Brewsday: Bud Light Lime
Hey! Just when you thought you’d never have to enjoy another one of these, the Choosy Beggars Brewsday comes storming back, all up in your fries!
That’s because while writing about beer starts feeling repetitive after the third time I’ve typed “hoppy” or “malty” in a single paragraph, there are an infinite number of brewers, equipped with an infinite number of marketing graduates, all madly tapping away at their laptops — monkeys hammering on typewriters having long since proved to be less cost-effective, though perhaps more socially amenable.
They are people who, to some degree, believe fully in what they’re doing. They may love their product, for example, or feel not even the slightest doubt in the path they’ve chosen in life — one that has led them to the unenviable task of, say, explaining why one brand of light beer is superior to any other.
Let me ask you, when you think of low-calorie beer, what’s the first thing to spring to mind?
…well, yes, okay. That’s fair.
Horrific, but fair. Your mind would immediately leap to the legions of middle-aged men who have probably spent their entire adult lives drinking beer, without perhaps burning more than ten or twelve calories per day moving from their couches to the desk in their workplaces. Men who have arrived in a point in their lives where they don’t actually ever intend to give up drinking, but are willing to compromise on flavor if it means they don’t have to get another hernia operation.
But is that all that leaps to mind when you think of the words, “light beer”?
Oh, right. I suppose that after enough Sundays during the football season, it’s inescapable to associate light beer with the act of spraying young women with a reflective paint that prominently displays logos, while only slightly obscuring nipples.
Besides health concerns, how else could a company possibly market their product simultaneously to both middle-aged men whose weight issues have relegated sex permanently to the realm of imagination, and rapidly-softening young campus bucks for whom sex dwells primarily in the realm of optimistic imagination? Product quality? Delicate flavors, designed to enhance the drinking experience? A consistent and enjoyable beverage that serves every occasion HA HA HA HA HAAaaaaawwwwohohhhhh… I nearly got through that with a straight face.
Product development costs money, people. Mortifying-later-in-life work (“Mom! Dad! You’ll never guess: I got a job working for Coors!“) for aspiring pretty girls is cheap by comparison.
But what happens if — God himself forbid — you’re someone who absolutely refuses to be reasonable, and insists that light beer should have a flavor?
Come along now, let’s not be funny.
Sure, there are people at the Coors head office organization who really believe that one day, in the happy sun-drenched future (complete with spray-painted girls in every bar across the land), human beings will define “cold” as a flavor rather than a temperature. Do we really want to throw our lot in with them? Is that the best that any of us can do? Are we the type of people who really want to find ourselves one day standing at a cocktail party, unable to stop the words, “Say Jim, this beautiful chardonnay here really is quite cold, isn’t it” from coming out of our mouths?
No, I say. And apparently at least one other light beer vendor agrees with me.
Ah, so you’ve heard about it too, have you?
Bud Light Lime is this year’s Katy Perry of beers, a carefully-constructed corporate formula designed to strike at the heart of market and take it entirely by storm. As a businessperson myself, I have absolutely no objection to this kind of hard-hearted capitalism, so long as it carries through on actually rewarding its consumers. For too long have light beer drinkers been asked to choose between bad, slightly worse and it’s-really-cheap-but-check-out-those-girls. It would be ever so slightly encouraging to think that someone, somewhere, has a genuine interest in producing a compelling light beer for the summer season.
In case you’re not the type to visit the liquor store often, or perhaps who covers your eyes and sings church hymns when you pass by local pub patios, Bud Light Lime is a relatively new entry into the market. Promising a light flavor that’s augmented by the natural taste of lime, the slightly-smaller than average bottles are positioned carefully as the ideal party portion. In other words, they are small, they are quick, they are light, but they taste like something tropical.
Hey Corona, do you feel something tickling in the small of your back?
Budweiser is clearly taking aim at Corona territory here, which is a fun and interesting move on their part. Corona is enormously popular in Canada as a light summer beer, though it’s widely decried by true cerveza drinkers as nothing short of the cheapest dreck you can squeeze out of a wannabe-Mexican brewery. The simple reason for this is that it has a light and acidic flavor, almost no aftertaste, and goes down pretty smooth if you’ve crammed a slice of lime down the neck of the bottle. I defy you to find a Corona ad where you’ll find an open bottle without the featured fruit, so important is lime to the whole experience.
And now, here comes Bud with an insubstantial beer — and if anything defined those words better than Bud Light, I don’t know what it is — with the lime built right in. You don’t even have to slice them! You don’t even have decide whether you’d want them! Budweiser has done the thinking for you, and you’re going to like it for real and no fooling! They aren’t willing to take the risk that you might forget to add lime on your own, so they took the pains to inject natural lime flavoring into every bottle.
Budweiser loves you that much. And, around here anyway, consumers have loved them right back. Signs in the liquor store have been appearing for weeks: BUD LIGHT LIME SOLD OUT; NO BUD LIGHT LIME HERE; BUD LIGHT LIME – NOW IN STOCK!!!!!!!!!; BUD LIGHT LIME… SOLD OUT AGAIN; and so on. With that kind of enthusiasm, as well as the low-level buzz that seems to be popping up all over the place, we thought it was time to give it a try.
Bud Light Lime (BL Lime if you’re in the know and/or a marketers wet dream who might actually walk into a bar, stride to the waitress and say, “Gimmie a BL Lime,” with a straight face) comes in 330mL bottles, with the carefully cross-but-not-totally-Bud-Light branded bottles. Clear glass, bright yellow beer and the green lime are fully on display, as if to say to light beer drinkers, “You have one last chance to defy your Carlsberg years!”
Price-wise, they’re reasonable at $13 or so for a six-pack. They’re offered at 4% alcohol volume, which is typical of a light beer and not actually that much different from others — I think Guinness, for all its hefty flavor, weighs in at barely 4.5%. One could definitely see Bud Light Lime as a session beer, assuming that it could be counted upon to deliver the appropriate mix of lightness and flavor that is on promise.
And in that, it mostly delivers. Our first taste of Bud Light Lime was when it was warm, fresh from the LCBO and opened out of pure enthusiasm, which is not the most optimal circumstances for a tasting. But even then, three things really carried through:
- The beer is exceptionally light. Without the lime flavor, you’re not going to taste a whole lot of anything at all.
- The lime flavoring isn’t heavy-duty, which was a very good choice on Budweiser’s part — proportionally, they managed to find nearly the perfect taste of a slice of lime squirted into a bottle of beer…
- …if the lime was grown in a laboratory, without ever having had skin or even fruit to speak of, but was rather a fluid twirled in a beaker and then funneled into a gigantic vat of Bud Light somewhere.
Does Corona have something to be afraid of here? Probably. If you were to put together a blind taste-test of freeloading guests at a a BBQ, chances are that they’d have a hard time discerning the difference between a Corona with a lime in the stem and a BL Lime, unless they were the kind of career Corona drinker that would make your hands quake in rage anyway. It means that possibly for the first time, despite all the competitive South American cervezas that have tried, this could be a viable Corona alternative for the calorie-counting patio lightweight.
So that said, where do we land with Bud Light Lime? Is it a serious contender for the pre-packaged beverage of the summer, complete with citrus twist? Or is it a soulless synthetic pretender, hoping that by virtue of its novelty it can break loose of the despicable marketing to which light beer seems to always resort?
The verdict is split. On the one hand, it’s pretty obvious that BL Lime is just Bud Light with flavor juice squirted into it; on the other, it never pretends to be otherwise, aside from offering a bit of novelty apart from the usual diet beer crowd. Those who drink it and feel amazed are, quite frankly, likely seeing the first rays of sunlight after sentencing themselves to drink light beer in the first place; however, if that’s the measure of joy that light beer drinkers can experience, why take it away from them?
Rating: Four someday-going-to-regret-it Coors Light models out of five