I discuss this style of beer with a great deal of trepidation. Or is it indifference? Boredom? Frankly, I see little point in the whole genre. We're talking about a small handful of calories separating a decent, full flavored beer from an almost tasteless light. The better lights tend to be around 120 calories. Go check on how many are in a regular Guinness. The marketers have people rushing to the lights just to save 40 or 50 calories at most. Why do people do it? If you want a great, low calorie thirst quencher, there's always water. If you want a beer, have a proper one. If you're that worried about a handful of calories, maybe give up the Snickers bar instead. Or hop around a bit while you're sipping. Beer is beer, and it requires sugar to ferment, so it is going to have calories.
But, everybody asks, so here are what I consider the top 5 light beers.
1. Samuel Adams Light
Hands down this is the best light available. It's almost good enough to consider it a real beer. In fact, many dieters do. All the better lights obviously tend to the higher calorie counts, and this one checks in at 120. Sam has the most flavor, or at least the most 'good' flavors, of any of the lights. Well balanced with a smattering of both malt and hops, it even has a bit of orange to keep things interesting. No question about it, the best light on the market.
2. Yuengling Light
This one has the least amount of calories, 99, and the lowest alcohol content, 3.4%, of any others on the list. So this is one light beer that would qualify as a true light in anybody's book. But, there is still some flavor without that horrible, cooked vegetable taste the rubbish lights all have. The Yuengling has less malt than the Sam Adams, so the hops come out a bit more. Not that they are overwhelming or anything -- it is still a light beer, after all. Not bad, though, and if you prefer hops over malt, this is probably your light.
3. Shiner Light
Shiner moves to the maltier side of the Sam Adams. Back up to 4% alcohol and 120 calories, though. A smattering of hops tries to get this beer to finish crisply, but this thing is one of the sweeter and maltier of the lights. Some grass and banana flavors come out front. Of the lights, this one is the least suitable for 'lawnmower work,' but one of the better ones to linger over.
4. Slim Chance
See my review for more depth. Like the Sam Adams, Slim Chance is shooting for the middle ground. And, it mostly hits it. The relevent numbers are pretty much the same as Sam -- 3.9% alcohol and 121 calories -- but it doesn't quite measure up. Still, it's not bad. A toned down and muted version of a real beer, but it goes down well on a hot Summer day.
5. Pabst Blue Ribbon Light
Okay, so you're a hard-edged, punk rocker sort that still has to keep an eye on the girlish figure. The Pabst Light will allow you a certain amount of street cred, a touch more alcohol at 4.2%, and only 113 calories. Unfortunately, the Pabst has the beginnings of that stewed vegetable flavor, but at least you'll be considered 'cool' in some circles. There's also a hint of apple cider that beats back some of that cabbage, and makes it almost palatable.
I guess light beers are there to make fat bastards at least look like we're trying. They remain more of a marketing scheme than anything, though. Guinness has 126 calories and most on this list only have a sip or two less than that. Yes, there are even lighter light beers, but what's the point? Those get to the point to where it tastes like drinking water from an unrinsed beer glass. Who really wants that? If you must have a light, then keep to this list, but I'm generally against such a thing. Life is short and should be enjoyed. Find a proper beer you like and leave the lights to the gullible masses.