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Budweiser & The Corn Syrup Ad: Beer’s Secret Ingredient Explained

Corn Syrup In Beer: What It’s Used For & Dietary Effects

Bud Light recently lambasted its competitors for using corn syrup to make their beers, but just what’s so bad about corn syrup in beer?

If you were watching the Super Bowl last Sunday (and statistically speaking, we know that roughly 30% of you were), then you might have seen a series of strange Bud Light ads where they did a bit of crossover work for the new Game of Thrones season.

But after getting torched by a dragon, they also ran a second ad where they took a swipe at Miller and Coors Light over their use of corn syrup to make their beers.

After taking delivery of a giant keg of corn syrup, the king of Bud Lightlandia (as we’re calling it now) started carting the cart all over the land to deliver it back to its rightful owner. Eventually, Coors took delivery and admitted they do indeed brew their beer with corn syrup.

But is corn syrup such a bad thing to use to make beer? To be honest, not really.

Beer is made from fermenting cereal grains, which is usually dried barley, wheat, maize, or rice. Fermentation of the sugars found in the grains eventually produces ethanol (or alcohol) and carbonation, which makes beer. Most brewers also throw in some hops for flavoring and as a natural preservative, but that’s pretty much it as far as making beer goes.

The key ingredient to making beer is less the grain itself and more the sugars found inside the grain. In fact, the decayed plant material has to be filtered out, so it often makes more sense to skip the whole grain part and just ferment the sugar directly. In Miller/Coors case, that just means fermenting corn syrup instead of using whole grains.

Does that affect the final product much? According to Dr. David Ludwig, professor of nutrition at the Harvard T. H. Chan School of Public Health, the answer is a big fat nope.

“Corn syrup is a form of sugar that’s been produced from grain,” Dr. Ludwig told The New York Times. “Whether that sugar is produced by first milling and then enzymatically treating the grain, or doing so from corn in a separate process, isn’t going to matter much to the final nutritional quality.”

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Bud Light's hazing seems less to do with taste or nutritional value and more to do with marketing. Corn syrup can easily be confused with high fructose corn syrup, a substance lambasted for its association with obesity and unhealthy nutrition. To be clear, corn syrup is not the same thing (corn syrup is pure glucose, while the other stuff is a mix of fructose and glucose), but that probably doesn’t matter to most Bud Light drinkers.

To top it off, Bud Light recently started listing their ingredients on the label (rice, barley, water, and hops, in case you were wondering), so they can casually lord the lack of corn syrup over other brewers--a strange tactic, given that other beers made by their parent company actually do use corn syrup.

One organization that was definitely not happy with Bud Light’s marketing tactics is the National Corn Growers Association, a farming group that doesn’t like their product getting a bad name amongst beer-drinking Americans. This marketing stunt may just come back to bite Bud Light in the bud, so to speak.

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