Bud Not-So-Light Platinum

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BUD LIGHT Platinum is either completely deceptive advertising or evidence that the beer industry is now presided over by postmodern literalists of the Orwellian order.

I’ll grant that there’s some actual Bud in this bottle, though its sweet, fizzy flavor is closer to soda than beer. I’ll even concede there’s platinum in them thar blue bottles.

But light?

Unless they’re practicing Newspeak out there in St. Louis, there is no commonly accepted definition of the word that could possibly include this beer.

A 12-ounce bottle contains 137 calories. That puts it in the same caloric realm as nearly every other premium, non-light domestic lager in America, including Budweiser itself (145 calories). Forget other light beers (which tend to contain under 115 calories), this chubster has more calories than Bud Dry, Bud Ice, Busch Beer, Milwaukee’s Best and Yuengling.

How can the folks at Anheuser-Busch get away with calling it “light” without the feds dragging them onto the carpet?

Because, unlike other food products, there are no legal caloric thresholds for “light” beer. If it were cookies or yogurt or anything else at the grocery store, federal law says its caloric content would have to be reduced by at least one-third before it could be called “light.”

Anheuser-Busch, which is intent on expanding its No. 1 brand, could presumably produce a 500-calorie Bud Light Imperial Stout and still not face a serious challenge from federal regulators.

Now before I go any further, it’s important to underline the obvious: If you drink beer to lose weight, you are an idiot. No label will protect you from your own stupidity. (Also, I’m not sure anyone cares about those added calories, anyway. By all reports, the product is selling like gangbusters.)

But that’s exactly the issue the federal government, consumer groups and the industry have been trying to resolve for more than 50 years: On the one hand, clear labeling would tell consumers exactly what’s in their beer. On the other, clear labeling might imply some kind of health benefit that would encourage consumers to drink more.

The Alcohol and Tobacco Tax and Trade Bureau tried to establish some guidelines back in 2005 and ran into a buzz-saw of industry lobbyists who argued, among other things, that clearer labels would confuse consumers. No new rules were established, and the issue is on the back burner.

So, we’re left with loosey-goosey regulatory language prohibiting advertising and labeling statements that “deceive the consumer” or “tend to create a misleading impression.”

Calling your beer “light” when it clearly is not seems completely deceptive. Yes, Anheuser-Busch can rightly counter that its product’s so-called “average analysis” of calories, carbs, protein and fat is factually printed on its bottles – except that stinks of duplicity.

What’s happened here is that Bud Light has become A-B’s top-selling product, with a brand name that today carries more value that the original brand that built the company, Budweiser.

That value is not measured solely in dollars, though that’s a big chunk of the equation; the larger value of the brand name is that it now means, according to the experts who market the stuff, “good times.”

Bud Light Platinum attempts to glom onto that value. In the words of its publicity material:

“With a slightly sweeter taste, higher alcohol by volume (6 percent) and signature cobalt blue glass bottle, Bud Light Platinum provides beer drinkers an upscale light beer option as a companion to their social agenda.”

There you have it: This light beer is not some mere beverage you mindlessly guzzle after work, and it’s certainly not some brand that can be defined by something so pedestrian as calories.

No, Bud Light Platinum is a “companion” to your “social agenda.”

Like I said, Orwellian Newspeak.

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