Drinking the Bottom Shelf: Bud Light Lime

Drinking the Bottom Shelf

Will Gordon drinks his way through the bottom shelf of the liquor store...so you don’t have to.


[Photo: Will Gordon]

I'm in remarkably poor health given that my three favorite foods are green and only one of them is an M&M. It's a good thing I have a soft life, because I am a poorly constructed unit. I wake up with lots of mysterious bruises (WebMD says leukemia, I prefer to assume I'm being beaten in my sleep) and I broke my toe or foot or something last week even though I barely even bashed it into the wall when I was barely even drunk, which is all the proof I need that broccoli's been ripping me off for years. But limes keep coming through (consistently scurvy-free, and I've been on a lot of mighty sketchy boat rides), so it's high time I reconsider my long-standing prejudice against lime-flavored beer.

Part of my lime-beer avoidance is that the iconically limed beer, Corona, comes across as more of a beer built around a marketing campaign than vice-versa. I don't like Corona because it sucks without the lime wedge and I don't like the idea of things floating around in my beer—that's largely because those things tend to be other people's cigarette butts and my own bad ideas, but the limes you get at bars are almost as bad. A lot of times you get a lame lime or an inattentive squeeze, so the juice is either nonexistent or sprayed all over the bar, and all you end up with is the disgusting lime rind floating around in your beer. And you know where that lime has been? Well, it's been on the hideous bar floor at least once, that's for sure, and I'm not 100 percent certain that 100 percent of dropped bar limes get washed 100 percent of the time.

But despite all that, I've been handed hundreds of Coronas in my day and I've yet to hand one back, and I can't deny enjoying it in the rare case that there's sufficient lime to counter Corona's base identity as skunky yellow beer that's spent way too much time in a clear glass bottle. I would never buy Corona of my own volition because it costs too much—most other overmarketed crap beers are at least cheap; Corona costs $2 per 6-pack more than Bud and doesn't taste an inch better—but my Corona and lime memories inspired me to throw together a little taste test to see if lime could be a cheap, easy, and vitamin-rich (eh, vitamin-solvent) way to deal with the upcoming summer's worth of cheap beer.

I've long maintained that if you think you like Corona with lime, you're in luck, because what you really like is simple cheap lager and lime. A few years ago Anheuser-Busch decided the same, which is why the biggest challenger to Corona's "-and lime" market dominance is now Bud Light Lime. I'm wary of anything premixed, but due diligence plus the chance to avoid dealing with limes of variable quality and dubious provenance made Bud Light Lime mandatory for this taste test. I matched it against Corona and lime, Bud Light and lime, PBR and lime, and Genesee Cream Ale and lime.

First things first: Bud Light Lime is strange and gross and I have no idea how they managed to mess it up so comprehensively. The label claims "100 percent natural lime flavor," which is not at all the same thing as "juice from a lime." It tastes like sugary breakfast cereal. I couldn't quite place which one, but there's some green "fruit" in the Fruity Pebbles logo, so let's go with that. At any rate, it's a little stale and a little grassy and very very fake. I feel naïve being surprised at this, but I just didn't imagine it would be so hard to get real lime flavor into a beer: with all the acid and alcohol and refrigeration and everything, I figured it would be easy enough to use (and preserve) real lime. I understand why they can't just shove real fruit inside Pop-Tarts, but why does beer have to be similarly debased?

As for the other matter under investigation—whether all beer tastes the same with lime added—I was wrong. It does not. It turns out that even if you use an extra-thick wedge of a high-quality, carefully squeezed lime, the given beer's essential character prevails. It's also hard to get the lime distributed throughout the whole beer, so the end product tastes different from sip to sip no matter how much you tip and swirl. So Corona and lime tastes much worse than PBR and lime and slightly better than Genesee and lime, with Bud Light and (actual) lime falling somewhere in the middle. But all of them are better than Bud Light Lime.