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Why Ingredients in Beer Matter – And What Beer Companies Aren’t Telling You

I was having a blast watching the Super Bowl last weekend… and it had NOTHING to do with the game! Bud Light started advertising that they have No Corn Syrup in their beer, and texts like this kept rolling in…

You see, we launched the petition that started the conversation about beer ingredients and why they matter. And now, Bud Light is spending millions of dollars on a marketing campaign to tell us that corn syrup isn’t in their beer – but there is SO MUCH MORE to this story. 

Here’s how it all started…

A little over 4 years ago I was sitting at Anheuser-Busch headquarters trying to convince their executives to develop an organic beer. At the time they told me they had tried one in the past, but it didn’t sell. Stone Mill Organic Pale Ale was the first one they produced many years ago, but they took it off the market… 

The original organic beer as seen at the Anheuser-Busch headquarters

Well, so much has changed since then, and not only did they end up coming out with an organic Michelob Ultra Pure Gold beer, but they advertised it during the Super Bowl! I couldn’t have been more happy to see that. I remember sitting in their board room, wondering if my arguments for an organic beer were convincing enough or just falling on deaf ears. 

Meeting with executives at Anheuser-Busch in St. Louis, MO

I’ve been investigating the ingredients in alcohol for the last 6 years and dedicated an entire chapter (chapter 7!) to it in my first book. The ingredients in beer are not required by law to be listed anywhere on the label and manufacturers have no legal obligation to disclose the ingredients. The beer industry is regulated by the U.S. Treasury Department (the people who collect taxes) instead of the FDA like most other food and beverages. This is why we know more about what’s in a can of Coke than what’s in our beer.

Since beer companies aren’t required to tell us their ingredients, I knew I needed to investigate this for myself and what I found shocked me. I grew concerned after discovering there is a long list of additives the government has approved for use that beer companies don’t need to tell you about… corn syrup, high fructose corn syrup, artificial flavors, stabilizers linked to intestinal inflammation, artificial colors, caramel coloring, and genetically modified ingredients, to name a few.

I knew people wanted to know more about what was in their beer (especially since my husband loves beer), so I launched a petition in 2014 asking the two biggest beer manufacturers in the world (Anheuser-Busch and MillerCoors) to publish their ingredients online (1). The response was HUGE. Within the first 24 hours the petition received 43,000 signatures and Anheuser-Busch publicly agreed to publish the list of ingredients online (2). MillerCoors quickly followed.

The petition we started in 2014

Thanks to the work of the Food Babe Army, we made history that day. And that’s when Anheuser-Busch invited me to St. Louis to see how their beer was made. 

Behind the scenes at Anheuser-Busch

If you watched the Super Bowl, you likely saw Bud Light’s ads about how they don’t use corn syrup in their beer. They also threw Miller Light and Coors Light under the bus for using corn syrup in their beer…Which is completely true. 

I LOVE how they played the part of “Food Babe Army” in listing out the ingredients for everyone to see in these flyers. But as I wrote about in my first book, Bud Light actually never used corn syrup in their beer, so I found that misleading. 

Anheuser-Busch (the parent company for Bud Light) is insinuating that just because one product is “clean”, all of their other products are a better choice, when that couldn’t be further from the truth. They are using the same ingredients as Miller Light and Coors Light in some of their other beers.

Anheuser-Busch is still using corn syrup in other beers, which is likely made with GMO corn.

Bud Light spent millions of dollars on a marketing campaign to tell us that corn syrup isn’t in their beer, but other beers by Anheuser-Busch still use it. And this didn’t go unnoticed by their competition. During the SuperBowl, MillerCoors called them out online for putting high fructose corn syrup in some of their beers…

The battle is brewing between Anheuser-Busch and MillerCoors. And while it’s great to see them open up the conversation around beer ingredients and transparency, it would have been better to see Anheuser-Busch remove all corn syrup from their beers before making a such a spectacle.

You’ll find corn syrup in several of their most popular beers like Rolling Rock, Kokanee, and Busch beer…

MillerCoors uses corn syrup in their beers too, but hasn’t always disclosed this… 

When MillerCoors first published their ingredients online following our 2014 petition, they did not list “corn syrup” as an ingredient (3). While the media was eating up the story, they simply reported the ingredients in Coors Light and Miller Light as “water, barley malt, corn, yeast, and hops” (4). More recent updates to their website shows the ingredients as this…

Coors Light: Water, Barley Malt, Corn Syrup (Dextrose), Yeast, Hop Extract
Miller Light: Water, Barley Malt, Corn Syrup (Dextrose), Yeast, Hops and Hop Extract

Was MillerCoors not telling the whole truth about their ingredients 4 years ago or did they recently add corn syrup and hop extracts?

Should you care if there is corn syrup in your beer?

Corn syrup isn’t typically used as a sweetener in beer, rather it’s used as a cheap sugar which ferments. The reason why you wouldn’t want to drink beer made with corn or corn syrup is because almost all corn is genetically modified (GMO)(5) and if you don’t want to support GMOs, Monsanto/Bayer, and the chemical companies who are poisoning our food and environment with Roundup herbicides linked to cancer (6) – you don’t want beer produced with GMOs. Beer is traditionally brewed with malted barley, a non-GMO grain (7), and not corn. 

It’s not just the corn syrup. Beer companies are guilty of using other ingredients that don’t belong in beer. These two are the most common in mass produced beer… 

Hop Extract: Rather than using whole hops or hop pellets, beer companies use a chemically altered hop extract to add bitterness while reducing the amount of actual hops in the beer. This is a cheaper way to produce beer.

Caramel Color: This brown coloring is used to make some beers appear darker. It’s manufactured by heating ammonia and sulfites under high pressure, which creates carcinogenic compounds. Newcastle removed this from their beers in 2015 (8) after we called them out for this. It appears Stella Artois (by Anheuser Busch) also no longer contains caramel coloring, as we had reported finding it listed as an ingredient on an overseas website in 2014 (3). 

This is another big industry lie that we’ve seen companies do many times. They advertise how one product doesn’t contain something, but their other products still do. So you think that you can trust a brand, but you can’t.

It is CRAZY that Anheuser-Busch would base an entire multi-million dollar campaign on ONE product that doesn’t have corn syrup or hop extract – while their other products still use these ingredients.

Bud Light VP Andy Goeler was quoted as saying “While ingredient labels are not required, consumers deserve to know more about their beer. We brew Bud Light with the finest ingredients and we’re happy to proudly display them on our packaging. When people walk through a store, they are used to seeing ingredient labels on products in every aisle, except for the beer, wine and spirits aisle. As the lead brand in the category, we believe increasing on-pack transparency will benefit the entire beer category and provide our consumers with the information they expect to see.” (9)

I hope they live up to that statement when it comes to ALL of the beers at Anheuser-Busch – and not just Bud Light.

It’s just common sense. Don’t bash other products that use corn syrup and hop extract when you are doing the exact same thing. Either clean up your beers or don’t. I hope Anheuser-Busch learns from this and realizes this is not the way to win customers. We are smarter than that. 

In just two short weeks my new book hits shelves and I’m so excited for you to read it. It is very eye opening. In Feeding You Lies, I delve deep into the lies that food and beverage companies tell us to get us to keep buying their products. My hope is that it will change the food industry again, by encouraging them to use more transparent practices and improve their products.

We need all hands on deck, Food Babe Army! Pre-order a copy below to be one of the first to read it and be part of our movement pushing the industry to do better.


Feeding You Lies

Available in stores everywhere

I can’t wait to see ingredient labels on every beer at the store, can you? I know it will happen when you share posts like this to keep the beer companies on their toes! 

It’s amazing how the seeds we planted to change the terrible lack of transparency in the beer industry are now bearing fruit. You are an amazing force Food Babe Army! Thank you for continuing to spread the word and demand the truth about what we are eating and drinking.

If you know anyone who loves to drink beer (I’m sure you do!) PLEASE SHARE this post with them! 



P.S. Want to know more about how the food and beverage industry swindles us? MUST READ:


Feeding You Lies

Available in stores everywhere


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28 responses to “Why Ingredients in Beer Matter – And What Beer Companies Aren’t Telling You

    1. Totally agree. Vani should campaign to get the ingredients disclosed for beers that people actually care about. I know that’s a lot harder, since there are so many craft beers and European beers to contact rather than the relatively small number of macro beer makers, but who cares about them?

  1. In Germany the standard regulating ingredients in beer is called Reinheightsgebot…water, barley, hops and yeast. Das ist alles…nothing more. That’s why most American beers suck, they try to make it faster, cheaper and compensate for lack of taste by adding flavoring.

    1. That’s why Germany doesn’t make any good beers. That law is like trying to compete in baseball with one arm tied behind your back. Every German beer has the same four ingredients. Kind of hard to differentiate one’s beer from someone else’s. American craft beers beat German beers all hollow.

      1. You have evidently never had a real German draft beer, or you would not have made such a ludicrous statement.

      2. This shows a bit of your (pardon me) Ignorance on the subject. 1. Water source varies hugely in the finished product. A little hard water goes a long way in bringing out flavors. 2. Barley comes in a large number of varieties and can be affected by the terrior of where it is grown. 3. Hops comes in more varieties each year! have you had a beer with any of the new New Zealand grown varieties? 4. Yeast. While it may all be sacchaomyces cerevisiae it varies in conduct by where it is from as well. The possibilities are nearly endless with all the variety in just these 4 ingredients. Please don’t sell German beer short.

      3. By that comment I could tell Bruce does not have a passport. But besides the petty remarks, we all should be fighting for transparency in ingredients if it is anything that is labeled for consumption.

      4. The Reinheitsgebot only applies to German beer marketed for DOMESTIC consumption. The stuff the Germans export to the U.S. (and other places) can have all the same chemicals in it that we see in U.S. Industrial beer.

  2. I bought a six pack of Michelob Ultra Pure Gold Organic Lager with the green/white USDA Organic label on the front (the other Michelob Ultra’s do not have the organic label). I was amazed. No sharp bitter GMO taste. No bloat, gas, burps or regurgitation. It tastes really clean and light in a good way (not watered down). In short, a decent lager. I have been drinking imports from Germany and craft beers that I read at one time were organic, like Bell’s. I believe Sam Adams uses no GMOs; I don’t know about corn syrup. Anyway, I am rewarding Anheuser-Busch with my business. Good job, keep up the good work A-B. Thank you, Vani for keeping the pressure on. Your book is arriving Feb. 19th; I can’t wait to read it!

  3. I haven’t drank beer for many years, especially American beer.

    Gives new meaning to the phrase “beer belly”. More like “GMO wheat belly” and “GMO corn/sugar belly”. Dr. William Davis coined the term “wheat belly” and his book on the subject is very informative. Thanks, Vani!

  4. There is nothing wrong with hop extract. It contains the alpha and beta acids as well as the oils of whole hops. This part of the article is just nonsense. And to be honest the rest of this article is pointless. People are not drinking Budweiser because it’s good and pure. They drink it because it’s cheap, fairly benign flavor wise, and consistant. There are countless quality craft beers, as well as psuedo craft beers owned by the industry giants that do not use corn syrup as a fermentable

  5. Vani, What about all the beers that are made with fluoride water? What do you think about that? Should we even worry about that? I know that even some of the “Organic” beers are made with fluoride water, and they don’t have to reveal that to us.

  6. Stay away from all American beers because the farmers spray the cancer causing chemical Glyphosate on their grain crops to kill the plant, to get the water out of the plant then take it to market.
    Personally I buy Samuel Smith’s Organic Beer, Cider from England. It’s hard to find, not many places sell it. I use to get it at Whole Foods , but no more. Now I find it at a local drug store at $3.75 a bottle!

  7. Clearly there are few serious beer fans here. Microbreweries are opening by the thousands. The mass produced beers are mostly bland junk and I don’t care what they put in them. Organic and beer go together like Louie Vuiton and a garage mechanic. If you want organic go to Whole Foods. The guy complaining about what you can do with the basic 4 ingredients doesn’t know squat about beer brewing. Microbrewers and brew pubs have a discerning customer base and don’t take shortcuts because lousey beer does not sell. Bud has always listed corn as an ingredient, that is fermented along with the barley. It creates a brighter taste. I am no Bud fan but they do it to get the flavor they want, not to save money.

  8. So where is the list of good beers ? Domestic or foreign ?

    I get a reaction from beers like Corona and landshark … after having one to two beers i start sneezing and I get all stuffed up. And my face feels red & hot. This has to be a reaction to the ingredients

  9. I noticed no preservatives or chemicals were listed on most of the products in this article. In Australia we have a sneaky little law that states ‘if an ingredient is less that 5% of the finished product it does not have to be listed’ So no matter what you buy there will always be a multitude of additives or ingredients that never have to be listed. Is it the same in the US?
    One of my patients was an exec at a bread manufacturing company, and on allergy testing she was sensitive to wheat, so when I said she needed to avoid bread, she said is it the wheat or one of the 38 additives in the bread. I checked the labels on this particular bread, and not one additive was labelled. That’s when I researched and found the 5% sneaky loophole.

  10. Ingredient labels should be required for all alcoholic beverages – not just beer. That fact that this is not regulated/required or transparent is outrageous. In fact, I wish the regulations would get stricter with food and drinks in general by requiring every ingredient to be listed, including what is in “natural” or “artificial” flavors. If we knew what they were putting in our food and drink, maybe more people would think twice about putting that garbage into their bodies. A significant drop in product sales, effective proactive efforts and better regulations would force these companies to change their ingredients or stop producing them. We have already seen a discrepancy in ingredients of the same product in the US vs. other countries. Of course, some US products still contain ingredients that other parts of the world have banned. We still have tremendous room for improvement in this area, which is critical to our health and well being.

  11. I always take nutrition advice from someone who has no science back ground at all!

    Doing so makes sooo much more sense than taking advice from folks like, oh, I dunno…people like; MDs, Board certified Nutrionists, researchers with hundreds of articles and books and multiple PHDs and Masters degrees.

    Big tits and a pretty smile wins every time – when we are talking S-C-I-E-N-C-E!
    Because THAT is really what is important!

    1. Jim A., you don’t need a science background, just common sense. Just vote with your dollars and continue to enjoy those foods you like. I don’t understand what you are doing on this site if you think the site is nonsense. Go elsewhere and disparage those who lie to you. And if you think only those with degrees have all the answers, then you are the nonsensical one. Let your MD, etc., talk you into taking Lipitor when your cholesterol is out of site as they have minimal knowledge of nutrition and won’t even guide you in that direction. Interesting how your comments get derogatory about Vani’s healthy and beauty because she’s obviously a walking testament and some find it frustrating. So, I say to those who feel threatened by the Food Babe, keep feeding yourself lies.

      1. Great answer Food Babe Fan! I totally agree! Vani has completely changed my life. I do not go out to eat much and I cook all my food from scratch at home.

    2. Jim a, doctors are owned by big pharma. Doctors have almost killed me a couple of times. I said no more I take care of myself by eating right, like cooking from scratch at home and a lot of it I have learned from Vani. Drugs are a band-aid for what the real problem is. I have eliminated ALL of my health issues by changing my diet. Now my doctor is taking advice from me because she has seen me cure myself by diet. Guess what I do not have a medical or nutrition degree. One thing I do have is the ability to read and research on my own.

  12. Alcohol and alcohol related diseases kill roughly 100,000 people a year. I’m not aware of anyone consuming a GMO food product and dying from the GMO. You criticize an alcohol product though because it might have GMO corn in it. Does that make sense?

  13. You know after spending about 4 years in Germany in the army you say they are tasteless I say ur full of crap! They have many different flavor including like a smoked beer They have all types or varieties flavors strong n weak beers dark or dunkless or Weitzen or Hefe Wietzen, Pills, Guiness, high n low alcohol and fest beers are usually a little higher alcohol and mainly they still use glass bottles not cans or plastic! N theyll deliver ur favorite beer almost like a milk man! rack for rack in like 20 half liter bottles in a rack I think! I miss my german beer or an occasional Guiness Stout Or an EKU 28 as in 28% alcohol be careful we called it TKO 28 technical knock out 28 usually in a smaller bottle! And it was sort of a competittion as every town or village had their own breweries.

    N hear we are in the USA n the dept of Ag n FGDA are basically flipping us off asaying they dont even have to tell us where these cancer causing GMO products are hidden to get the real research you have to go out of the country to places like Russia. Because all the GMO tests are never long enough once ill effects are found they stop the test or control the tests and keep the ill effects hidden they control the narrative. The Russians test them all much more stringent and longer n thats why they dont allow any GMO products in their country!

    N even if you read the labels n think you are safe ior fairly safe or accurate n u eat grass fed beef well what happens when them grass fed beef are sold? And they are sent to a feed lot to fatten them up and fed GMO silage from GMO corn before they are slaughtered! Think Im crazy Ive seen that first hand as in “you are what you eat” but you are also what that animal you are eating also ate before it was slaughtered! So here is what happens there is no way to know that ur not eating anything or something GMO! So0 I applaud this lady and her efforts but we still got along way to go babe! Cuz they are allowed to keep these secrets from we the people or public! I mean what the hell put Monsanto or Monsatan at the head o9f the US Ag department what the hell were you thinking stupid Traitor Obama and Clintons?

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