Mass-marketed light beer horrifies some of the microbrew purists, but we were excited to do a blind tasting to see which light beers, if any, retained enough flavor and body to satisfy after having some of their carbs removed. This does save calories: Regular beer contains about 150 calories in 12 ounces, while light versions range from ultralight 55-calorie beers to moderately light versions with up to 125 calories. None of these match the body or flavor of your average brew-pub lager, but we did find four that we're happy to serve when the goal is icy, beery, light refreshment on a sizzling summer day.
BEST PREMIUM: Sam Adams Light, $7.97 (6-pack bottled)
Sam Adams' light offering is premium indeed. It features a thicker body and more substantial mouthfeel than others we tested. Its mild sweetness was balanced by a nutty flavor. Overall a great, well-rounded choice. STATS: 119 calories, 9.6g carbs, 4% ABV
BEST ULTRALIGHT: Beck's Premier Light, $9 (6-pack bottled)
This ultralight import had the lowest alcohol content of any beer we tried. But while its body was light and smooth, it still had character—a rich, nutty aroma and a stronger-than-expected finish. STATS: 64 calories, 3.9g carbs, 2.3% ABV
BEST OVERALL: Yuengling Light Lager, $5.47 (6-pack bottled)
The contender from America's oldest brewery had a light amber color that gave way to a medium body with depth and slight hoppy notes, proving light doesn't have to mean dull. STATS: 99 calories, 8.5g carbs, 3.5% ABV
GUYS' FAVORITE: Michelob Ultra, $6.47 (6-pack bottled)
Something about Michelob's 95-calorie contender brought a unified nod from the men on the panel. They noted its medium body, crisp and clean finish—even liked its faintly sweet aroma. STATS: 95 calories, 2.6g carbs, 4.2% ABV
HOW WE TEST
In three blind tastings, we evaluated light beers with 125 calories or less and ultralight beers with 70 calories or less per 12-ounce serving.