Keystone is a light American lager with a remarkably smooth, mild flavor profile. It has a clean, crisp taste and a very easy finish. It’s lacking in much personality or overbearing character, very much in keeping with the American light lager style.
Keystone Light has a clean flavor and a very smooth mouthfeel. Its pale color and relatively low ABV are all staples of the American light lager style. It’s a “macrobrew”, mass-produced by Molson Coors and widely available across the United States. This beer’s notably mild drinking experience has made it a polarizing beer among drinkers.
Below, we’re looking at the Keystone Light drinking experience. If you haven’t had the pleasure of tasting an ice-cold Keystone Light on a hot summer’s day, read on. We’ll discuss this beer’s flavor, smell, alcohol content, and brewing process.
Keystone Light is remarkable in its minimalist flavor. The first sip of Keystone Light offers very little. There’s not much hoppy bitterness and just a touch of bread flavor. It has a slight sweetness, not unlike a bowl of Cheerios, and a touch of corn, but Keystone makes a first impression of having a very soft, mild flavor. There’s virtually no finish to it, following through with a smooth near-water flavor at the end of the sip.
While most American light lagers are very low in bitterness, Keystone Light is remarkably so. Its IBU rating is an impressively low 6.8, compared with Molson Coors’ other major light beer, Coors Light, which has an IBU of 10.
Before you reach for the glass to take your next sip of Keystone Light, you’ll likely notice the absence of any significant aftertaste. Keystone Light’s aftertaste is almost totally indistinguishable. There’s no bitterness or lingering zest. This beer truly refuses to overstay its welcome. It’s easy to picture yourself sipping Keystone fresh out of an ice box on a fishing trip or while mowing the lawn. It definitely has the refreshing, relaxing drinking experience that we’ve come to expect from American macrobrewed light lagers.
An ice-cold glass of Keystone is a very easy drinking experience. If you wanted to, you could easily power through several Keystones with a couple of old friends on a long, hot afternoon.
It’s worth noting that Keystone’s distinctively light, almost flavorless profile is one of this beer’s major selling points. It’s a favorite among college-aged drinkers for its smooth, crisp drinking experience. Keystone Light has remained popular despite the boom in craft brewing, a testament to this major selling point for beer drinkers who prefer a lighter, less contemplative drinking experience.
Keystone Light, poured into a glass, offers minimal discernible head. There’s only about a finger’s worth of white head that quickly gives way to a pale, straw-colored beer with little effervescence. There are none of the fireworks or surges that you might expect from stronger beers. In this respect, Keystone looks very much like it tastes: mild and inoffensive.
Keystone Light’s silver-and-blue packaging bears images of mountains and glaciers, like many other American lagers. This branding association aims to associate Keystone Light with cold, clear mountain air. This is a fairly common feature of American lager branding, so Keystone Light’s packaging does not stand out in particular.
Overall, when it comes to appearance, Keystone Light offers very little to set it apart from other beers of its type.
Upon raising your glass of Keystone Light to your nose, we notice the continuation of this beer’s distinctively minimal flavor profile. There’s very little hop character on the notes, grassy, bitter, or otherwise. There are some faintly grainy notes, in keeping with the beer’s overall flavor profile. This definitely isn’t a beer whose aroma you’ll notice if your friend is drinking it while sitting across from you at the table.
Keystone Light really smells more like grainy carbonated water than beer.
Why Does Keystone Light Taste Like This?
Busch, as an American light lager, is bottom-fermented. During the brewing process, the yeast sinks to the bottom instead of rising to the top.
Coors Molson uses water, barley malt, corn syrup, bottom-fermenting yeast, and hop extract to brew Keystone Light. They brew this beer at lower temperatures, around 35-50 F. If you’re drinking Keystone in the United States, your can was brewed at one of Coors Molson’s breweries, including:
- Golden, Colorado (Opened in 1873) Original Coors Brewery
- Milwaukee, Wisconsin (Opened in 1855) Original Miller brewery
- Denver, Colorado (Opened in 1995)
- Chippewa Falls, Wisconsin (Opened in 1867)
Coors Molson’s choice of hops is a blend of Chinook, Hallertau, Herkules, and Taurus hop extracts. They brew Keystone at one of the above breweries using a combination of these hop varieties, although the brewery has yet to make clear what the ratio of one type of hops to another is.
However, considering Keystone Light’s remarkably mild flavor and lack of discernible hop character, one can make a guess that they don’t use strongly flavored hops or a particularly high ratio of hops to other ingredients.
What to Eat with Keystone Light
Keystone Light’s extremely mild flavor makes it very easy to consume alongside a variety of foods. Unlike more strongly flavored beers, which can affect how your food tastes and can have their flavor affected by your food, Keystone Light won’t interact much with your meal.
That said, as a classic American lager, it’s probably most appropriate to enjoy your Keystone Light with classic American foods. Hot dogs, burgers, or an awesome New York deli sandwich would all be complementary to the Keystone Light drinking experience.
What Do Other People Think?
When considering a “people’s beer” like Keystone Light, it’s worth looking at how other drinkers feel. We looked across the internet to see how other beer drinkers evaluated Keystone Light, weighted the scores, and determined an average in the table below.
As evident in the table above, Keystone Light is not a particularly well-reviewed beer. Its average score of 5.38 is buoyed only by positive reviews from Drizly, which is largely populated by younger drinkers, Keystone’s main market.
Most reviewers focused on the beer’s lack of flavor and character. The beer’s distinctive mildness was polarizing, with some reviewers heavily criticizing the beer for lacking flavor, while others celebrated this very feature. Considering that smoothness and minimal flavor are staples of the light American lager style, one could argue that those who dislike Keystone for this very reason simply don’t like this style of beer.
One poor review from Beeradvocate complained of the beer’s taste:
“This is one of the worst beers that I have ever had. It tastes heavily of corn sugar from the fermenting process. You get what you pay for as this is a cheap beer. If you want cheap, there are many other options to choose from.”Source
While another praised the beer’s flavor:
“When I come home from a long day of work, and I don’t feel like writing tasting notes or looking through the china cabinet for the right glass, I’ll happily knock back a few cans of this, or maybe some Miller Lite, for a decent buzz and a deeper sleep. All things have a place in this universe, after all.”Source
Generally speaking, if you enjoy light American lagers that go down smooth and are best-served ice cold, you’ll probably enjoy Keystone. If you prefer beers with plenty of flavor and bite, then Keystone Light is probably not for you.
Keystone Light Calories and ABV
Keystone Light’s advertising leans heavily on this beer’s low-calorie count. Coming in at only 101 calories per 12oz can, with 4.7g of carbs, it’s definitely not a calorie-rich beer, although these days, it’s far from the lightest beer on the market.
Keystone Light has an ABV of 4.1%, which is standard for the American light lager style. In this context, “light” does not mean “low alcohol”. Instead, it refers to the beer’s relatively low calories and clean, smooth taste.
Keystone Light Brewing History
Keystone’s initial introduction to the market was in California in 1989. It was heavily marketed based on its smoothness and easy drinking experience. Buoyed by the popularity of light beer in the late 1980s, the standard Keystone beer was heavily outsold by Keystone Light. Today, Keystone Light is the flagship beer of the Keystone brand, and the “standard” Keystone was rebranded as Keystone Premium.
Curiously, an urban legend persists that Coors and Keystone are the same beer. Keystone and Coors are both produced by Coors Molson, using similar brewing techniques, and as a result, are very similar beers. However, Keystone Light was designed to be even lighter and smoother than Coors or Coors Light.
The 1980s saw a boom in the American appetite for light, watery beer, and Keystone was simply Coors Molson’s successful attempt to capitalize on this trend.