Natural Light is one of the original light American lagers. Anheuser-Busch launched this beer in 1977 to compete with Miller Lite, and the beer has been a staple of summer days and college parties ever since.
Natural Light is a light American lager with a clean, crisp, refreshing flavor. Its palate is dominated largely by malt and corn notes, with a touch of fruity sweetness. It has minimal carbonization and bitterness, leaving you with a smooth, straightforward drinking experience.
This is far from the whole story of this classic American beer. If you’ve not had the pleasure of tasting this staple beer, we’ll aim to give you some insight into the Natural Light drinking experience. We’ll consider this beer’s appearance, flavor, mouthfeel, smell, and how its brewing process and history affect the overall experience.
The first sip of Natural Light offers a markedly soft, sweet flavor. It has a few notes of brown bread, with some mildly hoppy bitterness. This bitterness is pretty uncommon for an American lager but does not dominate the palate at all. There’s a little bit of syrupy sweetness to balance that out, but overall this beer is not overly complex or heavily flavored.
Natural Light’s clean, crisp flavor is very much emblematic of the American light lager style. In fact, in 2008, it took home the bronze medal for Best American-Style Light Lager at the World Beer Cup.
Natural Light really goes down like water and dries out towards the finish. There’s no lingering sweetness or cloying aftertaste, and it’s easy to raise the glass for another sip after the first.
Natural Light’s flavor perhaps offers a clue to the beer’s naming. Unlike other light beers, often branded as a light version of another offering, Natural Light is the flagship beer of Anheuser-Busch’s Natural line. Perhaps naming the beer “natural light” was an implication that this beer is as crisp, light, and inoffensive as sunlight itself. Natural Light (the beer) definitely pairs well with natural light, as it’s an easy beer to enjoy sitting outdoors in fine weather.
It’s easy to picture oneself enjoying a couple of Natural Lights (or more) on a really hot summer day, tending to the barbecue, or watching the football. This beer is probably best to accompany an event rather than being the event itself. It’s not a beer that demands much contemplation or consideration.
Natural Light has minimal fizz and body. Really, it’s a light, somewhat slick-feeling mouthfeel. There’s almost no tingle, with a thin body and no assertiveness or boldness whatsoever. This is very much typical of the style, which aims to have a thin, watery mouthfeel.
It’s easy to put away a few Natural Lights in a single sitting as this beer’s mouthfeel is so mild and pleasant.
Imagine cutting into a fresh loaf of whole-grain bread with a serrated knife. The faint grainy aroma that you’ll smell rising off your chopping board is pretty close to the smell of Natural Light as you raise the glass to your nose.
It’s a faint whiff of sweet grains, with perhaps a touch of syrupy sweetness. Where it stands out somewhat for the style is the presence of a slight metallic tang. Overall, this beer’s smell makes a reliable promise about its mild, inoffensive taste.
Natural Light, poured into a beer glass, offers about three fingers’ worth of foamy, sudsy white head sitting happily atop a pale, clear straw-colored beer. This head gives way very quickly to bouncy, tiny bubbles.
Natural Light leans heavily into its all-American reputation and history. Its label proudly wears red, white, and blue.
Why Does Natural Light Taste Like This?
Natural Light, as a lager, is bottom-fermented. This means that during the brewing process, the yeast sinks to the bottom instead of rising to the top. Natural Light’s website cites a “longer brewing process” as the main reason for the beer’s lack of body and reduced calories.
Natural Light also has a longer mashing process than other beers, which converts more of the carbohydrates in the grains to simple sugars. These sugars have fewer calories, a brewing innovation that allows Anheuser-Busch to sell Natural Light as a light, low-calorie beer.
What to Eat with Natural Light
As a classic American lager, Natural Light is probably best paired with classic American foods. Hot dogs and hamburgers go very well with Natural Light, as do grilled meats with plenty of flavor.
Its clean, crisp flavor and minimal finish also make it a great palate cleanser. You can load up on onions and mustard with your hot dog, enjoying a sip of Natural Light between courses or before your next bite.
Natural Light History
Anheuser-Busch has been one of the biggest brewers in the USA for many decades now. Natural Light, also known by its nicknames “Natty Light” and “Shore Champagne” was launched in 1977 to compete with Miller’s own light beer offering and immediately enjoyed widespread distribution. It was also priced very aggressively from the beginning and marketed to emphasize its lower calories and alcohol levels compared to other lagers of the era.
Natural Light was the first widely distributed Anheuser-Busch light beer, but it was by no means the last. The 1980s saw a boom in demand for light beer in the American market as consumers became more health-conscious. Drinkers looking for an easy-drinking, low-calorie beer enjoyed Natural Light, and Anheuser-Busch also introduced a light version of their headline Budweiser beer in 1982.
Anheuser-Busch traces its origins to 1852 when German-American brewer George Schneider first opened his Bavarian Brewery in St Louis. Later on, Eberhard Anheuser purchased the company, and a few years later, one of his salesmen, Adolphus Busch, bought in, too.
Anheuser-Busch bases many of its beers for the American market on the brewing traditions brought over by German immigrants in the 19th century. They have produced many easy-drinking light beers for the mass market, and Natural Light is one of their most famous offerings.
Natural Light Alcohol Content & Calories
Natty Light boasts 95 calories per 12 oz can and 3.2 grams of carbs. Its ABV of 4.2% is also very typical of the American light lager.
What Do Other People Think?
Natural Light is a well-known all-American beer. It makes sense to see what other beer drinkers think of this classic American lager. We compared reviews from various websites, weighted the average scores, and compiled them below.
As you can see, most drinkers gave Natural Light quite a poor rating. Ratebeer gave Natural Light a very low 2.18. In fact, Ratebeer drinkers received Natural Light so poorly that they awarded it the derisive title of “The Worst Beer in the World”. However, the younger beer enthusiasts at Influenster and Drizly appreciated Natural Light, perhaps indicative of its popularity among college students. Experienced beer drinkers, however, disliked Natural Light’s lack of flavor and body.
Most positive comments focused on the beer’s accessible pricing and its accurate representation of the style. In particular, those who appreciated Natural Light enjoyed its clean, crisp drinking experience, and associated it with hot weather and enjoyable, relaxing activities.
One Beeradvocate reviewer had this to say about Natural Light:
“This beer is plain and simple. Crack it open, drink, repeat. Superior drinkability and decent flavor for the best price you can find anywhere! Not sure why guys with gigantic beer guts who chug triple hopped session hazy nitro cold fermented IPA’s rate this beer because you know what you’re gettin at $18 a 30 rack!”Source
Natural Light Brand Image
Natural Light was quickly eclipsed by Anheuser-Busch’s other light beer offerings and, as a result, enjoys a less stable foothold in the beer market than, for example, Bud or Miller Light.
On the other hand, Natural Light is perhaps best known as the go-to beer for college-aged drinkers. Its reputation as an affordable, easy-drinking beer makes it very popular among younger and more inexperienced beer drinkers, and “Natty Light” remains a favorite at college bars and frat parties to this day.
Natural Light’s association with college drinking culture extends to the world of art, too. In 2021, Natural Light revealed the world’s most expensive piece of art, the “Da Vinci of Debt”. This artwork, which was displayed at New York City’s Grand Central Terminal, announced the arrival of Natural Light’s College Debt Relief program. This program launched in 2018, aiming to ease the burden of the US’ college debt crisis by helping Natural Light drinkers pay their student loans.
Natural Light’s brand image in recent years has leaned away from its classic all-American light beer branding and towards a fun, young brand image. For example, Natural Light became the first beer in space when it was launched via weather balloon to an altitude above 90,000 feet. Its reputation as the go-to college beer has come to define Natural Light, including its website, which bears slogans like “let’s be bros”.