be a bit too much to enjoy the beer truly.
However, I would have liked Budweiser to have some more carbonization. As said, the flavor of the beer is relatively light. One of the ways to compensate for that, or to make the beer more interesting, in my opinion, would have been to add some more carbonization. This would have made the mouthfeel much more interesting to experience.
Instead, the beer doesn’t have a strong flavor or an exciting mouthfeel, resulting in quite a watery beer. Again, very drinkable and suitable for the mass market, although not the pinnacle of beer making.
Then there’s the scent of the beer. Does Budweiser have a smell? Yes, it has a herbal/floral aroma like most beers will have. However, the smell is not that present, and I had to pay close attention to it for it to register fully.
Part of this will be because there’s such a large quantity of rice added into this beer (a grain that doesn’t have a smell by itself) that it diminishes the natural flavor of the malted barley quite significantly.
Another essential part of the beer is the way it looks. Some beers have very recognizable packaging that consumers worldwide are familiar with. I think it’s safe to say that this is also the case for Budweiser. However, I do have some points of complaint on this front.
First, Budweiser is packaged in brown bottles with the Budweiser label. The brown bottles don’t speak to me. In general, I would say that a green bottle has much more style than a brown bottle will have.
Also, the labeling of the bottles (and just the general packaging of the can) is very ‘loud’ in my opinion. There’s a bunch of text on it that clutters the brand to me. It’s almost like an amateur marketing department wanted to communicate so many things they couldn’t seem to decide what was truly important. In general, I would say it feels a bit cheap.
Why Does Budweiser Taste Like This?
In this blog post, we have already explained how Budweiser is made precisely. We learned that Budweiser effectively consists of five ingredients: malted barley, a selection of hops, water, rice, and yeast.
The ingredients that have the most effect on the taste of this beer are the barley, the hops, and the rice. There’s very little to say about the barley because this grain is effectively the same in all lagers worldwide.
Then, there are the hops. The kind of hops that are used heavily influences the beer’s bitterness. Furthermore, some brewers use hop concentrate (such as Heineken), making the beer slightly more bitter.
Budweiser uses actual hops and also quite a variety of them. They have a mix of 70% American hops and 30% European hops. The 70% of hops made in the United States are the Hallertau, Saaz, and Tettnanger varieties. The other 30% of hops are European hops and high-alpha and non-Germanic types such as Willamette. It’s difficult to say precisely how these hops each affect the taste of Budweiser, but they certainly do.
Interesting to note is that, although Budweiser uses European hops, all Budweiser is brewed in the U.S., Canada or the United Kingdom.
On the other hand, there’s regular rice in the beer. Rice is a typical American addition to lager. We would argue this is the ingredient that influences the taste of Budweiser the most. This is because rice is what gives the beer its smoothness. It’s also the ingredient responsible for toning down the beer’s bitterness, which gives Budweiser its characteristic light flavor.
Finally, there’s the yeast that’s used. Budweiser makes use of a form of yeast that’s called Saccharomyces pastorianus. This is a bottom-fermenting type of yeast most commonly used in lagers. Yeast is responsible for turning the sugars into alcohol while also creating carbonization in the beer. Therefore, the level of carbonization in Budweiser is heavily influenced by the yeast they’ve chosen.
Has Budweiser Always Tasted Like This?
For the most part, the Budweiser you drink today is almost identical to the Budweiser that was first brewed in 1876. However, there are some minor differences between these beers.
The main difference is that the Budweiser first brewed in the United States had more fermentable sugars. This resulted in a beer with an alcohol percentage of 5.2% instead of the 5% you drink today. This won’t have made a massive difference in the taste, but it certainly is a difference worth mentioning.
Furthermore, the Budweiser served in the United Kingdom is different from the original American brew. Again, this boils down to the ABV. Bottled Budweiser in the UK used to have an ABV of 4.8%, whereas the draught would have had an ABV of 4.3%. In 2003 this was changed to both types of Budweiser having 4.5%. However, that’s still less than the 5% in the original recipe.
Ever Changing Yeast
Also, it’s important to note that yeast is a tiny living organism (like a bacteria) and that the yeast breweries use are often re-used. Usually, they dispose of yeast after a few uses; however, they still make new yeast from the previous batch. As a result, the yeast used today is very different from the yeast used long ago, simply because the yeast naturally transforms over the years.
Improvement In Quality
Finally, it’s essential to know that the quality of Budweiser has most likely become significantly better in the past 150 years. This is because breweries have improved quality control, fermentation, refrigeration, etc. Most likely, Budweiser would have meant to taste the same as it does today. Still, it’s doubtful that they could deliver the Budweiser taste consistently throughout the United States.
On Reddit, an employee of Anheuser-Busch (the company that owns Budweiser and Bud Light) gave other insights into how the beer’s flavor has changed over time. One of the parts worth mentioning is that the Willamette hop, which is one of the primary hop flavors used in the beers, was only invented in the 1970s, which means the beer didn’t have this hop before that.
The number of hops and the variety of hops has always changed and will vary depending on region and availability. In the early 1900s, Budweiser mainly got its hops from Europe, whereas these days, it’s primarily U.S. hops. However, different regions produce different tastes, so this will have been a factor.
Finally, it’s interesting to note that Budweiser used to have an IBU of 18 (which is what a European lager typically tastes like). However, in the late 1900s, people started to like less bitter beer, and the IBU was lowered to 12. These days, the consumer preference seems to be shifting to the higher side again and, if that’s a trend for the long-term, the recipe will most likely change too.