Light beer is a beer, usually a pale lager, that is reduced in alcohol content or in calories compared to regular beers. The first use of the term in marketing was in the 1940s when the Coors Brewing Company sold Coors Light, for a short period before World War II, relaunching it more successfully in 1978 as a 4.2% abv pale lager. In 1967, the Rheingold Brewery marketed a 4.2% pale lager, Gablinger's Diet Beer, developed by American biochemist Joseph Owades, as a beer for people dieting. It was not successful, and the recipe was given to a Chicago brewery, Meister Brau, who sold it as Meister Brau Lite. That brewery was acquired by the Miller Brewing Company in 1972, who relaunched the beer as Miller Lite.
Light beers may be chosen by beer drinkers who wish to manage their alcohol consumption or their calorie intake; however, they are sometimes criticised for being less flavourful than full-strength beers, or for tasting or actually being watered down.
Light beers with lower alcohol content allow consumers to drink more beers in a shorter period without becoming intoxicated. Low alcohol content can also mean a less expensive beer, especially where excise is determined by alcohol content.
This is the primary definition of the term in countries such as Australia and Scotland. In Australia, regular beers have approximately 5% alcohol by volume; light beers may have 2.2–3.2% alcohol. In Scotland, the term derives from shilling categories, where 'light' customarily means a beer with less than 3.5% alcohol by volume.
Reducing the caloric content of beer is accomplished primarily by reducing the carbohydrate content, and secondarily by reducing the alcohol content, since both carbohydrates and alcohol contribute to the caloric content of beer. Unlike reduced-alcohol light beers, the alcohol reduction is not primarily intended to produce a less intoxicating beverage.
- Villa, Keith (2011). "Light beer". In Oliver, Garrett (ed.). The Oxford Companion to Beer. Oxford University. pp. 546–7. ISBN 9780199912100.
- Cat Wolinski. "Miller Didn't Invent Light Beer. It Didn't Even Invent Miller Lite". vinepair.com.
- The Alström Bros (October 3, 2001). "Light Beers". BeerAdvocate.com. Archived from the original on June 24, 2006. Retrieved December 13, 2006.
- Byers, Stephen R. (September 11, 1977). "Light beers pack a different punch". Milwaukee Journal. p. 1.
- "Schedule to the Excise Tariff Act 1921". Australian Taxation Office. August 1, 2006. Archived from the original on February 4, 2007. Retrieved 2006-12-13.
- "How to Brew Introduction". Coopers Brewery. Retrieved April 4, 2013.
In other countries, the term "light beer" may refer to beer that is lower in carbohydrates. Light beer in Australia is low in alcohol content but not necessarily low in flavour. Alcohol content of light beer may be 2.2%–3.2% ABV.[dead link]