Taste Test: Bud Light Seltzer vs. White Claw Spiked Seltzer

For those in the beverage industry (or in the beverage consumption industry), 2019 was the year of spiked seltzer. If the first two months are any indication, 2020 could see seltzer grow even more. Anheuser-Busch, brewer of Budweiser, is now joining the fray—out to become the King of Seltzers in 2020 with its newly launched Bud Light Seltzer.

Budweiser put Anheuser-Busch on the map, but Bud Light took the company to juggernaut status. The times were a-changin’ in the beer industry in the 70s, with Miller Lite chipping away at Bud’s market share as consumers began to seek out light beer options. Soon after, Bud Light was introduced to the market and erased the competition’s early lead, quickly becoming the king of the light beer industry.

Today, Anheuser-Bush looks to do much of the same in a frenzied hard seltzer market. Rather than waiting to dip their toes into the seltzer game as they did with light beer, AB jumped right into the deep end with the introduction of Bud Light Seltzer.

On Super Bowl Sunday, Post Malone starred in a pair of ads that brought Bud Light and its brand-new seltzer companion together. The ads emphasized AB’s investment in Bud Light Seltzer and were a sign the company is willing to leverage its big brother’s popularity to become cool by association. The result? The advertisements were seen by nearly 100 million Super Bowl viewers and the campaign was named the top pre-game social media sentiment by Sprout Social.

As one of those 100 million viewers, I found myself intrigued to try a Bud Light Seltzer.

In the interest of clarity, part of my curiosity in Bud Light Seltzer came from my love for Bud Light. I could be at a top-shelf open bar, but I’ll almost certainly wind up with a Bud Light in my hand. It’s a versatile beer that works in all situations. For my money, there aren’t many things better than tossing back a few Bud Lights with your buddies during your round (and after your round…and maybe before).

I have to admit that I “clawed” my way through a few coolers last summer. It was hard to ignore the seltzer hype. White Claw was the drink of the summer. Hell, it was a bonafide movement. I might have poured my White Claws into solo cups as fast as I could to avoid looking like I belonged at a sorority mixer, but there was no denying its value as a great warm-weather drink in the great outdoors. Some of my golf buddies even started packing them into their traditional beer bags for the course.

So, can Bud Light Seltzer hold up against—and possibly surpass—the clubhouse leader?

I got myself a Bud Light Seltzer variety pack that included mango, lime, black cherry and strawberry flavors—a pretty standard mix that most seltzer companies offer. In pursuit of some level of objectivity, I picked up a case of White Claw and Bon & Viv Spiked Seltzer, too. It was a hard job, but somebody had to do it…

The official Spiked Seltzer taste-test lineup.
The official Spiked Seltzer taste-test lineup.
Tim Reilly

Before diving into it, there’s one important thing to point out about Bud Light Seltzer: there’s no Bud Light in it. That’s right, the connection to Bud Light is in name only. I was thrown for a loop when I first discovered that, but also happy to learn it. I don’t need anyone messing with an already perfect recipe.

I started with a mango, my favorite flavor from White Claw. It was pretttty, prettty good, as Larry David would say. A Bud Light Seltzer is even lighter to drink than a Bud Light, and the flavoring was on-point. A few sips in and I found myself thinking how easily I could go through a pack of these on the course. The slim cans fit quite nicely in a golf bag. I tried it out, you know, for hypothetical purposes.

I put Bud Light Seltzer’s mango up against its White Claw counterpart in a blind test taste (i.e. the Pepsi Challenge). What do you know, Bud Light Seltzer came away as the winner. I even gave it a second go-around to confirm my initial results.

Black cherry was also solid. I was pleasantly surprised by this one; it ranks as my second-favorite flavor. Don’t sleep on strawberry, either. I went into the tasting with low expectations and was caught off guard with how much I came away liking it.

Lime is step below for me, but I’d still rather have a Bud Light Seltzer lime than a Bud Light Lime (here’s to hoping the seltzer variety eventually phases out its beer counterpart). The lime variety is my least favorite across the board when it comes to spiked seltzer and I’d say it was a toss-up between the competition for this flavor.

I’d like to see Bud Light Seltzer expand its offerings as AB continues into this venture (grapefruit, anyone? Now that’s a refreshing flavor). I was hoping they might introduce something consumers haven’t seen before. Maybe they’re holding out for phase II?

It’s still seltzer, but there’s something about having “Bud Light” on the packaging that takes away the stigma I feel about White Claw. I can see Bud Light Seltzer becoming more universally accepted than its seltzer competitors because of its combination of name, packaging and taste.

The final verdict? Bud Light Seltzer is a viable option for me to have on-or-off the course. It’s not going to replace Bud Light as my go-to drink, but I’m not going to think twice about having one. You won’t see me rushing to dump a Bud Light Seltzer out in a solo cup to hide what I’m drinking any time soon. I expect to see coolers, bar carts and halfway houses jam-packed with Bud Light Seltzers this summer, and for many more to come.

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