And the Winner of the Best Light Beer Contest is …Rolling Rock?
I know this review may create a great deal of controversy. That is if we’re lucky. We can use all the publicity we can get. But the facts are simple. We here at the Belly aren’t concerned about calories, we’re concerned about taste and quality. That’s why I consider Rolling Rock to be the best light beer. Please note that I did not and will not refer to Rolling Rock as a “lite” beer and I am not referring to “Rolling Rock Light”. I’m talking about good ol’ Rolling Rock in the green bottle. Number “33”. Whatever that means (see below). Don’t ask me because I don’t care what it means. And I’m not going to take up valuable cyber space describing the types of hops, barley and craftsmanship that goes into each bottle of Rolling Rock. Because I don’t know. I just know I like it. I like it a lot. But enough ranting, let me get to the facts.
No doubt if you’ve ever had a Rolling Rock and paid for it yourself, you know that it is inexpensive. So if you’re ever reduced to living in a van down by the river you’ll still be able to afford it. It’s even less expensive than other mass produced bottled beers like Budweiser. Additionally, Rolling Rock, unlike Budweiser, Coors and other domestic generic fermented swill, does not claim to be a premium lager. Instead it only refers to itself as an extra pale golden lager. And that it is. But what it lacks in body, zest and bite, it makes up for in lightness, zing and cold refreshment. Think of it as the Fresca of beers. Of course you can’t enjoy Fresca when you’re jonesing for a Coke or chocolate shake. So you shouldn’t order a Rolling Rock when what you really want is stout. And don’t force one on yourself, just wait for the right mood to hit. Usually when the mercury hits 85 – 90 degrees or after helping a friend move his furniture into a five-story walk up.
Over the years, I’ve tried many different light or lite beers. But never more than once (with the exception of Amstel Light). I once heard a light beer referred to as a beer spritzer and that sounds about right to me (again with the exception of Amstel Light). But Rolling Rock, despite its lightness, still tastes like beer. Not like Coors Light, the so-called silver bullet. I often think that it got that name for its metallic taste.
Next time you have a party and are tempted to buy some Budweiser, Miller or Coors for your less beer savvy friends, try Rolling Rock. Trust me, when the party is over you won’t be asking “Now what I am I going to do with all of this left-over swill?” You’ll find a good home for it. In your gullet! Of course, you’ll still have some calorie conscious friends looking for the right reduced calorie beer. Sorry, I can’t help you with that, Jack.
In all fairness and to avoid confusion, I guess I should refer to Rolling Rock as the best lighter beer. It is certainly lighter than most of the high quality beers you’ll find reviewed in the Belly. But it still deserves honorable mention for its (forgive the cliché) “tastes great, less filling” appeal. And most important, always remember that I like it. I like it a lot.
We all know the two official, and most logical explanations for the “33” on the label of a Rolling Rock… firstly, that it was the year that prohibition was repealed (personally, I think this should be a paid holiday- December 5th if you are jotting it down) and secondly, that there are 33 words in the legend printed on the bottles & cans:
“Rolling Rock from glass lined tanks in the Laurel Highlands. We tender this premium beer for your enjoyment as a tribute to your good taste. It comes from the mountain springs to you.”
The story here goes that the “33” word count was scribbled on the copy that went to the printer, then a mass of bottles were printed and no one caught this in time. As silly as this may sound to some, it is highly possible to consider this an oversight… sometimes you just don’t catch this kind of thing… if you’re drunk on your own creation when the copy went to the printer, sure this could happen. We’ve spelled jalapeno, cerveza & recipe wrong here at the Belly, but that’s mostly because we’re drunk AND idiots.
Anyway, here is a list of all the explanations we’ve heard, found and have had sent in to Brian’s Belly. For our own personal sanity we only listed the ones that, even if perpetrated upon us, are GOOD enough to sound reasonable, or reasonably stupid.
Got an addition? Leave it in the comments.
- The number of letters in Rolling Rock’s ingredients- water, malt, rice, hops, corn, brewer’s yeast- add up to 33. This is also a reasonable take on the word/letter count for which someone could have scribbled “33” on the copy I suppose.
- Belly Buddy Scott Doherty seems to think that the number “33” on the bottle stands for the year Adolph Hitler came into power in Germany.
- There are 33 streams feeding into the reservoir from which the brewery draws its water. I can neither confirm, or deny this, but a geological survey could clear it up… I’m sure they aren’t too expensive.
- Groundhog Day is the 33rd day of the year, and they make a big fuss over that holiday in Pennsylvania. This is just so ridiculous, I have to include it here. SO WHY ISN’T THERE A GROUNDHOG ON THE BOTTLE… HUH?
- The coldest temperature at which water remains a liquid is 33 degrees.
- Rolling Rock was brewed at 33 degrees.
- Beer tastes best at 33 degrees.
- The brewery was started with money won at the track betting on #33 “Old Latrobe”, hence the 33 and horse.
- It’s related to the highest level (33rd-degree) status attained by Freemasons. Solving the origin of the “33” is so important, that perhaps some actual Freemasons could finally expose themselves and confirm this.
- Justin Richards writes: “Its simple, the “33” on the Rolling Rock was the foreshadowment of the greatest basketball player ever – Larry Bird. When he wore the number the prophecy was fulfilled, but maybe I am drunk and just plain stupid too. Oh well that’s my theory.”
- Steve Hands: “The 33 represents the first six pack. Rolling Rock was the first beer in the country to be sold in a six pack with two rows of three bottles, 3 & 3 or 33.”
And the drunks have spoken!
Prior to our comment system we received some witty email about this beer. BTW, although the shoe may fit from time to time, let’s start comparing beer we don’t like to something besides urine, eh?
- Rolling Rock, the best light beer? I’m sorry but that is the most incorrect statement made since the world was considered flat. “The Fresca of beers?” Is this a compliment? I call it piss in a bottle. But that’s just me. A quote from your article- “Rolling Rock, despite its lightness, still tastes like beer.” I have to make a point here, Rolling Rock does not taste like beer, but rather, ass. It says on the bottle that it is “classic pale ale”. I think the brewers of Latrobe must have been mistaken in thinking that the only way to make beer pale is by adding bath water. I would suggest for the reviewer to go ahead and come out of the closet and start drinking Zima and Smirnoff Ice. I have found all of your beer reviews entertaining and informative and I especially enjoyed the review of my favorite, Pilsner Urquell. However, Brian’s Belly was off the mark this time and needs to beg forgiveness from anyone who accidentally read this garbage about piss, I mean Rolling Rock.
-Respectfully Submitted, Warner May
- I write this to you more in anger of the other 70 or so drinkers who agree with your reviewer and maintain the unprecedented 9.0 that this beer has. Perhaps “3.3” would be a more accurate rating.
- I’ve been visiting your site frequently to read some of the great stuff you have put together and have come to see that all of you guys do have different tastes when it comes to your brews… that said, Belly Buddy John Carroll needs to have his taste buds re-calibrated before he starts telling us that shit on a shingle is fine cuisine.
- Are you guys kidding? Rolling Rock and the word “best” should never be used in the same sentence unless you’re referring to the beer as the “best urine ever.”
- “Unbalanced, due to an off-flavor reminiscent of canned corn.”
-Consumer Reports, August 2001.