Busch vs Busch Light: Which Is The Better Beer for You?

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Busch is Anheuser Busch’s budget brand compared to their premium Budweiser and Bud Light. But are they any good? If you’re searching for a cheap beer or in a pinch, which should you choose, Busch or Busch Light? We offer our expertise to this critical beer question.


I grew up in the shadow of the Coors Brewery. Not really. But on just the right days, I could smell the mash wafting through the air, so close enough.

The point is that my formative years were full of images of family members enjoying beer from cream-colored banquet cans or silver bullets of Coors Light. And when I started drinking beer, the budget-friendly substitution was Keystone Light and, if we were desperate, Extra Gold. 


It wasn’t until college, the ultimate melting pot of ideas and brand loyalty, that I became aware of Busch beer’s existence. Honestly, I’m glad I did!


Busch vs Busch Light Beer Compared

Author Andy with a Busch beer


History

Anheuser Busch Brewing Company introduced Busch Bavarian beer in 1955. It was the brewer’s first beer after Prohibition. The pale lager launched with the slogan, “Clear and bright as the Mountain Air.”

The brand recipe was tweaked in 1979, and the name was shortened to the Busch beer we know today with the tag “head for the Mountains.” 


Ostensibly, the alpine references could be seen as an early attempt to compete with rival Coors, who had staked their claim in the mining town of Golden with its Rocky Mountain pure water and as a favored drink of gold miners. Logically, the Busch brand is meant to be a sub-premium brand of the company’s Budweiser


Busch Light followed in 1989 as a low-priced substitute for Bud Light. The innovation of light beer, keen to attract carb-cautious women consumers, was evident. 


Since then, the Busch brand has continued to market to outdoorsy, budget consumers with sponsorships with ducks unlimited and camo cans.


Beer Classification

Both beers fall under the pale lager umbrella of mass-produced beers, like Bud Heavy and Bud Light. Busch beer is an excellent example of an adjunct American lager, while Busch Light fits nicely into the light beer sub-category. 


Appearance

Both beers are straw to yellow. Each is very clear but offers nothing in the way of a foamy head. Despite highly carbonated beers, any foam quickly dissipated, and all left on top of each beer was a wispy line of tiny bubbles clinging to the other edge. 


I found that the head on Busch Light stuck around longer, likely due to the style of glass used with a more cylindrical design. Even with the lack of foam, these beers’ appearance is appropriate to the type, and any die-hard Busch fan will either A: not trouble themselves with the look of their beer or B: wouldn’t be pouring their beer into a glass anyway.


Smell

While both beers looked similar, Busch Light was far cleaner smelling. Busch light had a soft malt aroma, and the scent was almost entirely neutral – not really giving clues to any of its ingredients. 

On the other hand, Busch had a bit more going on. Busch’s aroma yielded faint grainy notes but no hops and some minerality. It was pleasant. Neither beer was out of proportion to their style. You really shouldn’t expect much. 


Flavor

Andy found Busch a little sweeter than Busch Light

When most beer drinkers try deciding on a beer, the flavor is a driving force. Here is where the two beers diverge, if they were even up until now. Busch is sweeter than the light beer and slightly metallic.

It also has a very low bitter note from hops that the light lager does not. While most beer flaws have their places and style where they are allowable or even expected, a metallic taste is never favorable. 


A beer can pick up a metallic character from a variety of factors, primarily from exposure to unconditioned metal or poor ingredients. I suspect that the source of my Busch beer’s metallic character is likely the latter old or mishandled malt.

Unfortunately, the level of this off-flavor persisted through the end of the beer, leaving a very unpleasant aftertaste on a beer that I did not have huge expectations for and otherwise would have been a nice, no-frills beer experience.


Contrary to the off-flavor in Busch, Busch Light was clean and an excellent example of a well-made bargain light beer; Busch Light was crisp and effervescent, and balanced. 


Mouthfeel

Andy found Busch light crisp and tasty

While the aftertaste of Busch was muddled and metallic, the quick finish of Busch Light exemplified what a light beer was about; light and crisp – the perfect refreshment. I can see myself bobbing around on a dingy somewhere on the Mississippi river catching crappie and knocking back a few to several of these. 


As mentioned, the aftertaste exacerbated the metallic fault of the can Busch I poured. I liken this to when you are at a Mexican Food Restaurant that has super hot salsa.

The burn is okay if you just keep shoveling in the free chips, but once that complementary basket of tortilla chips runs out, you’re overwhelmed. That’s how the Busch beer was.

If I could have kept washing that flavor away with more beer, the beer would be okay. As soon as I ran out, though, the taste was overwhelming. I guess that’s why you buy these beers in 30-packs. 


Calories

The light beer trend inspired Busch Light, and the human desire for a brew without calories continues today.

Why, I’m not sure. Especially when the brand caters to people who love the outdoors and are active enough to burn off the difference in calories Busch Light offers compared to regular Busch.

In reality, these consumers probably aren’t hiking the mountain of buschhhh and just having one. In any case, here’s the breakdown:


  • Busch: 114 Calories
  • Busch Light: 95 Calories


Alcohol Content

Despite a 20-point difference in calories, these beers have virtually the same alcohol content. This is undoubtedly an advantage to beer drinkers that want a low cal beer without giving up the abv.


  • Busch: 4.3 percent ABV
  • Busch Light: 4.1 percent ABV


Brewing Process And Ingredients

These beers will be brewed similarly to other lagers and light lagers. Barley malt is mashed, separated, and boiled. Hops are added, and the wort is transferred to fermenters. Busch Light may receive the addition of enzymes to reduce the beer’s carbohydrates during fermentation. 

One interesting note is that the Busch brands are brewed not with rice like the Bud brands, but with corn. 


Brand Image

Sub-premium beers have enjoyed a resurgence due to nostalgia or a retro trend. This is similar to other premium brands like Natural Light (Natty Light). This has been an unintended effect of their consistent brand focus on the outdoors. 


What Do People Think About Both Beers?

Neither Busch beer pulls strong ratings. The average between the four platforms we track is about 50 percent (2.5 out of 5). We’re unsure if the poor rating is completely deserving.

Busch Light is a good light beer, and Busch is a serviceable beer in specific situations. I really can’t imagine sitting on a frozen lake in Minnesota, ice fishing with any other beer.  

ReviewerBuschBusch Light
Untappd2.452.56
Rate Beer1.451.24
Influenster3.83.8
Beer Advocate51 (Awful)49 (Awful) 
Average2.552.5

Our Takeaway

Both beers offer a refreshing drinking experience at a low price, but flavor-wise, Busch Light is a far superior brew. Like other popular beers in the sub-premium category, they have their place.

They probably won’t be replacing wine at dinner, but if you need a low cal beer at a cheap price because you’ll have nothing to do for hours in a duck blind or on a fishing boat, we’d highly recommend Busch Light!

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Author

Andy Sparhawk is an avid beer lover and the former editor-in-chief for CraftBeer.com. Andy is the lead writer for The Beer Babe and lives in Westminster, Colorado, with his family. As beer enthusiast and experienced beer judge, he loves sharing his experiences with The Beer Babe's dedicated audience of beer enthusiasts.