In the Bud Light commercial, which ran during the Super Bowl, a titanic barrel of corn syrup is mistakenly delivered to the feudal kingdom of Bud Light. The king, recognizing the error, goes on a quest to get the sugary stuff to its rightful owner, passing through the kingdom of Miller Light before depositing the barrel in the kingdom of Coors Light.
"To be clear, we brew Coors Light with corn syrup," shouts the monarch of the kingdom of Coors Light to the incredulous king of Bud Light and his entourage.
The ad ignited a firestorm of criticism, first from the National Corn Growers Association. In a response video, its vice president, Kevin Ross, pours a can of Bud Light into a bathroom sink, saying, "Bud Light, if you're not standing with corn farmers, we're not standing with you."
- Miller Lite/The New York Times
- Miller Light bought a full-page ad in The New York Times in response to Bud Light's Super Bowl spot.
"I've never considered using [high-fructose corn syrup]," said Boise Brewing Head Brewer Lance Chavez.
Corn syrup and high-fructose corn syrup are fruit extracts used to fuel alcohol production in many mass-market beers, but for smaller brewers like Boise Brewing, Bud Light's ad was more of a publicity stunt—"They're pulling out all the stops," Chavez said—aimed at making the competition seem like it's using unpopular ingredients.
"[It] seems like they're grasping at straws to make themselves sound better," said James Long, head brewer for Barbarian Brewing.
Like Chavez, Long said it hadn't occurred to him to use corn sugar for his beers, but noted sugar is an ingredient in some Belgian-style beers. He added that in any brewing tradition, the sugar—whether it comes from corn or not—goes to the same place, even though not all sugars enjoy the same reputation.
"The advantage [of corn-based sugars] is that it's cheap and easily fermentable by yeast, but it's disadvantageous because it's corn syrup. By the end of it all, all of it will be fermented," he said.