Saturday, January 10, 2009

A Defense of Light Beer

My family recently took some (entirely good natured) ribbing from a friend for a light beer taste test we conducted over the holidays. The relevant quote reads thusly: "Taste testing of light beers is like trying to decide which is best: swill, bilge water, or sewer water. One may be better than the others, but they're all bad!"

Now I used to be of a similar opinion but have lately come around (hence my interest in, and enjoyment of, the taste test). While I still enjoy a hefty IPA or stout as much as the next beer snob, sometimes I just want a Coors Light (which I happened to rank #1 in our thoroughly unscientific exercise). And it isn't that I sometimes have to settle for a light. As often as not, that's going to be my preferred choice.

The central issue, it seems to me, is that you will never enjoy light beer if you think of it as trying to be "regular" beer with less calories. (Similarly, you will never enjoy Diet Coke if you think of it as trying to be Coke with less calories. Drunk in that vein, it will always taste, well, bad--a poor imitation of the real thing.) Light beer is best appreciated as it's own variety of beer with its own distinctive virtues. Among these virtues are the following:

1. Good light beer is (I think) crisp and clean with very little aftertaste. It's simple, not complex. There's nothing wrong with "big and bold" but sometimes it's nice to drink something that isn't quite so in your face.

2. The old Miller Lite commercials are exactly right: light beer is less filling. It doesn't weigh you down or bloat you up and this feature has some definite advantages. First, you can minimize the lethargy and discomfort that comes from a big meal coupled with heavy beer. Second, you can drink more of it with fewer of the deleterious effects that come from excessive consumption. This isn't a matter of trying to drink as much as you can and if you want to get drunk, there are certainly more efficient ways to do it: three shots of Wild Turkey and you'll be on your way. But if you are hanging out with friends over the course of an afternoon watching football--and if you enjoy the taste of beer over other beverages--it's nice to be able to toss back a few lights.

3. It's cheap. And for those of us who operate under certain financial constraints, this is not a trivial matter.

Of course, you can acknowledge all of these virtues and still not enjoy drinking light beer. But that's simply a matter of personal preference and doesn't deserve anyone's scorn.

No comments: