What’s the Deal with the New, Hoppier Heineken Light Recipe?

The tweaked recipe will include Cascade hops, a citrusy varietal popularized by craft brewing.


Yesterday, Beverage Daily reported that Heineken is revamping Heineken Light in response to slumping sales in the first quarter of 2013. This type of thing happens all of the time in the macrobrewing world, and it’s usually addressed with branding tweaks and a shift in marketing tactics. Heineken is doing all that (wait for the glitzy packaging and a rollout in New York, Vegas, and Miami), but what’s more unexpected is an actual change to the recipe, which will now include Cascade hops—a staple ingredient of the American craft-brew scene, but one that’s rarely seen in mass-market lagers.

Craft-beer preservationists will surely read this move as yet another example of ‘crafty’ tactics by Big Beer powerhouses, who have been widely accused of coopting craft beer trends and passing them off as their own—see Blue Moon’s aggressive positioning in the wheat beer market, and Budweiser’s Black Crown, which matches the higher ABV of popular small-batch beers.

But beer politics aside, it’s interesting that a brand as massive as Heineken would even consider adding more hops to a light beer—particularly ones that pack as much of a punch as Cascade. Clearly, the American palate has evolved since the heyday of generic, watered-down lagers.

Whether you see Heineken’s new formula as predatory or simply a natural evolution is up to you. For now, let’s focus on the taste and get more familiar with Cascade hops.


Cascade: A Brief History

The Oxford Companion to Beer describes Cascade as “a US-bred aroma hop that is particularly popular with the craft brewing industry in the United States. While it remains popular, it was once so prevalent that it virtually defined the flavor of American microbrewed beer. It was developed by the United States Department of Agriculture’s (USDA) hop breeding progrm in Corvallis, Oregon, and released in 1971.” Today, it is the “top U.S. hop in production for US craft brewers the past five growing seasons,” according to CraftBeer.com.

What do Cascade hops do to my beer?

Cascade hops add moderate bitterness to beer, as well as floral and citrusy characteristics. If a beer reminds you of grapefruit, it’s likely got some Cascade hops in it.

Three beers to try

Cascades hops are often found in West Coast IPAs, though they’re used widely throuhgout the craft beer world. Here are a few ales that’ll give you a taste of what they’re all about.

Sierra Nevada Pale Ale. Though it’s not hopped 100% with Cascade, it’s the brew most beer lovers think of when think Cascade—a perfectly balanced pale ale, with subtle floral notes.

Anchor Brewing Liberty Ale. Brewed as an homage to Paul Revere, Liberty is a liquid time capsule of early American IPAs, which were dominated by Cascade.

Deschutes Mirror Pond. A quintessential West Coast pale ale, hopped exclusively with Cascade for notes of orange and pine, plus a big, citrusy aroma.


[via Grubstreet]

  • ms

    We have been Heineken light drinkers for sometime and not impressed with the new formula. Really bitter and strong hops taste. Guess we will go back to another favorite brand. Sorry

  • Ryan

    CHANGE IT BACK!!!! The new taste is horrid, I thought I had the worst luck and kept getting fermented skunky beer. Guess not just a new flavor… YUCK>>CHANGE IT BACKNPLEASE

  • CJ

    I understand how you need to try to get sales up on your beer. But the new Heineken Light does not taste as good as it did before. I agree with the other two posts about changing it back to what it use to taste like. Sorry, not sure if I will buy it again.

  • DL

    Not a fan of the new flavor. At first I thought it was just my imagination the taste had changed, or that I bought a bad case. I haven’t bought a new case since and probably will not buy one again now. Going back to Amstel Light or just regular Heineken, unless that’s changed too without notice.

  • Pj

    Agree with most of the other posts – CHANGE IT BACK! Please! I now have to find another drinkable light beer. Any suggestions similar to the old Heineken Light recipe?

  • kb

    Change it back! I returned a 12 pk bc I thought something was wrong with it. It tastes stale and bitter. Changing brands :(

  • Donna

    The new taste of Heineken Light SUCKS / NASTY. It is so Nasty I thought it was skunked several times and sent it back for another kind of beer hope they go back to the old flavor that was AWESOME FLAVOR.

  • cuckoozey

    Been a longtime Heineken Light drinker and the new flavor is utterly horrible. Citrus? Really? CHANGE IT BACK.

    Does anyone know an alternative that tastes similar to the old Heineken flavor?

  • JBE

    WE DO NOT LIKE, STOPPED BUYING … Se YA Later cold one …

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