Turns Out, Miller Lite Doesn’t Taste So Great.
Welcome to On Tap! Each week in this recurring feature, we’ll take an in-depth look at one of the many beers now available in the suddenly crowded North Texas brew scene. The goal here is to look at these area beers without our local goggles on and to wonder aloud, “Is this beer good or do I just like it because it’s local?” Should be a fun experiment, no? Cheers to that!
This week, we sipped on Miller Brewing Company‘s Miller Lite.
Fast Facts on Miller Brewing Company Miller Lite
• Style: Lite American Lager.
• ABV: 4.17 percent.
• International Bitterness Units (IBUs): 8-12.
• Color: Pale yellow.
• Availability: Year-round.
Earlier this week, Central Track staffer Cory Graves practically redefined what it means to be a North Texas beer.
In his latest opinion piece, he makes the questionable case that Miller Lite is the champion of North Texas brews, topping the likes of Lakewood’s Temptress and Peticolas’ Royal Scandal — two of my personal favorites. Given that Miller Lite is produced by an international conglomerate and that it’s generally considered one of the worst beers in the country, I was rightfully confused.
Well, turns out, Cory did have some grounds to stand upon: Not only does MillerCoors run a brewing plant in Forth Worth, but that same brewery was also the very first one in the country to brew Miller Lite when it was introduced in 1973. These days, the plant’s at least partially responsible for churning out some of the world’s Miller Lite supply, as well as other mass-produced gems such as Third Shift Amber Lager and Fosters.
Still: MillerCoors, as an entity, has virtually zero local ownership or community roots. So is it really “hands-down the best locally-made beer in all of North Texas,” as Cory so gallantly states?
Let’s take a serious look and find out.
Background on Lite American Lagers.
Light beer, believe it or not, has its very own style category in the Beer Judge Certification Program. And, really, it’s a style that’s very difficult to master for home and commercial brewers alike. Why? Because of the light and delicate flavors that are found in a finished Lite American Lager. It’s just very difficult to cover up brewing mistakes and off flavors in this style. Stronger, more flavorful ales like Stouts, Porters and IPAs tend to be much more forgiving to mistakes, and are therefore easier to brew well.
When drinking a Lite American Lager, expect a lot of nothing — and by design, of course. The beer should pour clear and a very pale straw to pale yellow with a frothy white head that doesn’t stick around long. There should be little to no grain or hop aroma, though, if present, grains may manifest as sweet or corn-like, and hops may come across as spicy or floral. You may also notice aromas of green apples or DMS (an off-flavor common in lagers resulting in cooked corn flavors or aromas). The beer should be crisp and refreshing, with a very light body and high levels of carbonation. There should be little to no hop flavor or bitterness.
Miller Lite pours exceptionally clear. Like, if it weren’t for its pale yellow hue, it could easily double for carbonated water. Initially, there’s a very thick frothy white head, but that dissipates quickly, leaving a thin layer of bubbles on top of the beer. But even that bit of aesthetic pleasure ends far too abruptly.
If I told you this beer smells like college, would that be enough? No? Well, the only aromas I can get from Miller Lite that are worth mentioning are a strong tart green apple presence and just a hint of grainy cooked corn.
More tart green apple upfront with just the ever-so-slight hint of hop bitterness on the backend, which owed, no doubt, to Miller’s Triple Hops Brewed® production process. (Note: All beers are brewed with a “triple hops brewing process.” This isn’t special, nor should it be trademarked in any way.) There’s a bit of sweet grain present as well, but it’s hard to pick out. After a couple sips, there’s an odd, almost chemically aftertaste that just lodges itself in your palate and never lets go. For those following along at home, a palate cleanser is recommended.
Thin and light are the keywords. The beer is highly carbonated to further enhance the perception of a refreshing beverage. Comparing this beer to the consistency of water, while not entirely accurate, is certainly on the right track.
When discussing macro American lagers (Miller, Coors, etc.) with my craft beer-enjoying friends, the one area where I try to give them credit is in consistently brewing a difficult style that is generally somewhat palatable. American Lagers — Lite or otherwise — don’t have much latitude for hiding brewing flaws and they require quite a bit of brewing skill to pull off well.
That said, I really can’t transfer any of this credit to the Miller Lite I sampled for this review. Put simply, Miller Lite is the worst beer I have reviewed for On Tap, and it may be one of the worst beers I have sampled, ever.
The predominance of green apple and cooked corn flavors and aromas, owed to excessive amounts of Acetaldehyde and Dimethyl Sulfides (DMS), respectively, make this a tongue-wrenching consumption experience. In just about every other beer style in the world, these two flavor compounds are treated as very serious flaws. But in the Lite American Lager category — a style that was essentially created just to classify beers like Miller Lite — it’s strangely acceptable. What does this say about the average American beer drinker, that by and large they’d rather drink beer chock full of flavors considered too egregious and off-putting for consumption in the majority of modern beer styles?
I almost shudder to think.
So while my colleague Cory suggests that we should be embracing and celebrating Miller Lite as the elder statesman in the North Texas brewing scene (notice the absence of “craft” in that statement), I suggest otherwise.
If the North Texas brewing scene were a family, Miller Lite is the red-headed stepchild, the bastard son and the black sheep all rolled into one. It’s the family member who is so toxic, you actively confer with other family members before making plans so as to avoid any risk of human contact.
In no way, shape or form should we be proud that Miller Lite was produced — in part or in whole — anywhere in Texas, let alone in our burgeoning craft beer region of North Texas.
On a scale of 1 to 10, I give Miller Brewing Company’s Miller Lite a 1. And it barely ekes that out.
Previous On Tap Reviews:
• Peticolas’ Royal Scandal: 10.
• Community’s Mosaic IPA: 10.
• Lakewood’s Temptress: 9.5.
• Lakewood’s Goatman: 9.5.
• Community’s Public Ale: 9.5.
• Revolver’s Blood & Honey: 9.
• Martin House’s Imperial Texas: 9.
• Community’s Trinity Tripel: 9.
• Peticolas’ Irish Goodbye: 9.
• Cedar Creek’s Belgian Dubbel: 9.
• Deep Ellum’s Oak Cliff Coffee Ale: 8.5.
• Rahr’s Bourbon Barrel Aged Winter Warmer: 8.5.
• Lakewood’s Raspberry Temptress: 8.5.
• Lakewood’s Punkel: 8.
• Four Corners’ El Chingon IPA: 8.
• Martin House’s Day Break: 8.
• Deep Ellum’s GOURDzilla: 8.
• Peticolas’ Wintervention: 8.
• Community’s Texas Pils: 7.5.
• Lakewood’s Zomer Pils: 7.5.
• Deep Ellum IPA: 7.
• Lakewood’s Till & Toil: 7.
• 903 Brewers’ The Chosen One: 7.
• Martin House’s Gateway XPA: 7.
• Armadillo Ale Work’s Quakertown Stout: 7.
• Peticolas’ The Duke: 6.5.
• Deep Ellum’s Double Brown Stout : 6.5.
• Cedar Creek’s Elliott’s Phoned Home Pale Ale: 6
• Grapevine Craft Brewery’s Lakefire: 6
• Lakewood’s La Dame Du Lac: 5.5.
• Franconia Wheat: 3.