When my very good friend—a man of discerning taste, or so I thought—offered me a cold beer on a drooping August afternoon, I gladly accepted. A beer sounded like just the thing to go along with sitting motionless on his back porch.
He returned from the kitchen proffering a Miller Lite, which I accepted as if he had just handed me a severed finger.
“The fuck is this?” I asked.
“When was the last time you had a Miller Lite?”
The answer was beyond memory. “I don’t know. Maybe high school?”
“Try it,” he insisted. “It’s the best beer in the world.”
I considered the lightly sweating can. SABMiller must have sprung for a new graphic design of its flagship, because the can did look appealing: a field of blushing off-white, unadorned except for a cocksure insignia and the word “Lite” inscribed in a vaguely heraldic font that implied origin in some tasteful German castle.
Oh well, I thought, pushing aside disappointment in the hospitality skills of a person I thought I knew. It’s only 4.2 percent, and I do have to go back to work today.
I cracked it open, sipped, and my palate met a supremely well-mannered little beer man, surfing an icy wave of prickly crispness. It went down—as they say—easy.
Wow. Is Miller Lite good? I wondered.
Is it, in fact, the best beer in the world?
To be quite clear, Miller Lite is not the best beer in the world, nor is it “good,” because it is, of course, the end product of corporate scheming aimed at the crassest markets possible.
But it is weirdly pleasant, in its own unobtrusive way, and it has gradually—shamefully?—become my beer of choice at backyard hangs, beach days, sneaky hedonistic lunch breaks, and many of the increasingly rare moments when I find myself out on the town.
Other corporate beers are objectively awful, especially dive bar faves such as Schlitz, Natural Bohemian, and (the worst of the lot) Miller High Life, which is just an absolutely ruined-ass beer. By comparison, Miller Lite just kind of tastes like, well, nothing. There’s very little of the off-putting sweetness of, say, Budweiser, and other common adjunct flavors such as surplus corn and past-due malt and bison piss are nowhere to be found. There’s just a mildly beery sense of bright hops floating in what is essentially a can of sparkling water.
Plus, it’s built for speed, with the caloric volume of a cucumber and the alcohol level to match. This is handy for an ancient dad like me who still occasionally wants to know what the outside world is like after 11:00 p.m. but can no longer brook the ravages of a night spent wildin’ out. I can drink like seven Miller Lites before feeling any noticeable effects. (Not that I, uh, have ever done that.)
My friend and I aren’t the only ones who feel this way. Saint James and Vin Rouge stock Miller Lite in their beer coolers, where it serves as an acceptable accompaniment to raw oysters. And its popularity among local chefs as a post-work drink-of-choice has kept it in the fridges of all the most conspicuously awesome bars in town. If you doubt Miller Lite’s emergent hipster bona fides, know that you can get tallboys at The Pinhook, long a renouncer of corporate beer (except for, you know, the tens of thousands of PBRs that have crossed its bar-top over the last 11 years.)
Yes, I know. Miller Lite sucks. I get it, and I’m prepared for the savage castigation that comes with asserting the virtues of a heartless corporate behemoth. But if we all have to live with the ubiquity of these assembly-line food products, I think it’s important to consider them based on their actual value.
Hell, if The New Yorker can spend 1,364 words arguing that a Popeye’s chicken sandwich is a messianic force for good, surely I can be honest about my fondness for this beer-flavored version of La Croix.
Contact contributing food editor Nick Williams at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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