On February 7, 2022, Bud Light released a new beer: Bud Light Next. It’s touted as Anheuser-Busch’s first zero-carb beer, and it clocks in at 80 calories with an ABV of 4%. It immediately caught my eye with its sleek and futuristic packaging—I have to say, the label’s pretty nice, combining baby blue, dark blue, silver, and white all together in one attractive can. The beverage itself, however, is a whole different story.
Having received samples from Anheuser-Busch, I made sure to refrigerate a few cans until they were nice and cold, then my fiancée and I popped one open. I watched her take a sip, and she immediately made a face.
“Who is this for?” she asked.
Picture an ultra-light beer, which is damn near close to water already, and then water it down further with plain seltzer, and there you have it. The flavor of the beer is thin and reedy, and then that flavor disappears completely.
It so resembles seltzer, in fact, that I have a sneaking suspicion that it’s not brewed like beer at all. If it’s totally carb-free, that means this stuff has probably never seen a grain in its life, which leads me to believe that Bud Light Next is a beer-flavored seltzer of some sort. Modern food and beverage technology is amazing. Plus, I have a feeling Anheuser-Busch has found some way to legally label this beverage as beer without it being quite the product we understand beer to be: derived from grains and brewed with hops.
It seems like we might never know for sure. I asked my contact at Anheuser-Busch exactly how this stuff is produced, and I was told that the company must stay tight-lipped about how it’s made for now, because Bud Light is still working on protecting that process.
So, back to my fiancée’s question then: Who exactly is Bud Light Next for? I’m going to hazard a guess and say it’s aimed at two markets: those who are looking to cut calories and those who are looking to cut down on carbs for whatever reason. And there are many reasons that might be the case, whether it’s for controlling one’s blood sugar or observing a ketogenic diet.
But for those customers, is Bud Light Next a good substitution for, or an accurate simulation of, Bud Light beer? No, not really. It tastes like almost nothing, and makes a Bud Light look like the pinnacle of flavor in comparison.
If you can’t drink beer but miss the taste or experience of drinking it, Bud Light Next isn’t going to fill that hole in your life, unfortunately. You are way better off sticking to any of the other hard seltzers we’ve reviewed, even if they aren’t the beer you’re looking for, because it’s hard to extricate beer from carbs, and vice versa. Even harder than extricating alcohol from beer.
Not all is lost, however, if you want something new and fun. Bud Light also released a new seltzer variety pack: Bud Light Seltzer Hard Soda. It’s terrific. Each soda tastes like its namesake—Classic Cola, Cherry Cola, Orange Soda, and Citrus Soda—and each one contains 100 calories, 2 grams of carbs, and 5% alcohol by volume in each 12-oz. can. I have to say, I’m not a big soda drinker (as in, not at all), but these things made me so pleasantly happy I hope Anheuser-Busch keeps this product line around at least through next summer.
I’ve typically been a pretty big fan of Bud Light Seltzers in the past, and when they’re good, they’re really good; feel free to ignore the Toasted Marshmallow and Pumpkin Spice seltzers from late last year. And in the case of Bud Light Next, you’ll want to skip the beer altogether and go straight for the hard soda instead.