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Bud Light Orange succeeds — but not as a beer
I like Bud Light Orange in the way that I like orange soda, which, to be honest, isn’t all that much. But orange soda certainly has earned a place in the constellation of sugary beverages, and Bud Light Orange gives us a reasonable approximation of what a 4.2 percent alcohol orange soda-beer hybrid should be.
Its luminous tint in a clear bottle lends the appearance of orange soda. So does its orange-and-white packaging, reminiscent of a Creamsicle. A sweet orange soda aroma leaps from the bottle. And it tastes like a bright and mildly sugary orange soda with just a touch of a beerlike grainy aftertaste.
The biggest potential pitfall of Bud Light Orange would have been an avalanche of cloying sweetness. It avoids that fate, leaning more refreshing than decadently sugary.
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Still, if considered only as a beer — which the words “Bud Light” would imply — it’s fairly abysmal. Beyond the aforementioned light grain in the finish, almost nothing about Bud Light Orange is recognizable as beer. And that aftertaste? It’s not all that pleasant. It’s dry and papery and lingers on the tongue.
In a sense, it’s a minor wonder that Anheuser-Busch bothered to call this beer at all, or to associate it with the nation’s best-selling beer brand. But that’s the state of affairs for Big Beer: The old-guard light beers have been hemorrhaging market share to imports, wine and spirits, craft beer and other brands in the Big Beer canon (such as steady-grower Michelob Ultra).
Though Bud Light — still the nation’s largest selling beer by a mile — is down more than any of the other top brands, Anheuser-Busch clearly still sees opportunity in the brand. For the last 10 years, it has used the Bud Light name to roll out a series of line extensions: Bud Light Lime, Bud Light Lime-a-Rita (which has segued into all sorts of ridiculous additions, including Coco-Nut-Rita, Water-Melon-Rita and Grape-A-Rita), Bud Light Apple and now Bud Light Orange.
Like many of the previous line extensions, Bud Light Orange is a modern-day hybrid from a beer company hoping dearly for its next hit: a little bit beer, a little bit soda, a little bit cocktail — and most palatable with a shot of tequila.