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(Back when I was in college, and quite the discriminating beer snob, I would have scoffed at the thought of consuming light beer. Nowadays, light beer is a common order for this old fogie who pays dearly the next day for indulging in good beer.)

So-called "light beers" are an American artifact (I won't go into the history...) characterized by several factors:

  • Pale yellow in appearance
    (I know what you're thinking...)
  • Low alcohol content
    Compared to the typical "regular" American beer, a typical light beer is going to have about 75% (give or take) of the alcohol content.
  • Low caloric value
    Run-of-the-mill American beers are usually about 150 calories per 12 oz serving, whereas light beers average about 110.

Light beer is usually of the lager variety, since lagers generally have a lighter body and lower alcohol content, although it should be noted that not all lager beers are considered "light beer".

Alcohol Content* of Popular Light Beers in America
  • Amstel Light**: 3.63%
  • Bud Light: 3.43%
  • Coors Light: 4.00%
  • Miller Light: 4.19%
  • Natural Light: 4.20%
* Percentage Alcohol by Volume - may vary by location based on arcane liquor laws
** Actually produced in Holland, but popular in the US. Thanks, K-tron

Why drink light beer?

People drink light beer for a number of reasons, and I'm sure I'll miss a few of them, but here are a few I can think of:

  • They don't know any better Perhaps advertising and peer pressure have taken their toll.
  • They'd prefer a more full-bodied beer, but have to cut back for health reasons
  • The low cost makes it ideal those who can put away a case (24 beers) or more in a weekend.
  • They actually prefer the taste. (It happens...)

How to drink light beer

First off, you have to change your expectations, if you're used to drinking full-bodied ales, and other concoctions from the microbreweries and from across the big pond. Try not to think of it as watered down beer. Instead, try to imagine that it's beer-flavored carbonated water - a slightly malty club soda with a kick. Secondly, it helps to be thirsty. A good squeeze of lemon or lime can make it extra-refreshing. Lastly, and most importantly, chill well. Putting the light beer in the freezer for a few minutes just before consumption can really make a difference.

Enjoy!

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