Rice vs. Corn Syrup in Beer

Discussion in 'Beer Talk' started by JackHorzempa, Feb 4, 2019.

  1. JackHorzempa

    JackHorzempa Poo-Bah (3,813) Dec 15, 2005 Pennsylvania

    For those of you who did not watch the Super Bowl last night there was a Bud Light commercial where they were spoofing on Miller and Coors using Corn Syrup in brewing their beers (e.g., Miller Lite and Coors Light) vs. the rice they use to brew Bud Light.

    You can watch the commercial here.

    Air time for the Super Bowl is very expensive so I am pretty sure that AB InBev test marketed this commercial (or its concept) before airing it. It would seem that lots of beer consumers have a dim view of using corn syrup in brewing beer? Is corn syrup in general frowned upon (an association with High Fructose Corn Syrup?)?

    I find this whole rice (e.g., Bud Light) vs. corn syrup (e.g., Miller Lite/Coors Light) debate kinda interesting on several levels:

    When did rice become a ‘good’ ingredient?

    For the BA crowd ‘adulterating’ a beer with an adjunct like rice is looked down upon. Do the ‘mainstream’ beer drinkers have a differing perspective here? When AB InBev ‘highlights’ that they use rice in brewing a beer like Bud Light they view this as an acceptable ingredient for beer?

    Why is corn syrup viewed negatively?

    As I sort of alluded to above, is corn syrup a ‘bad’ ingredient because it has the same two words of “corn syrup” as exists in High Fructose Corn Syrup? Just to be clear here, neither Miller or Coors are using HFCS in brewing their beers, they are using maltose/dextrose. Is corn syrup frowned upon because it is a processed product?

    Anheuser Busch uses corn syrup to brew some of their beer brands

    While Bud Light is brewed using rice, AB does use corn syrup to brew some of their beer brands. For example, Busch beers are brewed using corn syrup. I suppose it is OK for AB InBev to make fun of their own products as well?

    Let’s hear your thoughts on this matter.

  2. jesskidden

    jesskidden Meyvn (1,388) Aug 10, 2005 New Jersey

    Well, over a century ago, Adolphus Busch testified before Congress during the "Pure Food" hearings:

    "Mr. Busch, president of the Anheuser-Busch Brewing Association, states that the beer of this company is made entirely of barley malt, hops and yeast, except that some rice is used in order to make a very pale beer of the Bohemian type. This company has never used any corn or glucose or preservatives or coloring matter. Corn does not make a high grade of beer, because of certain oily substances which it contains. They are partly transformed into fusel oil after fermentation. The quantity of fusel oil is not large enough, in Mr. Busch's judgment, to be injurious to health."
    "Rice is used not to cheapen beer, but to produce a very pale beer of the Bohemian type. It is twice as expensive as barley malt. Mr. Busch is not opposed to the use of corn, though he uses none himself. He does not think that there can be any good evidence that the use of unmalted grains in brewing is unwholesome."
  3. DrinkingThe413

    DrinkingThe413 Initiate (34) Jan 29, 2019 Massachusetts

    It wasn't stated in the commercials...but 9 times out of 10 corn syrup is made with GMO corn. There's a trend of companies taking GMOs out of their products, so this could've been a subtle nod towards implying that.

    Also, it could coincide with their new labeling of nutrition facts and ingredients on the Bud Light. An overall push for 'transparency'.
    RaulMondesi, Junior, Jaycase and 2 others like this.
  4. Roadkizzle

    Roadkizzle Initiate (190) Nov 6, 2007 Texas

    Does AB use solid rice and a cereal cooker for each brew?
    Or do they get vats of pre processed rice syrup?
    bl00, RobNewton and thebeers like this.
  5. honkey

    honkey Zealot (548) Aug 28, 2010 Arizona
    Premium Industry

    I’m willing to bet that it’s far higher than 9/10. I think to get non-GMO corn, it would be a special order item sought specifically for the purpose to claim non-gmo. Unless it’s certified organic, I’d assume every bit of corn I’ve consumed in the last 10 years (or more) has been GMO
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  6. honkey

    honkey Zealot (548) Aug 28, 2010 Arizona
    Premium Industry

    Vats of syrup. They might make it themselves... I would guess they do, but I don’t know that for sure
    AlcahueteJ likes this.
  7. DavidHume

    DavidHume Zealot (569) Mar 25, 2013 Virginia

    Yeah, but there is no evidence that GMO corn is any less healthy than non-GMO corn, let alone evidence that fermented GMO corn is any less healthy than fermented non-GMO corn.
  8. jesskidden

    jesskidden Meyvn (1,388) Aug 10, 2005 New Jersey

    And several decades earlier, in 1881, The Business Men’s Society for the Encouragement of Moderation asked the local NYC organization of Lager beer brewers:
    ...so questioning the use of adjuncts is nearly as old as adjunct usage itself in the US.
  9. jesskidden

    jesskidden Meyvn (1,388) Aug 10, 2005 New Jersey

    Not according to Peter_Wolfe*:
    * Wolfe's bio (same link as above):
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  10. honkey

    honkey Zealot (548) Aug 28, 2010 Arizona
    Premium Industry

    Interesting... that is not the information we were told in school by an AB brewer, that I’m now going to assume I should not name.

    FWIW, this is not the first time that information I was told by a few AB brewers has been disputed with information that is publicly available saying something contrary to what I was taught.
  11. TongoRad

    TongoRad Poo-Bah (2,536) Jun 3, 2004 New Jersey
    Premium Trader

    But there's still a negative connotation out there, and I have no doubt that that's what the commercials were playing to. It really wasn't all that much about how the beer itself is made.
  12. montman

    montman Disciple (370) Mar 10, 2009 Virginia

    I snickered at the commercial last night, but had to wonder: is a longtime coors/miller drinker even going to care one way or the other? Maybe I'm over generalizing, but from the die hard "this is my brand" people I know, I doubt this moves the needle.
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  13. BeanBump

    BeanBump Disciple (335) Dec 14, 2016 California

    Was I the only one that found it a little odd that in the weeks leading up to Super Bowl, Bud was taking shots at craft beer then com the big day, they switch gears to take aim at Coors and Miller?
    pro100, JMN44, bubseymour and 4 others like this.
  14. jesskidden

    jesskidden Meyvn (1,388) Aug 10, 2005 New Jersey

    The use of corn syrup by MillerCoors for their flagship brands is only a few decades old, based on old promotional material from the breweries themselves.

    "The rice used in Coors brewing process is used as an adjunct to barley malt to give the beer its light body. Most of the rice is grown in California and Arkansas. Refined starch is used along with rice in the brewing process, to help achieve this desired lightness of body.
    --- The Adolph Coors Story circa 1980

    "Corn grits are liquefied in the grits cooker. Then, the boiling mixture is added to the malt and brewing water while in the mash tun to convert the cereal starches to fermentable sugar."
    -- Miller Brewing Co. circa mid/late 1970s
  15. stevepat

    stevepat Devotee (452) Mar 12, 2013 California

    Most peoples concerns about GMOs are more to the increased pesticide load the food is subjected to. There is ample evidence that glyphosate consumption isn't a healthy option
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  16. donspublic

    donspublic Poo-Bah (1,640) Aug 4, 2014 Texas
    Premium Trader

    Yeah I recorded the game, had to work, and speed thru it last nite just to watch the commercials. Cracked me up they laid off of the micro brewers and started after the macros. Will admit the commercials were kinda funny, but also focusing on negative (we do this, they do that and it's bad). More along the lines of scare tactics. Not sure if they will gain any milage there, old guys ain't gonna change after all these years and young people drinking it don't really give a rats ass, look at the other stuff they are drinking, i.e. energy drinks, etc..
    Roguer and LuskusDelph like this.
  17. DrinkingThe413

    DrinkingThe413 Initiate (34) Jan 29, 2019 Massachusetts

    That was one of my thoughts too. Almost all, if not all, of the macro CoorsMillerBud drinkers I know couldn't care less how their beer is made or how "quality" it is. They're more concerned with getting a bottle of beer for $2.50.
  18. sportscrazed2

    sportscrazed2 Disciple (320) Mar 29, 2010 Indiana

    I think that if bud light doesn't have corn syrup than maybe it needs to be a mandatory ingredient
    Roguer likes this.
  19. NeroFiddled

    NeroFiddled Poo-Bah (10,510) Jul 8, 2002 Pennsylvania
    Premium Trader

    Same experience here... I'm not going to name any names, but on the opposite side I will say that my best teacher was Jim Helmke who's now at Yuengling. He'd always level with you and give you the straight-up answer to the best of his knowledge while not disrespecting anyone, but with perhaps a wink or a nod or an "I'm not going to say... but...".
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  20. sportscrazed2

    sportscrazed2 Disciple (320) Mar 29, 2010 Indiana

    Bud light is like the worst beer in history and i'm not imbellishing. I'm basically saying if Hitler brewed a beer with his piss it would taste better than bud lite. So maybe I don't know Americans are stupid? But, how could that be? We have so many smarty pants in this subreddit.
  21. Ranbot

    Ranbot Zealot (553) Nov 27, 2006 Pennsylvania

    I also saw this commercial and thought it was really odd and a double-standard. I think it's cashing in on consumer ignorance about corn vs rice, but they are far from the first marketers to try to manipulate ignorance for their benefit. I think there is a general backlash against corn syrup these days that Bud is tapping into, especially among the younger theoretically health-conscious people. Corn is associated with many generally negative feelings/opinions of HFCS, sugary soft-drink controversies, obesity, GMOs, organic foods, factory farming, environmental issues, paleo diets, food allergies, political lobbying, etc....it's hard to put a finger on the specific problem society has with corn, but there is an underlying negative current or zeitgeist... (but eating at Chipotle and sharing your taco tuesdays creations on social media is still cool :rolling_eyes:

    I suspect the aim was not to convert the die-hards, but at younger drinkers who haven't made up their mind on brand alliegance yet. Exploit a pre-existing bias against corn to push them towards Bud, and maybe they will become life-long die-hard Bud drinker.
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  22. DrinkingThe413

    DrinkingThe413 Initiate (34) Jan 29, 2019 Massachusetts

    Do you think those ads were geared towards the craft drinkers, like on this site, or the general beer drinking population...or both?

    Personally, I think the ads were aimed at the younger generation. Many still drink macro but want to feel like their brands are special or socially/ethically aware.
  23. DrinkingThe413

    DrinkingThe413 Initiate (34) Jan 29, 2019 Massachusetts

    Hit the nail on the head with your assessment of 'corn' in our cultural zeitgeist. I work in the farming industry and sweet corn farmers often talk about how corn popularity has gone way down with the health conscious / liberal / 'enlightened' crowd...even though the GMO/grain corn situation is totally separated from sweet corn. "Corn is bad" seems to be the overall feeling.
  24. thebeers

    thebeers Poo-Bah (2,374) Sep 10, 2014 Pennsylvania
    Premium Trader

    They also had an ad touting their use of wind energy.

    Going green, not using corn syrup. Next they're gonna be sniffing their beer before drinking it.
  25. eldoctorador

    eldoctorador Zealot (571) Dec 12, 2014 California

    And that would be a problem because?
  26. DrinkingThe413

    DrinkingThe413 Initiate (34) Jan 29, 2019 Massachusetts

    Didn't say it was? It's a marketing strategy, like many other food and beverage companies are doing, to appear 'clean' and 'healthier' based on the campaign against GMOs. It's a huge movement in food. The beer industry is now catching on.
    VABA and eldoctorador like this.
  27. sportscrazed2

    sportscrazed2 Disciple (320) Mar 29, 2010 Indiana

    They should drink PBR like good hipsters then. At least it tastes ok. And it's cheaper
    DrinkingThe413 likes this.
  28. JackHorzempa

    JackHorzempa Poo-Bah (3,813) Dec 15, 2005 Pennsylvania

    JK, do you understand the specifics of ingredient labeling laws?

    On the Bud Light new label it lists:

    “Water, Barley, Rice, Hops”


    If they used “Vats of syrup” (i.e., rice syrup) would they have to specifically list rice syrup vs. rice?

    I double checked what is listed via Anheuser-Busch:


    Rice contributes to a beer’s crisp, clean taste. Adolphus Busch added rice to Budweiser to set it apart from other lagers. Anheuser-Busch is the largest rice buyer in the United States and we even mill some of our supply at a company-owned facility in Jonesboro, AR.”


    Needless to say there is no specific mention of processing the rice into rice syrup but I don’t know if this lack of detail 100% means they are conducting a cereal mash with rice?

    Maybe Peter (@Peter_Wolfe) can chime into this discussion (again).


    @honkey @NeroFiddled

    Edit: I just went back to re-read what Peter Wolfe posted (and you linked) and he stated: "2) We don't use rice syrup." Well, that sure does read definitively?
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  29. HouseofWortship

    HouseofWortship Zealot (547) May 3, 2016 Illinois

    BA backfire: I was going to scoff at drinking beers made with corn syrup until the commercially clearly showed me that Coors and Miller use the classier barrel aged corn syrup.
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  30. LeRose

    LeRose Meyvn (1,355) Nov 24, 2011 Massachusetts

    The negative connotation about GMO corn has more to do with "Round-up Ready" corn. The two issues are conflated and impossible to untangle. Consumers can't separate the two. Watch the documentary Food Evolution (free on YT and other sources now) to see just how intertwined those two things are in the general population. Simply put, people don't really know what they disagree with, except that Monsanto is bad, mmm-kay? and FaceBook "science" is better than real research.

    Corn syrup has been evil for a while, probably even before Michelle O. We switched back to 100% sucrose in everything we make quite a few years ago - it's cheaper and tastes better, but is still under the "worse than crack" catch all of added sugar. The refining of corn syrup into high fructose corn syrup seems especially heinous to some segments of the population because it implies a processed food. Oh...but evaporated cane juice is "natural" and "healthy" even though it is basically liquid sucrose.

    So, if I am not mistaken, nobody's drinking beer with corn syrup actually in the beer, right? Corn syrup would be fermentable and serve the same function as the AB rice syrup, right? NOT an ingredient one actually consumes. But I would bet dollars to donuts most people don't know that and that there Bud Lite label plays right into and perpetuates that confusion to AB's advantage.

    @JackHorzempa - not sure about that labelling, honestly, although I know a little about it from a different industry. We bring in dry sucrose and dissolve it, so we label it as sucrose - we do NOT have to label it sucrose syrup, which is essentially what we "make" in-house. Of course, we are not transforming one thing into another, which is likely where the rules might change? Is rice the ingredient as it rolls in off the rail car, or is "rice syrup" the actual ingredient since it is what the rice is converted to - good question - and does it matter is another good question. And what about the barley? Technically speaking, neither grain nor rice would be an ingredient in the beer since it doesn't end up in the bottle either - seems logical to me and follows what I know from my industry. I can't label a bottle of our products with water, sugar, fruit. I have to say it is fruit juice and further have to state that fruit juice from concentrate this way - "fruit juice (water, fruit juice concentrate)" for any juice component in the bottle. Even if I were not using concentrates, I could not label the bottle with "fruit" unless there was actual ground up fruit in there...hmmm...so is this beer nutrition panel a bit jacked up? I don't know the answer there.

    I would seriously doubt that AB has made a legal faux pas that would be pretty serious. I am gonna hazard the guess that regardless of what they are doing, it's all some how technically "legal". But I have to wonder - what are the actual "ingredients" when it comes to creating a nutritional panel for beer? Too me, it would be simple - what's in the bottle versus what was used to make what's in the bottle that has undergone transformations. Or does beer nutritional /ingredient labelling, like a lot of other stuff in the brewing industry, depart significantly from what I live with every day in food world? Why is my serving size 8 ounces and theirs 12 ounces - because it's convenient to be a whole can versus a serving from a bigger container? Or because an 8 oz serving for my product looks better from a calorie POV (as I sit with a label for a diet product on my desk). Arrrrgh....it'll make your head spin...let's give up and have a beer :rolling_eyes:
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  31. jesskidden

    jesskidden Meyvn (1,388) Aug 10, 2005 New Jersey

    The way I read TTB Ruling 2013-2 - Voluntary Nutrient Content Statements in the Labeling and Advertising of Wines, Distilled Spirits, and Malt Beverages, ingredient listing like that shown is not part of the "Acceptable Statement" designs, just something AB added, so the rule doesn't cover how they list ingredients or describe them.

    They can say "hops", for instance, and don't need to specify whole, pellets or extract and further don't note "barley malt". For many years brewers who used flaked corn, corn grits or corn syrup have just said "corn" or "grains". Its never been covered by any ATF/TTB regulation that I'm aware of.

    I suppose, given the other changes that have been made after InBev took over, they may have also changed the form of their rice adjunct. Anyone take an AB brewery tour lately - are the cereal/rice cookers in AB breweries still being used? (That was an early sign for Miller's switch in, IIRC, the 1990s. The cereal cookers in the breweries were mothballed.)

    AB has to follow TTB regulations (Ruling 2013-2, linked above), which specifies "Serving Size" for beer based on ABV:

    #31 jesskidden, Feb 4, 2019
    Last edited: Feb 4, 2019
  32. JackHorzempa

    JackHorzempa Poo-Bah (3,813) Dec 15, 2005 Pennsylvania

    Larry, according to Peter Wolfe AB is brewing with rice. He explicitly stated: "2) We don't use rice syrup." Unless some BA can provide an equivalent quote to the contrary I feel compelled to just go with this statement.
    You bring up an intriguing topic here! As a brewer I would respond that what ingredients were used to brew the beer should be what is listed. Needless to say I have zero experience in the food industry so I have no perspective on the "what's in the bottle" aspect. I would think that 'answer' to that aspect would be "beer"? Maybe @jesskidden has some knowledge here?

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  33. Crusader

    Crusader Aspirant (255) Feb 4, 2011 Sweden

    I bet that ABInbev is counting on the average beer drinker being unaware of how brewing works. And that they are increasingly questioning the use of sugar. If they hear corn syrup they think sugar, if they hear rice, they think food, or maybe starch. But what happens to rice, or starch, during the double mash process? Do people realize that it turns into sugar? And do people realize that the sugar coming from both the syrup and rice is consumed by the yeast during fermentation, that that is the whole point of brewing, of generating sugar and fermenting that sugar? Maybe not. So if they can plant the idea that Miller and Coors add sugar to their beers like you would a soda, they (Bud Light) might come away looking like the better alternative with people who can't bother to learn how brewing actually works.
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  34. Troutbeerbum

    Troutbeerbum Initiate (140) Dec 5, 2016 Maine

    And that pretty much sums it up. It's corporate, it's advertising.
  35. zid

    zid Savant (956) Feb 15, 2010 New York

    I think it's this in a nutshell. That and they know that it's only hypocritical if one reads between the lines. There's a longer cut of the commercial that has them going to Rodenbach's castle too. :wink:
    mikeinportc, Crusader and LeRose like this.
  36. jesskidden

    jesskidden Meyvn (1,388) Aug 10, 2005 New Jersey

    They already do :wink:
  37. Crusader

    Crusader Aspirant (255) Feb 4, 2011 Sweden

    Yeah, it's up to the viewer to interpret the information provided through their own knowledge or ignorance, they are just putting it out there and stating a fact :wink:. Personally though I am much more of a fan of ABInbev using rice and actually conducting a double mash over using syrups (which I realize that they do use for other brands), I appreciate the link to brewing history and the effort put into it. In the same way I thought it was nice to hear that they were using whole hops (was that for Budweiser only?) until the last few decades. That was also a nice touch I thought (to learn about after it was abandoned). Modern brewing could probably be pushed to be nothing but syrups: liquid malt extract, liquid adjunct, hop extract etc., and they might even be able to produce an end product which would be hard to distinguish from the previous versions using malt crushed in the brewery, adjuncts cooked separately, and hop pellets boiled with the wort instead of having extracts added post fermentation, but I think something is lost with each step towards such a process. But maybe that's just me being sentimental :stuck_out_tongue:.
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  38. NeroFiddled

    NeroFiddled Poo-Bah (10,510) Jul 8, 2002 Pennsylvania
    Premium Trader

    While I can see where you're going with this, and I understand, I have to step up and say that Bud Light is BY FAR not "the worst beer in history". There are plenty of worse beers brewed by small American breweries on the market, and then there are all of those piss-poor beers brewed in small countries across the globe. On top of that, I don't think that Bud Light is even the worst light beer on the American market. You need to do some tasting.
  39. sportscrazed2

    sportscrazed2 Disciple (320) Mar 29, 2010 Indiana

    Name 1. Challenge
  40. NeroFiddled

    NeroFiddled Poo-Bah (10,510) Jul 8, 2002 Pennsylvania
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    #40 NeroFiddled, Feb 4, 2019
    Last edited: Feb 4, 2019