With all the choices out there, deciding the best-tasting beer is a tough task. Figuring out the best-tasting cheap beer is even harder. “Best tasting” and “cheap” have never made good bedfellows — there are a lot of duds amongst the suds out there.
It’s easy to get swayed by all the hype around craft beer these days, but “craft” always feels more like a treat than the everyday-go-to-beer you grew up with. Those bottles also have a very high price point. Can you afford $10-12 for every six pack you buy? If not, you’re probably drinking cheap beer more often than not, like the rest of us.
With that in mind, we thought it was high time we ranked some of our favorite cheap beers. We’ve already highlighted the light beers we love, so this list is the straight up lagers that we love. There are a few Mexican adjunct lagers thrown in for good measure, but, with a few exceptions, this is the best tasting cheap beer from all over America.
Schlitz used to be the biggest beer producer in America, back in its heyday. Today, the Milwaukee brew is a go-to cheap beer in the Midwest that’s still widely available nationwide. You can usually score a 12-pack for ten bucks, so the price is right.
Overall, the beer is very easy to drink and leans into the sweetness of the adjunct grains at play. Add a whiskey back (a side shot), and you’re good to go.
Backyard BBQ Vibe: You’ll feel like a full-grown adult drinking a Schlitz next to an open flame.
Detriot’s Stroh’s is a solid American lager all around. You get a real sense of the malt here that makes for a surprisingly smooth drink of beer. Stroh’s may be a little harder to find outside of the Midwest, but it’s definitely around and is always cheap. Expect to pay around ten bucks for a case.
Backyard BBQ Vibe: You definitely need to be near a lake when you crack open a Stroh’s.
Pop a lime wedge into a Corona and you’re all set. This is a cornerstone of the cheap beer market in America. Though it is a bit more expensive than other cheap beers from Mexico, so that knocks it down a few spots on this list.
Corona is a very distinct tasting beer that only gets better with a lime. The sweetness of the grains (corn) really shines through here and brighten up with the acid of the citrus. This one is sunshine in a glass for less than a buck a bottle.
Backyard BBQ Vibe: Best served at a “make your own tacos” backyard BBQ.
MILLER HIGH LIFE
Miller High Life is, indeed, the champagne of beers. The malty beer has a nice sweetness and full-bodied texture that makes it go down almost too easily. When it comes to taste in American adjunct lagers, Miller High Life is a clear winner with just the right balance of easy-to-drink and low price.
Backyard BBQ Vibe: Perfect for grilling some burgers and hot dogs all day long with plenty of breaks to throw a bocce ball or frisbee around.
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Hamms made its way from the clear blue waters of Minnesota to every grocery store across America. It’s a unique tasting beer with a dry maltiness that has a very earthy edge to it. It’s very refreshing. It’s also dirt cheap, a 30-rack will set you back around 15 bucks. 50 cents a beer is the best price point for any beer.
Backyard BBQ Vibe: “I’m not a hipster. You’re a hipster.”
PBR tends to be divisive amongst beer snobs. Some love it for its accessibility while others dismiss it for the very same reason. PBR is everywhere and it’s always the cheapest tap in the bar. Overall, it’s a perfectly fine lager. There’s a lightness to PBR that makes it so beloved.
Add in a hint of hops in the background and you’ve got a nice mug of beer.
Backyard BBQ Vibe: “You think you’re a hipster? Hold my PBR.”
IRON CITY BEER
Out in Pittsburgh, Iron City Beer rules the roost. The local adjunct lager is amazingly cheap (even in the bars) and goes down perfectly while sitting in the shade and watching the Pirates knock a baseball around. While this one isn’t always available around the nation, but it still deserves a nod for being a very easy-to-drink beer that leans into the bready maltiness with a crisp finish.
Next time you’re in Pittsburgh, don’t sleep on a few racks of Iron City.
Backyard BBQ Vibe: Order sandwiches from Primanti Bros and bring the TV into the backyard to watch the game.
No list of the best tasting cheap beer would be complete without Tecate. The Mexican American Adjunct is a great lager at the best price (50 cents a can is the best price). Overall, you’re getting a very straightforward beer here with a nice crisp dryness that has hints of malt sweetness and hop bitterness in an easy-to-consume balance.
Backyard BBQ Vibe: Grill piles of delicious meat. Drink Tecate. Repeat until the sun goes down.
Upstate New York’s Utica Club is a tasty beer that leans into the malt sweetness with a crisp finish that largely leaves the hop bitterness behind. It’s basically everything an adjunct lager should be: easy-to-drink, a little sweet, crisp, and damn cheap.
Backyard BBQ Vibe: Find a shady spot in the backyard, crack open a Utica, relax until the food’s ready.
Texas’ Shiner Bock is a huge regional beer that’s easily available all over the country. It’s a little more expensive, clocking in at close to a dollar a bottle at retail. Still, it’s worth the extra cash. Shiner Bock has a clear earthy heft to it that’s anchored in the malt’s grains. Serve this one ice cold on a hot day and you’ll be hooked.
Backyard BBQ Vibe: This beer was made for BBQ feasts. Just make sure it’s ice cold before the brisket’s ready.
HENRY WEINHARD’S PRIVATE RESERVE
Hank’s is an old-school Portland microbrew from back in the days before some marketing exec came up with the word “craft.” Although Henry Weinhard’s is probably best known for their root beer these days, their Private Reserve pale lager is a treat.
You get a real sense of where American craft lagers originated with a bottle of Hank’s. There’s a wonderful balance of malt sweetness against a real bitter hop presence. It’s a legit crafty lager at an affordable price (you can snag a 12 pack for $9.99 usually).
Backyard BBQ Vibe: Perfect for backyard discussion about microbreweries from the 80s and 90s not getting enough respect today from the “craft” beer industry while someone grills vegan burgers and sausages.
MICHELOB AMBER BOCK
Michelob Amber Bock is a solid entry for those looking for a bigger beer at a lower price. The beer is brewed with roasted malts and keeps a nice, sweet maltiness tethered to a light hop bitterness. It’s still fairly light, especially if you hold this up to a German bock beer. That said, it’s a perfectly drinkable beer at a low price point that adds a lot of flavors.
Backyard BBQ Vibe: Easy-going, everyone probably has to work in the morning vibes.
BUDWEISER AMBER LAGER
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Budweiser’s Amber Lager is another ‘Pre-Prohibition’ throwback to the headier beer days of the early 20th-century. This is a very quaffable beer with a clean malt sweetness and a clear hoppiness that’s well-balanced. It’s also Bud, so it’s gonna be cheap and on sale a lot between Memorial Day and Labor Day. Drink it. You’ll be pleasantly surprised.
Backyard BBQ Vibe: Fire up the grill and settle in for a nice, long day of drinking and eating.
Out in Pennsylvania, Yuengling reigns supreme. The oldest continually running brewery in America is technically a craft brewery as well. Their amber lager is the one to drink. It’s a ‘Pre-Prohibition’ lager that leans towards the hops over the malts giving this on a nice bitter whisper. It’s cheap, privately-owned, and lives up to the hype.
Backyard BBQ Vibe: Football, Yuengling, sausages, and listening to Eagles fans talk about the Super Bowl all day.
Sam Adams is the next biggest “craft” brewery in America and their now iconic Boston Lager is a standard in almost every bar across America. The beer is another throwback amber lager that leans into the hoppy bitterness with a nice sweet malt tying everything together. Sam Adams is a probably the most expensive beer on the list, clocking in at just over a dollar a can, or about $15 for a 12-pack.
Backyard BBQ Vibe: This one will make the craft beer drinkers happy, which is a win because it’s annoying when they gripe.
House Beer, from Sleeping Giant Brewing Company down in Venice, California, is the craft lager the craft brewing industry needs. The beer has a clean maltiness that gives way to light hits of spicy hops on the back end. Overall, this is a “craft” beer that feels like a cheap beer with a little more oomph.
Backyard BBQ Vibe: You can almost taste the Southern California surf, palms, and shaggy blonde hair in every sip.
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Coors Banquet is a damn tasty beer. The Colorado standard has a clean malt sweetness along with a hint of hop bitterness. The beer is always cheap and always very easy-to-drink anytime, day or night.
Backyard BBQ Vibe: Pure crowdpleaser.
GRAIN BELT PREMIUM
Minnesota’s Grain Belt Premium is a solid selection. There’s a very light body here that’s got a good hit of malt sweetness and a whisper of hop bitterness. It really feels like a full-on beer that goes down very easily. It’s local, cheap, and very mellow.
Backyard BBQ Vibe: After a day of making hay, crack open one of these and chill in the shade while ribs get good and tender.
Up Seattle way, Rainier has been dominating the local suds scene for decades. ‘Vitamin R’ has a clean taste that leans into the maltiness with a very, very distant hopiness that feels more like a slightly salty brine than bitterness. It’s the perfect beer to pair with a slate of local oysters. Add in that you can score a tall boy for $2 in bars around the Salish Sea during happy hour, and you’ve got a damn near perfect cheap beer.
Backyard BBQ Vibe: A crowdpleaser that puts a smile on everyone’s faces.
Narragansett is New England’s best can of lager. The beer is a well-balanced yellow-hued delight. It’s super easy to drink with malts leading the way and a nice hop bitterness lurking in the back end. It’s also very affordable with 30 racks going for about 20 bucks. So, it wins the day.
Backyard BBQ Vibe: Chill, breezy, and the perfect accompaniment for a backyard seafood feast.