Tuesday, August 25, 2009

How Low Can They Go?

If you're lucky enough to live in Chicago, Dallas, San Diego or one of 12 other special places, you've no doubt been on a heavy Bud Select 55 binge ever since the new low-calorie brew was dropped in select test markets earlier this month.

Spurred by the apparent success of MGD 64, the new figure-watcher from MillerCoors, Anheuser-Busch InBev has upped (lowered?) the ante with an ultra-light beer of its own, prompting the usual ripples of discontent to spread throughout the beer-appreciating world.

The Internet has not been quiet on this one. Drink Update said of the announcement, "How depressing ... Does this mean we can stop calling it beer?" Advertising Age called ABIB's restraint in opting against two additional "55" variations "an apparent gift to beer drinkers everywhere."

"I mean, where does it stop?" Ad Age's Jeremy Mullman lamented.

Above: It could have been worse. (Via Ad Age)

"Light Beer Arms Race Gets Absurd," declared the Washington City Paper. "At some point, you've just got to call it water."

But perhaps my favorite remark is this exasperated plea from the blog Seattle Beer News: "Just stop it."

What many observers have rightly pointed out, beyond the obvious questions over just how much flavor beers with such absurdly low alcohol contents can have (the answer: not very much at all), is the fact that there is one critical component that makes beer beer, and there's simply no getting around the calories it contributes: alcohol.

No surprise, then, that as the calorie wars escalate, alcohol contents must necessarily decline. MDG 64, practically kiddie strength at 2.8% alcohol by volume, is no match for Bud Select 55's 2.4%. That's no typo – even if you doubled Select 55's booze quotient, it'd still fall somewhere between the already-light Bud Light and its plenty-light-as-it-is big sibling, Budweiser. Wow.

At this point it becomes worth asking just how wise it is to pay regular-strength-beer prices for a product that is – there's no other way to describe it – literally watered down. You could buy regular Bud, cut it half-and-half with seltzer water, and basically wind up with Bud Select 55 for half the price. No joke. Or, you could drink half as many regular beers with water alternated in between. Or you could recognize that beer contains calories; try eating well and exercising as proper antidotes.

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