Whether you go for a Bud Light or a Michelob Ultra, you get a refreshing beer with fewer calories than the bog-standard version. The question, then, is what makes each beer unique? What are the differences between Bud Light and Michelob Ultra?
Both Bud Light and Michelob Ultra are both light ales and have similar flavor profiles. Overall, Michelob Ultra has fewer calories (95 versus 110) and carbs (6.6g versus 2.6g) per 12-oz serving, but they offer the same 4.2% ABV. Michelob Ultra comes in a few bucks cheaper, but Bud Light remains the more popular choice with consumers.
While the differences between these two beers may seem negligible at first, regular drinkers will tell you they’re not interchangeable. Keep reading for a deep dive into these two beers’ history, ingredients, nutritional information, and reception.
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Michelob Ultra vs Bud Light comparison overview
Brewed by Anheuser-Busch, Bud Light is a popular light beer that has been around since 1982. Anheuser-Busch is one of the largest brewers in the world, and produces the flagship beer Budweiser as well as several other styles of Bud Light and many other lines of beer – including Stella Artois and Shock Top.
Bud Light is low in calories and cheap with a simple recipe. Though it is often dismissed as a bad beer, it can be crisp and refreshing. With its lower ABV, it is easily sessionable.
Also brewed by Anheuser-Busch, Michelob Ultra is a relatively young commercial light beer. It has only been around since 2002. However, Michelob has been around for much longer. Despite its relative youth, Michelob Ultra has done well on the market.
Compared to other light beers, Michelob Ultra is one of the lightest in terms of flavor and calories. It is an easily quaffable beer meant for refreshment. It is ideal for dieters and those watching their carbs.
The following information is based one 12-ounce serving:
|Comparison||Bud Light||Michelob Ultra|
|Carbs||6.6 grams||2.6 grams|
|Ingredients||Barley, rice, water, yeast, hops||Water, barley malt, Herkules hops, rice, yeast|
|Taste||Crisp, light maltiness, carbonation||Light malt, carbonation|
|Aroma||Light maltiness||Hint of bready notes, light citrus|
|Cost||$10 per 6-pack||$8.50 per 6-pack|
(according to USA Today, 2019)
|Most popular beer in the country, 13.24% market share, 27.2 million barrels shipped||5th most popular beer in the country, 4.97% market share, 10.2 million barrels shipped|
|History||First released in 1982 as Budweiser Light||Introduced in 2002|
What is the difference between Bud Light and Michelob Ultra?
When it comes to these two beers, there are many factors we can use to compare them.
The main differences between Bud Light and Michelob Ultra are:
- Bud Light vs Michelob Ultra calories
- Bud Light vs Michelob Ultra carbs
- Bud Light vs Michelob Ultra alcohol content (ABV)
- Bud Light vs Michelob Ultra ingredients
- Bud Light vs Michelob Ultra taste, flavors, and aroma
- Popularity and sales
The first few aspects – calories, carbs, alcohol content, and ingredients – help to determine the objective differences between the recipe and the final product.
Then we can break down why people like one over the other. By covering the taste, flavors, and aromas of the two beers, we can highlight some of the subjective reasons for people’s preferences.
Lastly, we’ll cover the marketing and history of the two beers. That will include the cost, popularity, and sales of Bud Light and Michelob Ultra.
Bud Light is arguably the most widely purchased and drunk beer in the United States. It’s brewed by Anheuser-Busch, one of the world’s largest beer producers.
Bud Light was first brewed in 1982 as a lighter alternative to the traditional Budweiser beer – in fact, it was originally called Budweiser Light, although the name was changed by 1984. In 2019, Bud Light was the #1 selling beer in the U.S. despite being generally unpopular among passionate beer drinkers. Its primary market competitors are other light lagers, including Coors Light, Miller Lite, and Michelob Ultra.
Bud Light is available in 12-oz bottles and 12-oz, 16-oz, and 25-oz cans. Despite being a spin-off, Bud Light is a brand unto itself with a variety of flavors available. There is also a Bud Light Seltzer, and the new zero-carb Bud Light Next.
Calories, carbs, and other nutritional facts
Bud Light is an American light lager, designed to offer the same great taste as Budweiser with fewer calories.
A 12-ounce can of Bud Light contains 110 calories, 6.6 grams of carbs, 0.9 grams of protein, and 0 grams of fat.
For context, 100 calories is the equivalent of a tablespoon of peanut butter or an average apple.
Alcohol Content (ABV)
Bud Light is considered sessionable because the ABV is low enough that you are likely to be able to drink several beers in a sitting (or “session”) without becoming intoxicated.
Each 12-ounce can or bottle of Bud Light has 4.2% alcohol by volume (ABV).
This is fairly standard across light beers.
Anheuser-Busch doesn’t share the specific recipe or ingredients for brewing their signature light beer, but they do provide the USDA-required general ingredient list.
Bud Light is brewed with 4 ingredients: water, barley, hops, and rice. Yeast is also used in brewing but is not listed in the ingredients.
The type of hops, the strain of yeast, the style of malt, and other specifics of the recipe aren’t released to the public but have a large impact on the end result.
Taste, flavors, and aroma
Bud Light may be one of the most popular beers in the world (at least in terms of sheer quantity consumed), but it may be hard to nail down exactly what it tastes like.
Bud Light tastes of mild breadiness and other malty flavors. There is some light sweetness to accompany the malt flavors. It has a quite carbonated but watery mouthfeel. The aroma is similar to the taste. A light breadiness with a hint of hops.
The beer is overall crisp and light. If you drink it in a can you will get a bit of the metallic quality.
The price of beer (as with all goods) may vary depending on where you live, but we’ve gathered some general numbers.
Individual tall cans (25 oz.) cost approximately $2.75. A 6-pack of Bud Light costs roughly 10 dollars.
Bud Light is available in many different quantities. There are 6-packs, 12-packs, 30 racks, and more.
Popularity and sales
In the case of mass-market beers, popularity and sales do not always go hand-in-hand. When’s the last time you bought a 30-pack of Sierra Nevada, after all?
According to YouGovAmerica, Bud Light is the 12th most popular beer in the US. However, it currently has a score of 47 (that’s good for an “awful” rating) on BeerAdvocate.
In 2020, Anheuser-Busch shipped 26.5 million barrels of Bud Light. This was a 6.5% decrease from the previous year.
In 1982 Bud Light was first sold as Budweiser Light. In 1984 it was rebranded Bud Light.
Bud Light and Michelob Ultra have been feuding since 1985 via marketing, other beers by the two breweries, and legal battles.
Michelob Ultra is a light American lager that is popular with younger, more health-conscious drinkers.
A relative newcomer on the light beer scene, Michelob Ultra was introduced in 2002 as a low-carb beer option at the height of the Atkins Diet craze. Despite its late arrival, Michelob Ultra was the fifth most popular beer in the U.S. in 2019.
However, many reviewers seem to focus more on its low-carb and low-calorie qualities than its actual taste.
Calories, carbs, and other nutrition facts
Michelob Ultra’s original tagline was “Lose the carbs. Not the taste.” With a pitch like that, its nutritional information must be worth a look!
Every 12-ounce Michelob Ultra has 95 calories, 2.6 carbs, 0 grams of fat, and 0.6 grams of protein.
Coupled with its low ABV, this beer is great for drinking on a hot day because it’s not too filling and it goes down easy.
Alcohol Content (ABV)
Michelob Ultra is a good session beer, like most light beers, meaning you can drink several at a time.
Each 12-ounce can of Michelob Ultra has 4.2% alcohol by volume (ABV).
Despite having fewer calories and significantly fewer carbs than other light beers, its ABV is fairly standard for the style.
Anheuser-Busch – the owner of both Bud Light and Michelob Ultra (among others) – is not particularly forthcoming with its recipes.
Michelob Ultra is brewed with water, barley malt, Herkules hops, rice, and water.
Aside from the hops used, the specifics of these ingredients are not released.
Taste, flavors, and aroma
While all light beers have very muted tastes, Michelob Ultra is one of the lightest.
Michelob Ultra is light on flavor and high on carbonation. It primarily tastes of light breadiness with some notes of citrus in the aroma. When cold it is highly refreshing.
Check out this article for more information on what Michelob Ultra tastes like.
A 6-pack of Michelob Ultra is about $8.50, depending on location and bottles or cans. A tall boy is about $2.
There are many other packaging options for Michelob Ultra.
Popularity and sales
In 2019, Michelob Ultra was ranked fifth in beer sales in the United States. However, it has a rating of 49 (Awful) on BeerAdvocate.
In 2020, the production volume of Michelob Ultra increased by 22.2% after a 16.2% increase in 2019. Additionally, Michelob Ultra made 3.1 billion dollars in the US in 2020.
Since its conception in 2002, Michelob Ultra has been promoted as a sporty beer.
With its low calories and carbs, it is marketed toward athletes and health-conscious drinkers. Throughout the years, Michelob Ultra has partnered with several professional sports groups.
In 2004, Michelob Ultra sponsored PGA and LPGA. Later, the first Super Bowl commercial for the beer was shown in 2016. Then in 2020, Michelob Ultra sponsored NBA and WNBA.