What Does Michelob Ultra Taste Like: Is It a Good Beer?

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I was a good many years old when I finally tasted a Michelob Ultra. As a craft beer fan, Michelob Ultra represents everything craft beer drinkers despise about mass-produced lagers from Big Beer. Light beer has been the most popular category of beer for decades. People love the idea of indulging in a few low-calorie brews without the guilt of ruining their diet. Despite this “have your cake and eat it too” mentality, there has always been one pitfall associated with light beers; fewer calories come at the price of less taste. 

Light beers represent the soulless, watery, and flavorless swill that people consume with the misguided intentions of keeping the pounds off to keep up some vain lifestyle. 

Or so I thought!

While many light lagers are vapid, often barely an excuse for a beer, Michelob Ultra threads the needle of one common denominator both light beer and craft beer drinkers can appreciate; refreshment. And frankly, Michelob Ultra crushes at this. So, whether you’re a marathon runner with nightmares about your thighs chafing or a crispy boi with a slow pour tat and a neckbeard, you’ll appreciate this superior light beer.

Michelob Ultra Review

Long before Michelob Ultra, Michelob was an Anheuser-Busch brand making a variety of beers similar to Busch Beer. Before AB figured out the best way to compete with the burgeoning craft breweries in the US, they tried to make Michelob their craft brand. As a child, I remember the distinctly shaped bottles of Michelob that helped distinguish the brand from other brands. 

Neither the fancy bottles nor attempts at looking craft were very successful for long, but in 2002 AB opted to add another light lager to its portfolio with Michelob Ultra. Michelob Light was already a thing, but it failed to stand out in a crowded light beer market. Ultra focused on a new type of beer drinker, different from a less targeted advertising target. Instead, Mich Ultra targeted the uber-health-conscious beer market. The ones that were highly active, marathon runners, yoga practitioners, avid golfers, and anyone else who aspired to be those people without actually being more active.

Michelob Ultra hit pay dirt! By 2020, a little more than a decade after launching, Michelob Ultra accounted for nearly 9 percent of on-premise beer sales, beers sold in restaurants and bars. Additionally, it represented 5.5 percent of overall beer sales in the United States, just behind other light beers that command a more significant market share, like Bud Light, Miller Lite, and Coors Light.

Michelob Ultra is so successful that Michelob Light was discontinued for a brief time. Reports are that it is still brewed, but tracking it down proves to be one of the most challenging feats if you read the internet. All of this success is not simply a nod to the power of AB’s Distribution clout. The light golden beer with a refreshing finish is actually delightful. So let’s dive into the tasting notes. 

Appearance

Most people drink a beer and rarely consider how it looks, but it can be beautiful. You’re robbing yourself of that aspect if you don’t take the time to appreciate a beer’s appearance. 

Michelob Ultra is light straw to yellow. It pours a white head with medium bubbles, quickly collapsing into a thin film. The beer is quite clear. Granted, it’s not the most beautiful beer ever, but it has its own je ne sai quoi.

The next time you have a bottle of Ultra after a race or a slim can on the golf course, try pouring it into a cup – it doesn’t have to be fancy – at the very least, the practice will burn off some excess carbonation so you won’t feel bloated. 

Flavor

The best taste description you can provide for a light beer is that it’s smooth. The term smooth is marketing speak for “it really doesn’t taste like anything.” Smooth means void of any strong flavors or identifiable ingredients. Some might see the absence of flavor as a negative, but the light lager style is not about the actual flavor.

I tried hard to parse some notes and found Michelob Ultra well-balanced between light, doughy malt and indiscernible hop bitterness. As the beer became tepid, that dough-like flavor became a bit sweeter.    

Mouthfeel

Most light beers are described as watery and thin, which would be considered light-bodied. This is not what I found in researching light beers. The majority are medium-body beers, and while some are quite watery, I feel the ample amount of prickly effervescence works to fill out the mouthfeel. 

Ultimately, the majority of this beer’s mouthfeel is highly carbonated, but the malt does add a weight that helps it reach that medium bodied description. The beer is refreshing and crisp, a little skunky and metallic in the finish.

Aroma

Aroma is as unimportant to light beers as what it tastes like. Again, these beers are about fewer calories and a refreshing taste. You’re not going to wax poetically about the aroma of Michelob Ultra like you would on the bouquet of a west coast IPA or Belgian gueuze. 

Instead, Michelob Ultra’s scent is subtle. The same doughy, lightly toasted malt graininess and light hop character is barely noticeable. I caught a slight earthy whiff I love in stout but would not necessarily prize in a pale lager. This petrichor aroma reminds me of what your neighborhood smells like after summer rain. It’s basically the smell of wet concrete. I know that might not seem very appetizing. In any case, the beer didn’t present any strong off-flavors that would turn away the general beer-drinking public, let alone me. 

Calories and Nutritional Information

A typical beer of approximately 5.5 percent alcohol has 140 calories. Light beers ranged between 95 and 110 calories. Michelob Ultra lists 95 calories. 

Fewer calories are a big selling point for Michelob Ultra, which positions itself among other beers as a low-calorie light beer for those with an active lifestyle. Additionally, it has only 2.6 carbs and no fat, but that doesn’t mean that Michelob Ultra won’t make you fat. Even though one serving has 96 calories, if you’re drinking it in excess and other high-caloric foods, your body will store unused calories as fat. The good news is that Michelob Ultra is a beloved keto friendly option.

Michelob Ultra Alcohol Content (ABV)

Though it has less calories than your average beer, like Stella Artois or Shock Top, those calories come primarily from the alcohol content. Ultra has 4.2 percent abv, the same as other light beers like Natural Light, Busch Light, or the silver bullet, aka Coors light. 

What’s the Best Way to Drink Michelob Ultra

After a workout or on the lawnmower, Michelo Ultra thrives when you need to cool off and relax. 

Temperature

Michelob Ultra and Michelob Ultra Pure Gold benefit from being very cold. Drink them right from the fridge, generally at 38 degrees F, or the cooler near freezing. While other beers in this category don’t taste great as they warm, I found Ultra to remain a refreshing beer as it warmed up.  

Can or bottle?

It really doesn’t matter. Please read above, where I provide a tip to pour your beer in a cup or glass. Since light beers are highly carbonated, it can make you feel overly full drinking them. So by pouring it into a glass, you can drive off the gas and avoid filling your tummy. 

Food pairings

Michelob Ultra would be great served with lighter foods like salads and fresh seafood. It would be a great beer at a raw bar or sushi restaurant. Additionally, it seems very comfortable at a BBQ with hot dogs and hamburgers or simply to wash down a cliff bar after a 10K. 

Michelob Ultra: Our Verdict

Michelob Ultra bills itself as the Superior Light Beer, and I’m here to tell you they’re absolutely right. Crisp and refreshing precisely the way the style should be, Michelob Ultra’s success is well-deserved. Gone are the days of choking down tepid, watery light lagers; Michelob Ultra has earned a spot in my beer fridge.

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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.