Coors Light vs Bud Light: Two Top Selling Beers Compared

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Coors Light and Bud Light are two of the most advertised and recognizable beer brands worldwide. Their domination of TV commercials is only matched by their battle for market share supremacy.

But what is the difference between these two beer giants? Today, we compare Coors Light against Bud Light; which is the true king of light beer? 

Coors Light vs Bud Light Compared

Poured into glasses, Coors Light (full review here) and Bud Light appear similar. Each has a pale yellow color and a fleeting white head.

You can expect a steady stream of carbonation bubbles rising from the bottoms of each glass, trying their darndest to keep a thin wisp of beer foam clinging along the edge of the surface. 

As light lagers, these beers are perfectly appropriate in their own way. Brilliantly clear, their purpose is to appeal to the masses.

Coors Light and Bud Light have accomplished this masterfully but in different ways. One is thinner, cleaner, and almost water-like. The other, Bud light, is more beer-like with a subtle flavor of malt and hops. 

Each garners tremendous brand value from their followers and delivers exceptional refreshment but in different ways. Those loyal to either brand may only partially know why, and the true source of their allegiance may have little to do with the product’s taste and more with regionality or social influence. 

History

In addition to a well-documented history as top selling light beers, beer producers Coors Brewing Company and Anheuser Busch are well-known in the United States and throughout the World. 

Anheuser Busch, makers of Bud Light, was Founded in 1861 when a German immigrant named Adolphus Busch purchased a St. Louis area brewery on the verge of bankruptcy with his father-in-law, Eberhard Anheuser. The company would grow to become the largest in the US. In 2008, Belgian- Brazilian company InBev purchased AB for $52 Billion, making it the largest beer maker in the World.

Coors Brewing Company was founded in 1873 by Adolphus Coors. Coors, too, was an immigrant who brought his knowledge of brewing to the Western mining town of Golden, Colorado. Like Anheuser Busch, Coors survived Prohibition and regional consolidation throughout the late 19th and early 20th Century, becoming one of just a few major brewing operations up into the 1980s. 

The late 1970s and 80s proved to be a transformative time for Coors and AB. Their other chief rival, Miller Brewing Company of Wisconsin, had successfully launched a diet beer known as Miller Lite. Diets and exercise were incredibly popular in the US then and today. Miller Lite offered a beer, which was the preferred adult beverage in the US, at lower calories than a normal beer. 

It was only a short time before Miller’s competition, primarily Coors and Bud, released their own low-calorie light beer offerings. Coors, which had a beer called Coors Light prior to the Second World War, reintroduced the name in 1978. Budweiser followed with Budweiser Light, later renamed Bud Light a few years later in 1982. 

Miller Lite, Coors Light, and Bud Light have spent the last 35 years jockeying for light beer supremacy ever since. Even as Coors and Miller have merged, the brands still duke it out on TV, radio, and in the minds of beer drinkers. 

Classification (Type of Beer)

Bud Light and Coors Light are light lagers. If we’re talking beer competition, light lagers are a subcategory of Standard American Beer (BJCP Category 1).

Light lagers are grouped with other American beers, including American Lager, Cream Ale, and American Wheat.

Of these, Light lager will have the lowest body and most subtle flavor aspects. The quoted descriptions are courtesy of the Beer Judge Certification Program. 

Appearance

Very pale straw to pale yellow color. White, frothy head seldom persists. Very clear.

Translation: Fizzy, yellow beer.

Bud Light and Coors Light knocked this one out of the park.

Aroma

Low to no malt aroma, although it can be perceived as grainy, sweet, or corn-like if present. Hop aroma is light to none, with a spicy or floral hop character if present. While a clean fermentation character is desirable, a light amount of yeast character (particularly a light apple fruitiness) is not a fault. Light DMS is not a fault.

Translation: Everything needs to be barely there. No strong hop or malt aroma, and anything that is present needs to be barely noticeable, even if it’s slightly sulfur-like or corn-like – which would be a fault in other beer styles. Both Coors Light and Bud Light nail this. Neither smells much like anything.

Flavor

Relatively neutral palate with a crisp and dry finish and a low to very low grainy or corn-like flavor that might be perceived as sweetness due to the low bitterness. Hop flavor ranges from none to low levels and can have a floral, spicy, or herbal quality (although rarely strong enough to detect). Low to very low hop bitterness. Balance may vary from slightly malty to slightly bitter but it is relatively close to even. High levels of carbonation may accentuate the crispness of the dry finish. Clean lager fermentation character.

Translation: It really shouldn’t taste like anything. It should be crisp and refreshing but not taste too strongly of any beer ingredients. Bud Light accomplishes this well while somehow tasting more beer-like than Coors Light.

Mouthfeel

Very light (sometimes watery) body. Very highly carbonated with a slight carbonic bite on the tongue.

Translation: You should sense the weight of water in your mouth. Coors Light is very watery. Bud Light has a bit more body.

Calories and Nutritional Information

Light lagers are beers with fewer calories than regular strength beers. A typical beer has a calorie count of around 140 calories. By contrast, most light lagers list their calories as about 100. 

Coors Light lists 102 calories per 12-ounce serving. Bud Light is a bit of an outlier; it has 110 calories per serving.  

Alcohol Content

A primary tactic to make a beer with less calories is to brew one with less alcohol content. Since alcohol is a primary source of calories in all alcoholic drinks, making a drink with less alcohol will naturally have fewer calories. 

An average beer has about 5 percent alcohol by volume. Coors Light and Bud Light each clock in at 4.2% abv. 

Brewing Process And Ingredients

Lower alcohol isn’t the only reason Coors and Bud Light have fewer calories. Many light lagers utilize enzymes during the brewing process. Beer yeast alone cannot consume all of the sugar in solution during the fermentation process. Enzymes help to further break down these long chains of unfermentable sugars into simple sugars that can be. 

Coors Light is brewed with water, malt, hops, yeast, and corn syrup. Bud Light is brewed with similar main ingredients but uses rice syrup.

A Super Bowl bud light commercial famously called out the Silver Bullet for using corn, which kind of backfired as it offended the country’s Bud light-lovin-corn-growers.

Still, to this day, Coors is careful to say that the corn they use isn’t high fructose corn syrup. It’s a silly argument, anyway. They both use adjuncts to lighten the flavors of their beer. It doesn’t matter if it’s corn syrup or rice syrup.  

Food Pairings

Light beers aren’t designed to pair with food – not the way craft beer or wine can, anyway.

They’re made for people that drink beer not to have to think about whether their Coors Light will complement their Dodger Dog.

Still, one can see that Coors Light and Bud Light excel at these types of food combinations. Rich fatty foods, like a hot dog or BBQ, stick to the palate.

Light fizzy beers offer a nice contrast while having the added value of scrubbing away the grease and readying you for another bite. 

Would Suit?

These beers are designed for the masses. I think they suit pretty much anyone who considers themselves part of the beer-drinking public.

If you can appreciate the slightly more noticeable malty notes of a Bud Light, then this buds for you.

If you’re interested in your beer being as cold as the Rockies and as crisp as a cucumber, you’d be better suited to drink Coors Light.

If either of these beers is too strong for you, God help you. I guess there’s always a White Claw hard seltzer.

What Do Other People Think about Both Beers?

These beers are never going to score highly on beer websites. They represent Big Beer, and people’s ability to be impartial is impossible when it comes to beer. 

ReviewerCoors LightBud Light
Untappd2.4 out of 52.3 / 5
Rate Beer1.38 out of 51.24 / 5
Influenster4.6 out of 54.3 / 5
Beer Advocate51 out of 100 (Awful)47 (Awful)
Average2.732.08

Our verdict: Bud Light vs Coors Light

Bud Light tastes more like beer than Coors Light does.

I suspect that loyalty to these two beers comes down to region, identity, and whether you like Coors Light or Bud Light commercials the best.

Each is an incredibly popular beer and leads the beer industry in sales.

As a native Coloradoan, I grew up to believe Coors Light was something to be proud of, but I have changed my mind. Bud Light beer tastes better.

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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.