Light beers are much maligned for being gimmicky, watered-down versions of the real deal. The Atlantic says, however, that the average light beer is likely much more difficult to make than your favorite brew. There are around 800 chemical compounds that go into a batch of light beer, making it a “brewer’s beer,” according to Brooklyn Homebrew’s Kyler Serfass.

Historically, light beer has had its uses other than packing less ABV and calories, while ostensibly “tasting great.” Once known as ‘small beer,’ these lower octane brews “staved off disease and dehydration by packing just enough alcohol to kill off pathogens found in drinking water” in late-medieval Europe and later in colonial America.

When it comes to brewing, the major difference between light and regula’ beer is in the fermentation process. Light beer calls for yeast that requires a heavy concentration of time and attention, as it “needs┬áto be activated, stored, and monitored at precise temperatures to yield the proper flavor.” Storage and quality control are also intensive processes that require a fair amount of vigilance. It’s not a style that home brewers can easily pull off.

So before you clown light beer for, well, being light beer, just keep in mind that there’s depth behind the process. It’s for this reason that the more thoughtful craft brewers tend to respect giants like Miller and Coors for their consistency and skill, if not the final product.

[via The Atlantic]