fridge full of bottles of rolling rock beer

Rolling Rock is a popular, classic American lager. It was initially a local beer brewed in Pennsylvania, but today drinkers enjoy this crisp, flavorsome lager across the country. Its slightly hoppy, biscuity flavor is pleasantly refreshing and has earned it a solid reputation among American lager enthusiasts.

Rolling Rock is best classified as a standard American lager. It has a light, slightly biscuity flavor with a bit of hoppy bitterness and freshness to go with its light, pale coloration. 

There’s plenty more to learn about Rolling Rock. This article looks at Rolling Rock’s flavor, mouthfeel, smell, appearance, and the history and power of this popular beer. 


If you’re already familiar with other American lagers, you’ll find the relative depth of flavor to Rolling Rock very refreshing. It has a pleasantly crisp, light-bready note upon the first sip. This gives way to a sweet aftertaste with minimal hoppy bitterness. Overall, this beer has a dry, crisp malty character to its palate, culminating in a slightly cloying sweetness on the finish. As you’d expect from a popular beer, it’s very drinkable.

Although Rolling Rock is light in flavor compared to many other beers, it is more robust than most macro-brewed American lagers. In particular, it compares favorably against Anheuser-Busch’s other mass-produced light lagers like Bud Light. This beer’s relatively low bitterness, coupled with the crisp, refreshing flavor palate, is pleasantly refreshing, if not particularly broad or bold.

It should be noted that Rolling Rock enthusiasts and adherents insist that the beer’s flavor changed when operations moved from Latrobe’s original brewery in Latrobe, Pennsylvania, to New Jersey. We’ll take a closer look at the brewing process below. Still, one factor in this difference in flavor may be Anheuser-Busch’s choice to stop brewing all Rolling Rock in traditional glass-lined tanks, with only the canned variety still brewed according to the brand’s heritage.


Rolling Rock has a typical mouthfeel for an American lager, although the brand’s notable use of Pennsylvania’s soft water has a pronounced effect on the feel.

Rolling Rock feels very silky and light when it makes contact with your tongue. It has a pretty light amount of body, refusing to overstay its welcome. As with other lagers, it’s made for easy drinking and certainly accomplishes this. While it isn’t quite as lively as some more aggressive beers, it certainly isn’t as “watery” as Bud or Busch Light.


There’s always a risk with lagers that they will lack any unique aroma. Fortunately, Rolling Rock has a pleasantly light hoppy aroma, with little to no grainy, bready notes that often characterize American lagers. There’s a little corny malt sweetness, but overall this beer has one of the best smells of any American lager. This is a light smell that refuses to overwhelm the palate, and it quickly dissipates upon the first sip.

Appearance and Number 33

Rolling Rock pours a pale golden straw color with a fine white head. It has a decent amount of retention but nothing too remarkable. 

More worthy of note is the beer’s packaging. Rolling Rock has a long and storied history when it comes to packaging. This played no small part in the brand’s aggressive marketing expansion, dating back to its launch in 1939.

Rolling Rock comes in a standard silver can or a distinctive green bottle. The bottle is a big part of Rolling Rock’s appeal, with the green glass bottle giving it the appearance of a more premium beer (like Heineken) than other American lagers.

Rolling Rock’s packaging also prominently features the number 33. The precise reason for this remains a mystery to this day, although Anheuser-Busch has retained the prominence of the number 33 since it purchased the brand.

One theory suggests that the beer is brewed at 33 degrees. Another that there are 33 words in the beer’s quality pledge, printed on every bottle:

A little nip from the glass lined tanks of Old Latrobe. We tender this package as a premium beer for your delight and economical use. It comes from the mountain springs to you.


Subsequent packaging has been carefully worded to retain the 33-word length of the pledge. 

Another theory proposes that there were 33 steps from the brewery floor to the brewmaster’s office at Latrobe. 

There’s even a theory related to the famous Pennsylvania soft water. Supposedly, 33 springs supply water to the Latrobe brewery, or the brewery is supplied by spring number 33 alone.

Regardless, the prominence of the number 33 on Rolling Rock’s packaging to this day shows appreciation for the brand’s place in American brewing history. It makes Rolling Rock feel like a premium old-school American beer.

Alcohol Percentage & Calories

Rolling Rock has an ABV of 4.4%, pretty standard for an American lager. It has 130 calories per 12oz serving.

Why Does Rolling Rock Taste Like This?

Latrobe Brewing credits much of the beer’s character to the use of soft local water in the brewing process from 1939 until 2006. It was brewed in glass-lined tanks for a long time, which were state-of-the-art for brewing back in the 1930s. 

As we noted earlier, the move from Latrobe to New Jersey and Anheuser-Busch’s subsequent cost-cutting measures, including the move away from glass-lined tanks, changed the brewing process and the flavor of this beer. 

Shock Top Brewing History & Process

Rolling Rock was the first beer launched by Latrobe Brewing in 1939, only six years after the repeal of prohibition in 1933 (yet another instance of the number 33 for this brand).

Latrobe Brewing was purchased by the Tito Brothers, who often emphasized their use of glass-lined tanks and Pennsylvania’s soft-water mountain springs in brewing their beer. Positioning itself as a premium beer for hard-working local people, Rolling Rock enjoyed modest local success over the following decades. 

In 1987, however, Labatt’s Brewing Company purchased Latrobe Brewing Company, which continued producing the beer from the original brewery in Latrobe. This preceded an era of aggressive expansion, taking the beer from the local Pennsylvania area and seeing it become popular nationwide.

In these early days of the American craft brewing boom, Rolling Rock’s distinctive flavor, particularly when compared with other American lagers, made it a favorite among discerning beer drinkers.

Anheuser-Busch purchased the brand in 2006, moving operations to New Jersey, and largely replaced the classic green glass bottles with aluminum cans. Rolling Rock’s devotees and core Pennsylvania market rejected this change, with local unions calling for a boycott of all Anheuser-Busch products. Those who remember Rolling Rock’s glory days claim that the beer’s flavor has changed significantly. 

Rolling Rock is brewed using water, malt, hops, rice, corn, and bottom-fermenting brewer’s yeast. Wheat is not used in the brewing of this beer. 

What Do Other People Think?

It’s always worth looking at how others view a brew. We checked out a few reviews across the internet to see what other drinkers think of this beer.

PlatformShock Top
Average Score3.22

Rolling Rock scored medium-to-low across the board, except Influenster and Drizly drinkers, who gave it 4 and 4.7, respectively. Most commenters acknowledged that Rolling Rock has more flavor than many American macrobrew lagers. Many of the more positive reviews mentioned nostalgia for Rolling Rock’s glory days, as is evident from the below Beeradvocate review:

One Beeradvocate reviewer had this to say about their Shock Top experience:

I first started drinking RR in my younger days, it was cheap, good if it was real cold, and easy to drink. That still stands true today. Sometimes while fixing a big breakfast I’ll put a RR in the freezer for 15-20 min. then get it out and drink it with my meal(out of a chilled glass of course). I do like the taste, not bitter or over hoppy like some beers and at times it reminds me of my younger days.


Rolling Rock Brand Image

Rolling Rock is branded with several nods to the beer’s brewing heritage. The Latrobe name is still prominently featured on the logo, and the beer’s marketing continues to emphasize its history and tradition. 

Rolling Rock is so embedded in the American beer-drinkers consciousness that many credit them with popularizing the term “pony” for their small 7oz bottle. Although the term “pony” has long been used to describe smaller beer sizes, Rolling Rock’s logo, bearing a horse, contributed to the enduring widespread usage of the term. Indeed, the 12oz bottle was called a “horse”, while the 7oz was called a “pony” by most Rolling Rock devotees.

Rolling Rock is still positioned as a premium American beer for the discerning drinker, particularly when compared to middle-American beers like Budweiser or Coors.