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Corn Syrup in Beer Explained

In an upset that could have earned one a fortune on the prop bet market, corn syrup emerged as Super Bowl LIII’s biggest villain (non-football division). In case you missed it:

My immediate reaction was “Where in the world does a beer brewed with rice get off calling out other beers for using corn?” Then I wondered which of AB InBev’s many fine products also used corn/corn syrup? Based on available information from Ab InBev’s own the answer is: A lot of them. Here is just a partial list:

We can now safely add rank hypocrisy to AB InBev’s many and sundry other crimes.

I was going to save the adjunct topic for a larger glossary page, but because the Dilly Dilly boys delivered corn syrup to a couple of castles on Super Bowl Sunday, let’s just tackle brewing additives now. I am guilty of using the term adjunct to imply poor quality at times, but technically an adjunct is any sugar source other than barley malt used in brewing beer.

By tradition, beer only uses barley malt for the sugar. Anything beyond malt, water, hops and yeast is generally considered an adjunct. For funsies, here are some common adjuncts:

Any of the above can be used for good or ill, depending on the brewery. One of my own favorite homebrew recipes uses plain old table sugar. It’s fantastic. A lot of those fancy Double IPAs use just straight sugar to juice up the ABV. One of the best beers I’ve had in the last 5 or so years was an Imperial Rice IPA, which was as delicious and easy-to-drink as it was high in ABV.

Corn syrup, despite Bud Light’s assertion, does not automatically indicate a beer is bad or unhealthy. Corn and rice, in addition to being cheap sources of sugar, tend to impart a lightness in color and taste. Both AB InBev and MillerCoors are looking to make bland, straw-colored beers while keeping production costs as low as possible. Corn and rice both help in the endeavor.

So, should you worry about corn syrup being in your beer? I would argue if you’re worried about what’s in your beer, you may want to remember that the end product is a literal poison and therefore said poison’s sugar source shouldn’t overly concern you.

Bottom line: If you’re drinking a Bud, Miller, or Coors while worrying about your health, you’re doing it wrong. I hope those Dilly Dilly guys ended up getting the Plague.