At a certain point, you’ve got to just call it water.

Not to be outdone by a fellow conglomerate, Anheuser-Busch InBev raised (lowered?) the stakes against MillerCoors’ MGD Light 64 with its launch this week of Bud Select 55. The new light beer, which I promise is not a joke, boasts a slender and eponymous 55 calories. But A-B InBev not only bests MillerCoors in cutting calories — they pretty much give you less across the board. Let’s see how they stack up. (All servings 12 oz.)

  • Bud Select 55 – 55 calories, 1.9 g carbs, 2.4% abv
  • MGD Light 64 – 64 calories, 2.4 g carbs, 2.8% abv
  • Bud Select – 99 calories, 3.1 g carbs, 4.3% abv
  • skim milk – 129 calories, 17.9 g carbs
  • orange juice – 168 calories, 28.2 g carbs

I include the skim milk and OJ to illustrate that stuff that many people drink every day — and generally think of as healthy, or at least not destructive — positively booms next to these watered down beers.

But the best part of the caloric arms race (for companies, not drinkers) is that they’re charging more money and successfully selling a product that is literally watered down. Jokes about coitus in a Native American nautical vessel aside, when all these nutrition stats are lower, it’s because there’s simply less ingredients in each bottle.

These discussions often bring up price per alcohol comparisons, because price and abv are two quantifiable statistics. The real fleecing going on here is that people pay the same $5 or $6 for a six-pack of these ultralight beers (with sub-3% alcohol levels) as they would for light beer (about 4% abv) or ordinary, somewhat flavorful Bud Heavy (5%). So unless Bud Light is just too rich for the Select 55 or MGD 64 drinker, these people are paying for water at beer prices. Or, put another way, they’re paying for a placebo beer that they can drink in higher quantity than ordinary beer to the same effect. They’re paying for A-B InBev and M-C to step in and feed them water because they can’t just slow down and have one or two less beers in a night.

It occurs to me that you might be wondering what this near-beer tastes like. Actually, I kinda am too, but D.C. is S.O.L.; Select 55 is currently being test marketed in 15 places. Ratebeer‘s got a few early reviews, though.

In the meantime I’m going to sit back and enjoy the arms race of numbers until A-B and M-C start peddling beer-scented seltzer. I leave you with the similarly absurd Gilette-Schick razor-blade showdown: when Schick upped the ante on the Gilette’s Mach 3 with its four-bladed Quattro (extra blade, extra “T”), Gilette sure enough hit back with its five-bladed Fusion 5. Five razor blades on your face sounds ridiculous, right? Well, The Onion totally called it out.