Whatever Happened To Michelob?

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We here at Drunkspin are not a prideful lot. Despite all the luxuries and laundry money that attend our unrivaled position as the sports-site beer blog you happen to be reading at this particular moment, we still microwave our lunches one burrito at a time, same as the next blogger. Our one enduring source of pride, however, is that we’ve never insulted you by adding another “What Your Drink Says About You” post to the alcohol media’s overflowing crap heap.

Part of me would like to toss one of these off for the opportunity to passive-aggressively impugn the character of all those who have displeased me—“Vodka and Diet Dr Pepper is for liars!”—but the truth of the matter is I know some really solid citizens who drink Heineken and some utter scoundrels who soak their morning oats in Old Crow, which is all the proof I need it’s impossible to judge a person by her poison.


But it is possible to divide most beer drinkers into two broad camps: Those who give a shit what their beer tastes like, and those with bigger fish to fry. I respect the latter; it makes perfect sense that some people are too busy yachting or bowling or surviving to pay much attention to how deeply roasted the barley is or just which hops were used in what increments. These people appreciate a nice cold, fizzy buzz, though, because they’re not insane, just distracted, so they tend to simply pick a brand of macro lager and stick with it.

The largest share of these drinkers go with Bud Light these days, with Coors Light in second place and regular Bud in third. The rest of the 20 best-selling beers are variations on that light, cheap, heavily advertised theme. You can probably guess most of them. One seemingly likely suspect is nowhere to be found, though: Where in the name of entry-level 1980s elitism did Michelob go?!


Michelob has been produced by Anheuser-Busch since 1896, and for very many decades it had a solid niche as the upper-middle brow version of the Budweiser, Miller, and Coors brews favored by regular working stiffs. To this day, Michelob—when you can find it—costs a few cents more than base-model AB-InBev or MillerCoors brands, and it has a bit more flavor. But it’s fallen so far out of favor that this widely circulated list of dying beers ranked it as the fastest-falling of the sad lot, with a whopping 70 percent sales decline between 2006 and 2011.

Michelob used to be a reasonable alternative to the shitty imports favored by the semi-swells of the last generation to come of drinking age before the craft-beer renaissance. This was the tail end of the Cold War, when it didn’t necessarily seem foolhardy or jingoistic to make a point of driving an American car or drinking an American beer. Opting for Michelob allowed the status-conscious drinker to signal that while he was no Commie, he also wasn’t just some Schlitz slob, either. And this wasn’t all merely posturing: Michelob had some flavor along with the fizz, and a certain enlightened sort didn’t mind paying a small premium for it.

But now there are just too many better options for the cares-about-taste crowd, and better-marketed and/or lower-calorie new versions of the same old swill for everyone else. Michelob Ultra, a truly terrible beer unworthy of its 95 calories per serving, is the 8th-most-popular beer in America, which is fairly impressive until you consider that it trails five other light beers, including the Natural and Busch versions. Ultra quite likely represents Michelob’s last, trashy gasp.

This is all some very small measure of a shame, because Michelob Lager truly is better than most of the beers in the top 20. It smells reassuringly of wet cardboard and sweet corn—don’t worry, this is still a classic AB product!—but it also has moderate caramel and fruit notes that distinguish it from its peers.


Michelob certainly isn’t a good beer; I’d say it’s on par with Yuengling. But it’s sad that the longtime cream of Bud’s filthy crop has been forsaken in favor of all the lights and A-Ritas currently crudding up the leaderboard.

This is Drunkspin Daily, the Concourse’s adequate source for booze news, reviews, and bullshit. We’ll be highlighting a beer a day in this space; please leave suggestions below.


Image by Jim Cooke.

Will Gordon loves life and tolerates dissent. He lives in Cambridge, Mass., and some of his closest friends have met Certified Cicerones. Find him on Twitter @WillGordonAgain.