Bud Light is one of the most well-known beers globally, especially in its home country, the United States; it has had a firm foothold for more than a century. However, many people aren’t aware of what kind of beer Bud Light truly is and why it is classified differently. Let’s start with a quick answer:
Bud Light is best classified as an American light lager because of its low bitterness (IBU of 6), high carbonization, light gold color (SRM of 2-3), the alcohol content of 4.2%, the use of rice in the brewing process, and the fact that Bud Light is bottom-fermented instead of top-fermented.
However, that certainly doesn’t tell the whole story. Below, we’ll first identify why Bud Light is classified as a lager and not as an ale (the other major category). After that, we’ll dive into the specifics of the beer and why it is best classified as an American light lager. We’ll also discuss how the use of rice changes its categorization, and if Bud Light has always been the American light lager, it is today. Read on!
Is Bud Light A Lager Or Ale?
First of all, it’s essential to know that there are two general categories of beers: lager or ale. These types of beers have different sub-categories. However, all beers fall into either one of the two categories.
The difference between these two beers is how the beer is made and what ingredients are used. The main difference is the brewing process. Beers are either made with a top-fermenting or bottom-fermenting process.
In a nutshell, this means that beer is either fermented at warm temperatures (60˚–70˚F), in which case it’s top-fermenting, which classifies it as an ale. The other option is bottom-fermenting the yeast at colder temperatures (35˚–50˚F) which ranks it as a lager.
Bud Light is made with a bottom-fermenting process which means it is classified as a lager.
What Kind Of Lager Is Bud Light?
However, that doesn’t answer the question entirely. Classifying beer as a lager or ale is just the start of the process. Within the category of lager, many more specifications can be made. Let’s see how things add up for the original Bud Light. To classify Bud Light correctly, we’ll use the scale of the Beer Judge Certification Program, which categorizes beers based on many factors.
According to this organization, Bud Light is best classified as an American light lager, a sub-category of the overall category of standard American beers. Let’s have a look at why Bud Light falls into this category.
Why Is Bud Light An American Light Lager?
First, it’s essential to know that there are five general criteria that help us classify beers in their categories.
The first criterion is the bitterness of the beer. This is measured in International Bitterness Units (IBU). American light lagers have an IBU between 6 – 12, which means they’re less bitter than regular American lagers (such as Budweiser), with an IBU of 8 – 18. Since Bud Light has an IBU of 6, this means this beer falls precisely in the American light lager category.
Furthermore, there’s the SRM of the beer, which refers to the color. American light lagers have an SRM between 2 – 3 which means they have a very light, golden color. As you can see in the image below, Bud Light has a very light, golden color, giving it an SRM of 2. That’s right in line with the American light lager category.
Besides the bitterness and the color, there’s also the ‘original gravity’ of the beer. This indicates the beer’s potency and gives a brewer a clear indication of how much alcohol the brew will have after fermentation. American light lagers typically have an OG of 1.028 – 1.040.
After the fermentation of the beer, there’s another unit that we need to consider called ‘final gravity’. This number represents the number of unfermentable sugars in the beer that are left after the fermentation process is completed. American light lagers have an FG of 0.998 – 1.008.
Using an online calculator, we can calculate that Bud Light has an original gravity of 1.030 – 1.040 with a final gravity of 0.998 – 1.008. The reason for this is that both these combinations, and the combinations that are still possible, all deliver a beer with an ABV of 4.2%, which is what Bud Light has.
That also brings us to the most straightforward criterion of them all, and that’s the ABV of the beer. American light lagers have an ABV between 2.8 – 4.2%. Bud Light has an ABV of 4.2%, which means it also fits the typical American light lager percentage in terms of the percentage of alcohol. This relatively low ABV also means you’ll have to drink a fair amount more to get drunk, compared to non-light beers.
Besides, with being a light lager also comes a lower calorie content. For Bud Light, this is only 110 per 12 fl. oz.
Does The Use Of Rice Change How The Beer Is Categorized?
One crucial element of American (light) lagers that differentiate them clearly from their European counterparts is the use of rice as an ingredient. American (light) lagers tend to use up to 40% of rice (or corn) as one of their ingredients.
The use of rice is one factor that changes the taste of the beer and the color of the beer. Rice produces a much clearer, lighter brew, which is why European lagers can have an SRM between 2 -6, whereas American (light) lagers have an SRM of 2 – 4. So, in a way, rice is one of the main differentiators between European and American lagers.
Has Bud Light Always Been A Light Lager?
In this blog post, we discussed the differences and similarities between Budweiser and Bud Light. In it, we also found that Bud Light has an entirely different history than Budweiser has. Budweiser was already invented in 1874, whereas Bud Light was introduced to the North American market (the only place in the world where it’s sold) in 1982.
Also, the recipe of Budweiser has changed a lot over the years. However, we can’t say the same thing for Bud Light. Bud Light was introduced in 1981 as a much less bitter alternative to Budweiser. At that time, Budweiser had an IBU of 18, and Bud Light an IBU of 6. This meant it appealed to a completely different target group.
So, Bud light has been an American light lager from the absolute beginning, and the recipe hasn’t changed for four decades. Additonally, this lager is still made in 12 US locations.