The Best Cheap Beers (and Their Histories)

It’s not news that beer is one of humanity’s favorite beverages. But, what you may not know is how much history the beverage has accumulated in its 600-year lifespan. Here are a few beers and their story to get your mouth watering!

The “worst cheap beers” are those that are not worth the money. The best cheap beers have a history, and it is important to know about them.

Craft beers – hefty, hoppy small batch brews manufactured by independent firms with artisanal formulas, novel mixes of ingredients, and distinctive taste profiles — are gaining popularity everywhere these days.

Some people see cheap, old-school beers — the sort your dad used to drink while grilling brats or watching the World Series — as dull, bland, watered-down corporate swill — the “fast food” of breweries.   

While artisan beers are delicious, cheap beer has a place in a man’s fridge and, more importantly, his koozie. Today, I’ll discuss why old school items should still be honored, as well as provide five recommendations for things to do (ironically) this summer.

Let’s have a look at what your grandfather knew all along.

A Quick Overview of “Cheap” Beer

When I say “cheap beer,” I’m referring to any domestic beer produced by Coors, Miller, or Anheuser-Busch (together known as “the Big 3”). Coors and Coors Light, Budweiser and Bud Light, Busch, Natural Ice, Michelob, Miller High Life, Miller Lite, and other brands sold by these three brewers account for the great majority of beer sold in the United States. Aside from them, these brewers continue to produce a variety of “nostalgia brands” such as Hamm’s, Pabst Blue Ribbon is a popular beer in the United States., Rainier, and others.

The irony of these brands is that, although they are now regarded substandard cheap drinks, they were formerly considered quality goods and priced appropriately.

Most brewers were still manufacturing heavy German lagers in the mid-1800s, using malted barley being the alcohol-producing grain. This made sense since they catered to a primarily immigrant or first-generation demographic. Americans, on the other hand, desired something new as the Midwest began to come into its own and move away from its immigrant heritage. In today’s industrial, fast-paced environment, a two-hour lunch could not include a leisurely glass of a strong lager. Businessmen need something lighter that would not fill them up and would allow them to sit more comfortably throughout the day or evening.

As a result, brewers (especially in the Midwest) responded by looking for additional ingredients, including as maize and rice, that could be utilized in the brewing process. The Bohemian lager, a type now properly defined as “American adjunct lager” (since it incorporates “adjunct” ingredients other than barley), was created via trial and invention. Despite the fact that grains like maize and rice were more costly at the time, resulting in a more expensive beverage, the brew quickly became a global hit, garnering several honors and medals. Pabst Blue Ribbon got its name because it won first place at the 1893 World’s Fair in Chicago (albeit this is a contentious and even litigious claim).

From the beginning, a few brewing giants — Frederick Pabst, Augustus Busch, Frederick Miller, and Joseph Schlitz (recognize those last names?) — brewed their beer on a massive scale and controlled practically the whole industry; even back then, the market was dominated by three or four major players.

 

The once-innovative American beer has become mundane during the past century, a victim of its own success. The monopoly of the Big 3 in the beer business is increasingly seen as suffocating and confining, if not a malicious corporate plot. As a result, the American consumer has sought out new flavors, and the craft beer business has grown to meet this need.

While the new (and, in many instances, enhanced) has its merits, there’s also something to be said about the simple, uncomplicated, comfortingly familiar, and gloriously inexpensive.

Why Should We Keep Celebrating Cheap Beers?

They’re simple to consume. Bohemian/American lager is a kind of beer that is effervescent, pale to almost clear in color, and somewhat sweet due to the maize (and sometimes rice). They’re simple to drink, have a lighter flavor, and don’t fill you up as much as other beers. They’re also lower in alcohol by volume (ABV) than many craft beers, so you won’t have to worry about lounging in the garden with your pals and drinking a few brewskis.

They’re inexpensive. It’s not for nothing that they’re dubbed “cheap beers.” While a sixer of craft beer may set me back $8-$10 in Colorado, the same amount of money would purchase me a 12-pack of Miller High Life or Hamm’s. That’s a significant change, particularly as the years — and drinks — pass.

They back a large number of American employment. While the Big 3 companies are no longer independent or American-owned, and their brands and beer-making structures are extremely complex, they continue to produce at the same large (often unionized) breweries that they began in the United States, providing thousands of jobs across the country, particularly in their home markets. While it’s wonderful to support little companies from time to time, it’s not like the major brewers don’t give back to their communities as well.

They have a nostalgic feeling. Back in the day, your father or grandfather (and surely your cool uncle) drank cheap beer (and perhaps still drinks today). You remember Dad giving you a drink now and then, and the flavor is engraved in your mind, or you remember him doing housework with a special beer in his hand. You probably began drinking cheap beer in college, and the memory of it has stayed with you all these years. While nostalgia isn’t a reason to prefer one beer over another, it does give an intangible dimension of pleasure to drinking one.

This Summer, Try These 5 Low-Cost Beers

Cheap bear cans on an ice box.

I recently taste-tested a dozen or so inexpensive beer brands and, very unscientifically, recommend the following five (plus their light equivalents in a few of instances), based on flavor, availability, and other non-quantifiable characteristics (like nostalgia).

My top recommendations for post-lawn-mowing relaxation, outdoor BBQs, and grilled brats (Dad was correct, too) are:

 

Hamm’s

Bottle of Hamm's beer filling in a glass.

Before Prohibition, Hamm’s was more of a localized Minnesota brew, but once it was repealed, it became a national beer, reaching the top five in domestic sales in the 1950s.

While it is presently produced by Miller, it is seeing a rebirth, particularly in the Midwest, where it was first brewed. However, because of Miller’s extensive distribution network, it can be obtained almost anyplace.

The taste has a crisp sweetness that sets it different from other domestic brewers, not to mention the antique branding. It’s not as fizzy as other beers, but carbonation is often used to hide a bland taste, so that’s not always a negative thing. The taste here can really be discerned, and it’s a good one.

Pabst Blue Ribbon

Illustration of a man holding Pabst Blue Ribbon beer and ball in another hand.

PBR used to be manufactured from a combination of 33 different batches of beer (thus the “33 great brews…” at the bottom). It’s still manufactured from a mix nowadays, but according to my investigation, 12 batches have been combined into one.

To be honest, I’m not a big fan of PBR’s taste, but it’s become the hipster beer of choice, and it’s typically just a few dollars at fashionable restaurants and pubs (compared to $7-$10 for a decent craft brew). It also tended to be the cheapest that tasted good enough to drink, according to my study.

Pabst Blue Ribbon received its name after winning a fiercely argued contest that wasn’t even meant to be a contest in 1893, as mentioned briefly above. A beer hall was set up during the World’s Fair, and any brew that achieved a high enough score was meant to obtain a certificate of recognition. Frederick Pabst and Augustus Busch, on the other hand, transformed it into a straight fight between PBR and Budweiser, which Pabst won by less than a full point. Since then, Pabst has labeled every can with the “Blue Ribbon” moniker.

While it’s not horrible (compared to some of the other beers I tasted), PBR lacks some of the stronger pure beer characteristics found in some of the other beers on this list. It’s just a little tedious. When you’re sweating outdoors and bagging up yard garbage, a 16oz can of this stuff strikes the spot. It’s just invigorating.

Miller High Life + Miller Lite = Miller High Life + Miller Lite = Miller Lite

Vintage man holding a glass of Miller High beer and another hand on dog ad.

Miller High Life was my overall favorite, despite the fact that the beers on this list aren’t rated. The sweetness of the maize comes through more than any of the others I tried, and it’s perfectly balanced with a highly carbonated mouthfeel that yet allows you to taste it. When it first came out as a premium, foil-wrapped product in 1903, Frederick Miller was correct to call it “The Champagne of Beers.”

While light beers aren’t my particular choice, they are among the top three domestic brewers in terms of sales. Miller Lite was my favorite of all the lights I tested since it was the first to truly reach the general market back in the 1970s. There’s a bit more sweetness here than in the previous beers, but it’s not overbearing. It’s also Matt Moore’s favorite beer, according to AoM. (he in fact only rarely drinks craft).

 

Budweiser + Bud Light = Budweiser + Bud Light = Budweiser + Bud

Vintage man holding Budweiser can and fishing rod in another hand.

Budweiser has been dubbed the “King of Beers” since its birth, since it was inspired by a beer known as the “Beer of Kings,” which was (and still is) brewed at a 13th-century Czech brewery. Bud Light and Budweiser account for over a quarter of all domestic beer sold in the United States, and they are the number one and number four beers in terms of sales, respectively. Bud Light alone has a market share of about 19 percent, which is 50 percent more than the whole craft beer business.

Budweiser and Bud Light employ rice as an auxiliary ingredient, while most domestic beers use maize (or a liquid derivative of it) to provide the beer taste. This distinguishes it from the others on this list in terms of taste. It has a drier, more crisp finish that doesn’t linger in the mouth, rather of being sweet. While I prefer Budweiser to its lighter sibling, either beer is ideal for a barbecue or a day at the beach.

Coors

Vintage glass of Coors in glass and scenery in background.

Coors is the de facto cheap beer in Colorado, and despite regional loyalties, its flavor is right up there with my favorites.

Coors Banquet is the original, non-light beer, and a 24oz can of it is about as wonderful as it gets on a hot summer day at the stadium.

It was only accessible in 11 states until the mid-1970s, which means it arrived on the national stage considerably later than these other beers. It earned a cult following due to its exclusivity before being generally accessible, owing to its scarcity. Paul Newman declared it “the greatest domestic beer, bar none,” and Eisenhower kept it onboard Air Force One. Gerald Ford served it every Thursday at the White House.

However, once it became popular, it became very popular, and Coors Light is today the most popular beer in the United States. While I didn’t like for the light version, the majority of my neighbors did, so choose your poison and indulge without guilt.

In the end, when it comes to inexpensive beer, there are no clear “bests” (or really any beer). You most likely already have a favorite that you’ll stick with. And if you don’t, give these 5 a go, recall the lengthy history of what was once regarded the greatest kind of beer in the world, and don’t be afraid to revel in the pleasures of simple, inexpensive refreshment.

 

 

The “best cheap domestic beer” is a topic that has been discussed many times. The article will discuss the best cheap beers and their histories.

Frequently Asked Questions

Whats the most popular cheap beer?

A: Budweiser.

What are the top 10 worst beers?

A: Here are the top 10 list of worst beers that money can buy.
1) Goldschlager
2) Pabst Blue Ribbon
3) Budweiser
4) Samuel Adams Lager
5) Corona Extra Light Beer (CERB)-Mexico City-Miller Brewing Company, a subsidiary of SAB Miller Plc. The product is known as Corona or COBA in Mexico and Canada. It was launched by Grupo Modelo on March 21, 1935 and introduced to the United States during Prohibition under its original name at 45 cents per bottle with a yellow label featuring an image of Don Quixote de la Mancha drinking from his wineskin while riding his horse Rozinante into battle against windmills; this led to widespread initial confusion among U.S. drinkers because they had not been accustomed to seeing beer bottles come outfitted with seals meant for wine flasks; it has since become one of Americas most popular imported beers-. There is also Cerveza Negra which comes from Estrella Damm Brewery in Spain.-Its made using malted barley malt hops wheat yeast sugar water caramel color spices salt vanilla extract cocoa powder molasses syrup rice puree corn starch

What is the cheapest beer with the most alcohol?

A: Budweiser is the cheapest beer with the most alcohol. A 12 ounce can of Bud Light contains 5% alcohol, while a 12 ounce can of Budweiser contains 8% alcohol

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