Last night, I watched something I never thought possible; the first-ever NBA Championship for my hometown Denver Nuggets. It took 47 seasons, but Jokic, Murray, and the rest of the team finished off an impressive gentleman’s sweep of the Miami Heat here in Denver.
Like most post-game celebrations, the bubbles were flowing. The Finals MVP, Nikola Jokic, looked awkward (not unusual) with a magnum bottle of the lead beer sponsor, Michelob Ultra.
In a state known for its beer, it struck me that the team wasn’t spraying Coors Light. I’m not naive to expect them to be shotgunning Craft IPAs, but it got me thinking, ‘Would they rather be drinking the hometown light beer?’
Now that we don’t have to debate the dominance of the Joker anymore, we’ve got plenty of time for a little one-on-one, light beer style: today, Coors Light versus Michelob Ultra.
Sneak preview – I found Michelob Ultra to be the better brew, but read on to find out why.
Coors Light and Michelob Ultra Compared
Though both light lagers, the history of Coors Light and Michelob Ultra could not be more different. Coors Light launched in 1978, a response to the success of one of its chief competitors, Miller Lite. In the United States, the silver bullet, as it is sometimes called, has led all beer, along with Miller Lite and Bud Light, ever since.
Michelob Ultra is a far newer brand on the scene. This premium light lager burst onto the scene in 2002. Michelob is a brand owned by Anheuser Busch InBev and has aggressively gained a following by appealing to athletic, health-conscious beer drinkers.
Coors Light and Michelob Ultra fall under the light lager category, a subcategory of Standard American Beer styles in the Beer Judge Certification Program (BJCP). The class is hallmarked by extreme drinkability and refreshment. While Coors Light and Michelob Ultra are excellent examples of the style, they are very different beers. Let’s look at the BJCP style description below and see how these two beers shake out.
[Light lagers are] “Very pale straw to pale yellow color. White, frothy head seldom persists. Very clear.”
Coors Light and Michelob Ultra fit well into this description. After pouring a Michelob Ultra, the appearance was a beer with a straw to light yellow. The foam head had medium-sized that quickly collapsed and spread to the edge as a thin film. The beer was quite clear, and a high level of carbonation was evident from tiny bubbles breaking out of solution from nucleation spots on the bottom of my glass and racing to the top.
Coors Light’s appearance was similar to MU. The beer was yellow to light gold with tiny bubbles. The result of the head was expected; it collapsed in seconds. Like MU, Coors Light was very clear.
Light lagers should be pale and brilliantly clear. The lack of head retention is expected. Both these beers look the part, and no clear edge exists in comparison.
[Light Lagers are] “Low malt aroma optional, but may be perceived as grainy, sweet, or corn-like, if present. Light spicy, floral, or herbal hop aroma is optional. While a clean fermentation profile is desirable, a light amount of yeast character is not a fault.”
Don’t expect a ton of aroma in light lagers, and what you do pick up should be subdued. For Michelob Ultra, I caught a delicate malt aroma that was grainy, doughy, and a bit like lightly toasted bread. A light herbal hop note could also be parsed out. While the fermentation was clean, I also noticed a slight mineral character that reminded me of concrete. This could result from using old malt or a particular water characteristic. Nonetheless, it shouldn’t be a part of the aroma, and I’d consider it a fault.
Coors Lights’ aroma was almost entirely neutral – hardly smelling of anything. It did have a faint light, grain character, and what I describe as the smell of wet sand. I believe this is the same fault I noticed in the Michelob Ultra sample but less pleasant.
Light beers don’t need to smell like anything, but a beer gets bonus points in my book if it can smell beer-like. Michelob Ultra achieved this. CL did not.
“Relatively neutral palate with a crisp, dry finish and a low to very low grainy or corn-like flavor that might be perceived as sweetness due to the low bitterness. Low floral, spicy, or herbal hop flavor is optional but rarely strong enough to detect. Low to very low bitterness. Balance may vary from slightly malty to slightly bitter, but it is usually close to even. High carbonation may accentuate the crispness of the dry finish. Clean fermentation profile.”
These beers are brewed to be refreshing and have fewer calories. The consumer draw for light beers is not the taste, though they should not taste bad. The flavor profile of Michelob Ultra is balanced and smooth. Smooth and balanced is code for it tastes like anything. Yet there is some doughy malt, a light sweetness, and hop bitterness. It doesn’t taste bad; it just doesn’t taste like much of anything. And that’s a compliment!
I wish Coors Light tasted better. The same grainy, sandy character I got in the aroma came through in the flavor. I could pick out some residual maltiness and low bitterness as it warmed. For the most part, it just lacked beer flavor.
Millions of beer drinkers drink these beers and never consider what their beer tastes like, but if they cared and had the choice, I’d think they prefer the flavor of Michelob Ultra more.
“Very light, sometimes watery, body. Very highly carbonated with a slight carbonic bite on the tongue.”
Mouthfeel refers to the texture of the beer; how it feels when it rolls over your palate. This could be heavy, light, dense, sharp, and flabby for some beers. Think of the weight of the beer in terms of milk types. An imperial stout will be heavy, thick, and viscous like whole milk. A light lager should be more like skim or 2% in your mouth. And because it’s highly carbonated, expect it to be piquant or tingly in your mouth.
Ultra is so carbonated it almost bites the skin. It is medium-bodied, like two percent milk, and finishes with a metallic sensation. The aftertaste also elicits some hop burps, which I find pleasant and a nod to the carbonation.
CL is water and thin; think skim milk. It, too, is metallic and highly carbonated.
Light beers have a reputation for being thin and watery, but they don’t have to be. In fact, having a bit of body makes them more pleasant to drink. That’s why I prefer the mouthfeel of Mich. Ultra more.
Coors Light and Michelob Ultra Calories
Light beers have fewer calories than regular strength beers. They achieve this in two ways. The first is to brew a beer with a low abv. The second is to use enzymes during the brewing process to break down sugars further than normal so that the lager yeast can efficiently consume more—the fewer sugar molecules in the final product results in fewer carbohydrates and calories.
Michelob Ultra lists 95 calories per 12-ounce serving. Coors Light has 102 calories per serving.
Regarding low abv, Michelob Ultra and Coors Light have 4.2 percent alcohol by volume. This is a standard among all of the top light beers. Miller Lite and Bud Light also have this abv.
What Do People Think About Both Beers?
Let’s see what people think of these beers.
|Reviewer||Coors Light||Michelob Ultra|
|Untappd||2.4 out of 5||2.5 out of 5|
|Rate Beer||1.38 out of 5||1.95 out of 5|
|Influenster||4.6 out of 5||4.5 out of 5|
|Beer Advocate||1.96 (Awful)||2.04 (Awful)|
Other Light Beers to Try
- Bud Light (buy here and save $5)
- Bud Light Platinum (buy here and save $5)
- Busch Light (buy here and save $5)
- Natural Ice (buy here and save $5)
- Amstel Light (buy here and save $5)
- Keystone Light (buy here and save $5)
- Natural Light [Natty Light] (buy here and save $5)
- Heineken Light (buy here and save $5)
- Samuel Adams Light
The knock on light beers is they’re watery, flavorless swill. The knock on the Nuggets was that they could never get past the second round, and when they did, they could never get past the Lakers. But if the Nuggets can finally bring the NBA title to the Mile High City, isn’t there hope that a light beer could taste like beer while still refreshing?
Anything is possible!
The tagline is fitting. Michelob Ultra is the Superior light beer. Coors Light exemplifies the worst of light beer; Michelob is just in another league.
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