Brewers explain: The science of using corn syrup in beer

Budweiser is getting some backlash from its competitors following one of its Super Bowl ads: A commercial that highlighted the fact that Bud Light does not use corn syrup, while Miller Light and Coors Light do.

Instead, Bud Light uses rice.

The National Corn Growers Association was not pleased with the message, saying, “America’s corn farmers are disappointed” with Bud Light and offering to discuss the benefits of corn.

Meanwhile, MillerCoors responded on twitter, tweeting, “at MillerCoors, we're proud of our high-quality, great-tasting beers. We're also proud that none of our products include any high fructose corn syrup while a number of Anheuser-Busch products do."

Other brewers also responded, with Samuel Adams distancing itself from the ingredient, tweeting, "no corn syrup and no rice."

A lot of the reaction on social media has been that people were surprised that corn syrup would even be in beer. But two Florida craft brewers explained how the ads could be misunderstood.

Ty Weaver the head brewer at 3 Daughters Brewing in St. Petersburg, said there is a lot of science involved. But all beer needs sugar of some kind in order to become, well, beer.

“We take sugar from many different things. For the most part, it’s barley,” Weaver began.  “But you can take the sugar from corn or from rice, as Bud Light would use. There’s lots of different places to get the sugar from.”

But either way, after the brewing process is done, most of that sugar is gone.

“Whether they use corn syrup or even high-fructose corn syrup in the initial brewing, it’s not going to be there at the end anyways. It’s all going to get fermented out,” Weaver continued.  “The yeasts are going to eat it up and leave alcohol and CO2 in its place.”

“Corn and rice, most of those are 100-percent fermentable so those are not going to be in your finished product, usually,” agreed Desiree Chubb, 3 Daughters' director of quality assurance.

So why use corn or corn syrup? It depends on what style of beer you are trying to make.

“They can use corn to help lighten up the beer a little bit,” Weaver said. “It can affect the flavor a little bit. It actually leaves less flavor than if you just use straight barley.  That’s where they get the ‘light’ from on a lot of it.”

“It lowers the calorie content most of the time,” Chubb noted.

Weaver said 3 Daughters, like most craft brewers, includes a variety of natural ingredients -- including corn -- if that’s what the style of the beer dictates.

“When I saw the commercial, I was like, ‘Well OK, they use corn syrup. That’s fine,” Weaver offered.

“You have a specific style and specific ingredients,” Chubb added. “That’s just how it goes.”