In the fall of 2002, Anheuser-Busch, the distributor of Budweiser and the company who holds the title of ‘world’s largest brewer’ nationally rolled out Michelob Ultra. As you already know, Michelob Ultra is a diet beer targeted at women, girls and females.
OK, that’s not quite it’s targeted audience. The marketing campaign for Michelob Ultra is aimed at fit, in-shape, athletic-type 20-somethings of both sexes (or all three sexes if you count the homo-sexes). The buzz today, spurred by the resurgence of the Atkins diet, is that low carbs equals losing weight. Combine some excellent timing and the deep pockets of Anheuser-Busch and you have a winning beer.
“A winning beer?” you screech aloud… “Where’s my Mouse? I’m clicking the hell out of here!”
As regular readers of Brian’s Belly already know, a beer like Ultra is NOT targeted at us. It is with great disappointment that we often see great, great brews go untouched on our distributors and bartenders shelves while scores of people around us drink Coors Light, Bud Light and Miller Lite.
Of light beers, most women will tell you they like the taste and men will tell you that they like that they can drink it all day long. Whatever the reason, these mass-produced light beers often outsell our favorite brews- and it looks like Michelob Ultra can be added to the best seller list. The beer has greatly exceeded even Anheuser-Busch’s expectations.
My local distributor says that the cases of Ultra are flying out the door. My local bartender Kevin says it’s become ubiquitous quickly (although I am summarizing as he probably wouldn’t know what ubiquitous means). I am informed that it is on it’s way to kegs and will be on tap across the country shortly. I like to think that I’m a beer snob without an attitude, so when I hear all this I must decide for myself. So on Superbowl Sunday 2003, with a choice between Coors Light and Michelob Ultra, I tried Michelob Ultra.
A cold, cold Ultra with some chicken wings, nachos and a few football shaped cookies seemed palatable… enough for me to say “this isn’t bad.” But a week later I had another with a clean palate and flip-flopped faster than Mayor Quimby on election day.
One sampling was definitely skunked… it smelled like the beer-soaked shirt you find on the floor next to your bed the morning after a binge. This led me to wonder how a beer that had only been invented months earlier could have skunked already. Another sampling was better, but still too similar to it’s watery Bud Light brethren. If you bother to even pour this into a glass you’ll note that it is one of the palest beers you’ve ever seen. Can beer get any lighter than this? It is seltzer with a twist of corn.
Michelob, along with several other of “my father’s beers” have never struck a chord with me (none of the Michelob beers did well in our Winter Sampler review) and the Ultra is no exception. I will go on the record saying this, Michelob Ultra is better than Coors Light. And like most of the things I say, that’s not saying much.
Michelob Ultra has 96 calories, is 4.1 percent alcohol by volume and has a scant 2.9 grams of carbohydrates per 12-oz. serving. So what does this mean to us? Well, the closest comparison you could make, again, is to Bud Light at 110 calories and 6.6 grams of carbs. Perhaps considered one of the best light beers, Amstel Light has 95 calories and 8 grams of carbs.
Remarkably, the executives at Miller are probably pointing fingers and each other trying to decide why this wasn’t their marketing success story. Miller Lite could probably be reclassified as an “Ultra.” It has 96 calories and 3.2 grams of carbs.
Again, what does this mean to us? Your average non-diet mass produced beer such as Budweiser and Heineken have approximately 150 calories and 11 grams of carbs per 12-ounce serving. Guinness clocks in at a remarkably low 130 calories and 10 grams of carbs for a comparable 12-ounce serving. This means that you may as well drink what you want and what you like- even the average 200lb calorie-oblivious dolt can burn almost 100 calories by watching TV or sleeping for an hour.
Guys trying to justify drinking the diet stuff have always pointed out that you can drink more in a night when you “stay light”. But ultimately does any savings on a few scant grams or calories make up for the fact that you are on the verge of no longer being considered a beer drinker? Jim Koch of the Boston Brew Company used to point out that the difference was a few potato chips, and he’s right.
When you compare the fact that the two slices of pizza that you inevitably will eat at 3AM after a night of drinking is 30 grams of carbs and 600 calories or the four Castles® and an order of fries is 60 grams of carbs and 755 calories, you have to ask yourself if 2.9 grams of carbs in a beer will really make a difference in the size and shape of your pre-determined beer drinker’s body.
Despite the bicyclists and runners in the ads and the Ultra tag line “Lose the carbs. Not the taste”, you will not lose weight drinking this, or any beer. You may as well drink what you want, possibly in moderation. Make it something better than this.