Is there really a difference? When commercials can only boast of "drinkability" and just how tongue-numbingly cold the beer should be served, one assumes that the actual taste of the beer is beside the point.
I decided (after some urging from Dave--those "marketing goons" with their Amstel Light were kind in comparison) to determine if there is a difference at all between two of the biggest, dumbest light beers on the market through a blind taste test.
Selecting individual tall boys at the convenience store, I kept them in their paper sacks, shuffled them in the grocery bag until I couldn't tell which sack held which, and poured them into identical glasses.
This was a real shocker, as I'd assumed they'd both look like cups full of carbonated urine. But they were easily distinguished. Can A poured a markedly darker color, almost beer-like in its yellowness. With its frothy head, extreme effervescence and misty bronze color, Can B looked like a glass full of Champagne.
Can A smelled like a barroom floor, with faint notes of white bread. I really struggled to pick up anything. Can B, amazingly, gave off nothing except carbon dioxide.
Can A: Yep, it's beer. There is definitely some kind of beer taste. No hops to speak of, but there's a faint grainy impression. Can B: This could be sparkling water with a few drops of beer extract mixed in. Club soda actually has more flavor than this does.
Texture and finish
Both feel precisely like carbonated water until the finish, whereupon Can A exhibits the slightest coating action, leaving a lingering mossy slick on the back of the tongue. Can B is gone and forgotten before you even have a chance to burp. You know, for light beers, they're remarkably filling. (New slogan suggestion: "Tastes awful! More filling!") Or maybe it's just because after a few sips, the thought of finishing a quart seems more like a joyless chore than the hijinks-inspiring attitude-adjustment in a can that the commercials seem to imply. Time for the big reveal.
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It turns out that Can A is Bud Light, and Can B is Coors Light. And it looks like I took too long and let the Cold Activated Can exceed the optimal serving temperature. Sure enough, as it warms, the less pleasant body-odor and cardboard flavor notes (read: the only detectable flavor notes) are surfacing as the thermometer exceeds frostiness. Time to test the "drinkability" of each and chug what's left.
Blehh. They both went down equally smoothly; one should hope they would, given that going down smoothly is all that is asked of such beers. I'd like to say that the only way I'd drink either of these again would be in some kind of drastic situation, like falling mouth-first into a pile of dog shit. But the fact is, I am a drinker. If there is ever a choice between drinking nothing and drinking one of these, I'll swallow my dignity, reach into the cooler and pray that the beer is damned cold.
And if it turns out that I have a choice between Bud Light and Coors Light, I'm going to pick the one that actually resembles beer, however distantly: Bud Light.