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Who Makes the Best Cheap Beer in America? The Experts Weigh In

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We seek out the go-to cheap suds from every region of the country with help from beer experts.

Natty Boh. Or National Bohemian Beer, if you’d prefer. It defined drinking in Baltimore, my hometown. First brewed in the city in 1885, production has since moved out of state, but to this day the vast majority of Natty Bohs are cracked open in Baltimore. Is it cheap? Certainly. Is it the best? Well, that depends on who you ask.

What is it about these beloved, neighborhood beers? Whether it’s a regional craft beer darling like New England’s Narragansett, or a ubiquitous, mass-market crusher like PBR, there are certain beers that just stick in our memories. An association with simpler times maybe, with easy beers and easy conversation; despite Natty Boh tasting more or less like most other light lagers, I could still pick it out of a lineup on taste alone.

In order to find out which cheap beers occupy a little section of our hearts, we reached out to beer industry professionals from across the country and asked: What’s the no-fuss, cheap, post-shift beer that’s getting cracked open at your local bar? The guidelines are loose: “cheap” isn’t an exact term, but in this case describes beer you typically buy by the case, something with which you’d fill a cooler, and without a second thought.

Nothing precious. These beers are meant to be drunk with friends. Here are the best cheap domestic beers from across America, according to those who drink for a living.

Northeast

Narragansett Lager

“‘Gansett was the first beer I ever saw in a tall can, so I assumed it was a ‘fancy beer’. As I was in college, I guess I could’ve genuinely considered it as such (my go-to at the time was Natty Ice). Narragansett made a reappearance in my regular rotation, funnily enough, when I started working in craft beer. Incredibly light, clean, and crushable, with subtle notes of pool water — ‘Gansett makes for a perfect summer cookout beer.” — Dana Valletti, Content Creator at Trillium Brewing

Genesee Cream Ale

Genesee Brewing Company Cream AleDrizly

Best Cheap Beer in the Northeast

Genesee Brewing Company Cream Ale

“Everyone in the brewing world likes to mystify this idea of a ‘grandpa beer,’ or that simple lager the elders in your family would loyally keep in the fridge for watching football or cooling off after working in the yard. In the case of my (very large) extended family on my mom’s side that grew up near the Adirondacks, ‘grandpa beer’ has long been synonymous with Genesee Cream Ale.

“The super easy drinking and affordable cans have been a fixture at gatherings thanks to his long devotion to the beloved New York product. It wasn’t until I moved to New York City after college that I realized this product was popular with people outside my huge group of cousins. Like a lot of ‘lowbrow, highly crushable’ beers on the market these days, craft brewers have even cozied up to the regional gem as they pump out collabs and odes to the vintage product. But for me, keeping it stocked in my store and in my fridge at home has always been a nod to my family — and also a way to ensure the perfect comfort beer was always cold and ready to drink at a moment’s notice.” — Zachary Mack, owner of Alphabet City Beer Co.

Utica Club

“Honestly, for eons this was off my radar. I was re-introduced to it at a New York State Brewers Association’s fest in Syracuse a few years back. It’s proven a great standby – especially at beer events when all you want after the ‘heavier’ or ‘bigger’ options is something familiar that’s light, consistent, and easy. Typically, at NYS beer events, there will always be cans available.

“Interestingly, it’s kind of fun to watch some who’s maybe newer to the beer community pass it over as they’re unsure of what it is, or its long history.” — Ann Reilly, Executive Director of the New York City Brewers Guild

Iron City Lager

“One night during the fall of 2017, I was at a party here in Pittsburgh with about fifteen-to-twenty people and we decided to do a blind taste test of ‘our favorite light lagers’ just for the hell of it. One person stood away from our line of sight (with small, plastic cups) and brought us out four half-pours: a Bud Light, a Miller Lite, a Coors Light, and an Iron City.

“I was the only person to correctly identify all four. When asked how I knew which was which, it was simple: As soon as I figured out which one was Iron (my favorite), I chugged another (full) Iron and closed my eyes and let ‘er rip. With some luck, I guessed correctly on the three beers that weren’t my favorite cheap lager. Hell yeah, brother.

“Pittsburgh’s the kinda place where we ‘reach for an iron’ and I’m here for it.” — Aadam Soorma, Head of Marketing at Trace Brewing

Pacific

Rainier

“When I walk into an NW bar and have a feeling the draft lines haven’t been cleaned in at least a year (if ever), my go-to is a tall boy of Rainier. It’s clean, easy-drinking, and a bit less estery than some of the other macro lagers – a beer you don’t have to think about. A can of Rainier is usually not my first beer of the night, but it’s frequently been my last.” — Lisa Allen, owner of Heater Allen Brewing/Gold Dot Beer

pFriem Pilsner

pFriem Family Brewers PilsnerpFriem Family Brewers

Best Cheap Beer in the Pacific Region

pFriem Family Brewers Pilsner

“While the obvious choice would be Rainier, and the contrarian choice would be Oly – I’m going with a beer that’s actually brewed in the PNW: pFriem Pilsner. It’s widely available in supermarkets, it’s often fresh, it’s relatively affordable, AND it’s a two-time GABF award-winning recipe. On the surface, it’s snappy, clean, and refreshing. But underneath is a quality malt bill, a well-executed fermentation and a carefully balanced hop presence all the way through.” — Steve Luke, head brewer & founder at Cloudburst Brewing

Sierra Nevada Pale Ale

“Relatively cheap, family-owned, and independent. Most ‘cheap’ beers are plenty drinkable but owned by multi-national megaliths intent on crushing the heart of small, local, independent craft beer. I’ll take all-malt, Cascade hops, good flavor, and independent every day.” — Jeffrey Stuffings, co-founder of Jester King Brewery

Da Hawai’i Life

“Interestingly enough, Hawaii doesn’t have a regional ‘cheap beer’. I’ve heard stories of the og Primo being like 5 cents from a vending machine, but that beer stopped being made in Hawaii in the early ’70s before I was even born! So I’m gonna say if you can’t drink cheap, you might as well drink well! I’ll be slamming back our very own Da Hawai’i Life, a crisp refreshing dry hopped American light lager brewed right here on Maui!” — Garrett W. Marrero, founder of Maui Brewing

Anchor Steam

“My go-to ‘cheap’ beer is Anchor Steam. I can find it at my local grocery stores and Trader Joe’s. For me, Steam Beer is that middle ground between ale and lager, it’s crisp but also intricate. The caramel notes make the malt presence known and the hops balance things out. It doesn’t sacrifice flavor while also being very refreshing!” — Kyle Harrop, founder of Horus Aged Ales

Editor’s note: On July 12, 2023, Anchor Brewing ceased operations, according to reporting from the San Francisco Chronicle. The brewery is no longer producing any beer as of that date, so if you’re lucky enough to find a can or bottle of Anchor Steam, cherish it.

Midwest

Miller High Life

“When it comes to my go-to cheap beer, the choice is easy … give me the Champagne of Beers, Miller High Life! I entered the legal drinking age at a time when Miller was really pushing Miller Lite. Label changes. Vortex bottles. Catchy slogans in Great Taste/Less Filling. Our dads drank High Life. We should drink Lite. Well as the years went on, I really grew to appreciate the flavors and consistency of High Life. Something about High Life in a bottle with that lovely carbonation and a hint of sweetness makes it the ultimate cheap crusher. Plus, my dad worked at Miller Brewing Company in Milwaukee when I was growing up. Unfortunately, he passed away several years ago, but a cold High Life in my hand brings back memories of my dad.” — Mike Pallen, owner & founder of Mikerphone Brewing

“Gotta go High Life bottles here … Specifically enjoyed right from the bottle. The Champagne of Beers just feels good in all the ways super easy, crack-and-go lager should. The flavor profile shines with uncluttered simplicity, the clear glass hard wires your mind to a refreshment aesthetic only bright, golden beer can, the branding is prolific, and High Life is steeped in the accolade of time. And cold, you’re going to want this ice cold.” — Gabriel Magliaro, co-founder of Half Acre Brewing

“As a lifelong Midwesterner, Miller High Life is my notorious favorite and I’m often spotted at a host of fancy beer fests with a bottle sticking out of my back pocket. After spending 10 to twelve hours working on, fretting over, and caring for a whole manner of fancy beers, it’s really nice to stop thinking about my own beers and relax while falling back on the cold, unbridled perfection of someone else’s work. So much so that we were invited up to MKE to brew a 10 hL batch on their R&D system and Miller subsequently came down to Chicago to brew a collaborative batch of High Life here with us, which we then fermented with a bunch of our wild cultures to create Eeek. Now why High Life? It’s simple, soft, gorgeous and, as rumor has it, the reason why the Mona Lisa is smiling and the go-to beer of angels dancing on the head of a pin.” — John Laffler co-founder Off Color Brewing

Busch

“So, I’m originally from St. Louis and moved to Tulsa in late 2019. My favorite cheap beer is Busch. There’s so much nostalgia with going to Cardinals games at Busch Stadium (at the Bowtie bar they used to be five dollar cans!), hitting up the complementary brewery tours at AB prior to a baseball game to get those two free ‘samples,’ and just sipping a cold tall boy on hot summer nights with the cicadas buzzing. Seems as though Busch heavy isn’t as popular in Tulsa. You can find some Busch Lite at the local dives, but almost never the original Busch beer. I think I love Busch so much because it’s got a touch of sweetness from that corn in the mash coupled with that slight bitter finish on the end.” — Katie Godoy, operations manager at American Solera

Schlitz

“Schlitz is not only my favorite domestic beer, but one that is intertwined with Lakefront Brewery and my beer-drinking experience. My Grandfather worked at Schlitz in Milwaukee shortly after Prohibition. As a kid, I ‘tasted’ plenty of Schlitz short fills. The old Schlitz Brewery is blocks away from Lakefront Brewery. When starting the brewery, we purchased old Schlitz equipment which is still being used and Schlitz is still being brewed here. I like Schlitz due to its malt sweetness, which is balanced by traditional American hops. Dare I say, ‘The Kiss of the Hops’?” — Jim Klisch, co-founder Lakefront Brewery

Columbus Lager

“I think a DankHouse crew favorite for a cheap neighborhood beer is Columbus Brewing Company’s Columbus Lager. We don’t brew a lot of lagers, due to current tank space restrictions. So, we make sure that we always have Columbus Lager either on tap, or in cans for us. Plus, we love those guys and gals over there and love to show support for our friends in the area.” — Josh Lange, founder of DankHouse Brewing

Local’s Light

“Short’s Brewing in Michigan makes a tasty lager that’s relatively low-priced. I’ve also always admired Joe Short’s Facial Hair Game.” — Sam Calagione, founder of Dogfish Head

Rockies

Coors Banquet

“Growing up here in Colorado, just south of Golden, I’m a Coors Banquet lover. I now live only a few miles from the brewery in Golden and I still enjoy myself a Banquet beer at Broncos games and when grilling and soaking brats in beer. I have a great story for you.

“Back in March of 2011, the CBC was in San Francisco and Russian River held a sour/barrel-aged beer symposium and invited all their closest brewing friends making wild and sour beers to mingle and share beers for the evening. Vinnie and Natalie told all of us to bring beers that inspired us to make wild and sour beer. I was traveling with one of my best friends, Troy Casey of Casey Brewing and Blending, who was at the time making amazing sour beers at AC Golden, which is part of Coors, and we all went together. Before the Symposium I picked up a suitcase of twenty-four Coors Banquet beers and brought it to the symposium because Coors Banquet inspired me to make great sour beer. Back then there was a lot of sour beer, but Troy Casey and I would make it a ritual that after attending a beer festival we would finish the night somewhere having a Coors light and Coors Banquet. Great palette cleanser. I personally like Banquet because it has just a touch more malt character and Coors still grows and malts their own malt on-site in Golden.” — Chad Yakobson, owner-brewmaster at Crooked Stave

“New Orleans is home. Though Colorado is home home. Golden, Colorado 80401. Home of my childhood, fresh air, frolicking deer, wildflowers, and … Coors. (Which meant growing up wondering ‘bout ‘that smell.’) Coors Original is the go-to when I’m missing my mountains. It’s consistent. Consistently cold, consistently crisp. I know what to expect, know what I’m going to get. No round table discussions, ‘hmm, this batch seems a bit dank, don’t you think?’

“The first sip always brings a smile. Perhaps (un)equally for nostalgia as for taste. It’s the beer, but it’s the story of the beer. The feelings it evokes. The sense of place. With a Coors Original, I can be in any city and with a few bucks, I can taste a bit of home as I cheers and give thanks to those mountains.” — Leah Jensen, founder and owner of Parleaux Beer Lab

“Our Head Brewer, Brannon Radicke, is a fan of the classic country singer, Ronnie Milsap. He turned on our brewing team to the ’70s classics and proudly displayed this Ronnie Milsap flag next to our pilot brewing system. The team started referring to Coors Banquet as ‘Ronnies.’ So if I had to pick a cheap beer, I’d order a Ronnie.” — Amy Cartwright, founder of Independence Brewing

“Coors ‘Original’ is my hometown go-to when it comes to ‘cheap beer.’ It’s easy-drinking, well-crafted and everywhere! On my days off, I try to get out on the river as often as I can. I usually always have a small cooler of ‘The Banquet’ or a couple of cans holstered in my fishing pack. It’s also pretty darn good with a squeeze of lime and a bit of Tajin (chili/lime salt) in the can top! In addition to being pretty delicious, Molson Coors Co. also does a lot of good things for the state of Colorado and was very supportive of the restaurant, brewing, and service industry workers during the COVID-19 shutdown period.” — Robert Bell, owner/brewer of Hogshead Brewery

Odell’s Lagerado

Odell Lagerado Crispy LagerDrizly

Best Cheap Beer in the Rockies

Odell Lagerado Crispy Lager

“When we lived in St. Louis, we knew longtime residents who drank Busch not because it was a ‘cheap beer,’ even though it was. They ordered it because it wasn’t fancy; it wasn’t Budweiser. It was the beer for regular citizens of St. Louis. And on Saturday mornings when there was a line at G&W Sausage and Meats, the guy behind the counter handed out free cans. I haven’t discovered anything similar in and around Denver. Instead, there is newcomer Lagerado from Odell Brewing. You won’t find it in the ‘cheap beer’ beer aisle, but a twelve-pack is less expensive than some currently on-fire Mexican brands. It is neither complicated nor simple, its floral sweetness and gentle bitterness perfectly balanced. I want to drink it on a Saturday morning in a butcher shop.” — Stan Hieronymus, author of many beer books including Brewing Local: American-Grown Beer

Southwest

Valley Beer

“My favorite ‘cheap beer’ is brewed two blocks away from Superstition’s production facility in Prescott, Arizona. Valley Beer from Wren House Brewing Company is an American lager punching well above the usual macro examples of this style. When I’m hitting a dive bar, sure I’m happy to crush a very cheap beer, but they never make it to my home fridge. When I have my dad in town, who appreciates big beers but prefers a classic lager, I stock up on Valley Beer. It’s a crisp daily drinker perfect for this time of year.” — Jeff Herbert, owner of Superstition Meadery

“Our Valley Beer that won silver at GABF is only eleven dollars a four-pack of sixteen-ounce cans, which is rivaling the big guys! Made with flaked corn, lagered for six weeks, it’s ‘crisp and classic’ as we like to say. Slightly sweet, incredibly refreshing and sessionable.” — Drew Pool, co-founder of Wren House

Frio Light

“A lot of people in Texas would probably say Lone Star is their to-go cheap macro beer. But I usually go with Frio Light. With that said, I always support independent craft beer whenever I can!” — Jeffrey Stuffings, co-founder of Jester King Brewery

Native Texan

Independence Brewing Native Texan PilsnerDrizly

Best Cheap Beer in the Southwest

Independence Brewing Native Texan Pilsner

“I was introduced to Independence Brewing’s Native Texan on a river trip. I was surprised by how crisp and refreshing this pilsner was. To this day, it’s my go-to poolside, boat day, lake swim, and/or grocery store pick-up. Cheers to easy drinking this summer.” — Jennifer Alexander, the Beerded Lady

Southeast

Innertube

“Veiled by memories of our first beer with our fathers, Innertube was born of necessity. The story of regional lager carries great weight across most of the country but has not survived the test of time across the South. While we championed local faves like Rainier in the NW and Schlitz across the Midwest, we felt we wanted to identify with a story of time and place. The Innertube is our most accessible notion of relaxation and journey here in Asheville, offering a trek up and down our river ways for those here to visit and those here to stay. So we first released Innertube about six years ago as a way to connect back to the genesis of our beer adoration, and to provide a runway for our quest ahead in our place of being. Innertube is our house lager beer. It’s a 3.5 percent, uber dry and bubbly carriage of rice, corn and barley, with noble hop presence.” — Doug Reiser, co-founder of Burial Beer Co.

Landshark Lager

“Brewed in Jacksonville by Jimmy Buffet’s Margaritaville juggernaut, Landshark Lager is a beer that definitely tries to conjure up sunshine, sand, and palm trees – and it succeeds. There’s nothing you can say about Corona that you can’t say about Landshark. It’s crisp, clean, perfect for the beach, goes great with a lime, and demands virtually no thought to enjoy. Are there other Florida brews of superior quality and flavor that better exemplify the Sunshine State’s rich, under-appreciated culture and natural beauty? Absolutely. I’ve worked at breweries that did nothing but that. But is there a cheaper beer, more widely available, and enjoyed as ubiquitously as Landshark? Definitely not. It may not be the savvy craft-beer drinker’s first choice, but when you’re staring down the macros at the gas station on the way to the beach, it’s never the wrong one.” — Adrian Herrera, General Manager at Charles Towne Fermentory

The Tank Brewing La Playita Pils

The Tank Brewing La Playita PilsDrizly

Best Cheap Beer in the Southeast

The Tank Brewing La Playita Pils

“I don’t really know if this is considered a cheap beer but oh boy let me tell you this beer is really good. I was not born and raised in Florida, but this beer really represents the state and especially SoFlo very well, and every time I have the chance I am definitely drinking a few pints or cans of La Playita. Great Pils with a nice hoppy accent.” — Ignacio Montenegro, co-founder of Tripping Animals

Budweiser (Williamsburg, VA brewery)

“Growing up in Virginia, more specifically, Richmond, PBR had a major imprint on the city. However, just located forty-five minutes from Richmond, there is a beer that is brewed that always remains crisp, crushable and most importantly, consistent. That beer is Budweiser. You can always rely on this beer being readily available at nearly any store you go into, it’s cheap, it’s extremely drinkable, and quite the crusher on a hot day. Did I mention versatile? Bud is my go-to cooking beer! It’s no wonder why this beer is called the King of Beers.” — Tasha Dixon, brewer at Ardent Ales

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