I have nothing against cheap beer. Truthfully, I enjoy cheap beer. But a good cheap beer has to meet certain conditions. First of all, it actually has to be cheap. If you’re paying $40 for a case of Corona when you could get 24 bottles of Coors for half of that, you’re getting robbed. Second, it can’t taste completely disgusting. I know we’re talking about macro lager here, so it’s not like any of them are going to win prize ribbons for taste. But some varieties of the species are just god-awful. You can buy a 6-pack of Natty Boh cans for less than five bucks, but your own urine would be less offensive to your taste buds. This leads me into point three: it has to be available in bottles. Beer out of a can just tastes nasty. The “scientific” reason for this is that skunky beer is a result of exposure to temperature change, and aluminum is an inferior insulator to glass. And if you actually drink it out of the can? Ewwwww! Finally, a good cheap beer has to be fresh. There’s nothing wrong with picking up a case of Miller Genuine Draft off the store shelf – just make sure it hasn’t been sitting there since last year.
My go-to macro is Iron City Beer, but that's a hard brand to find in these parts. So I tend to rotate my cheap beers in hopes of finding one that always does the job. Nothing tastes better with a Tony Packo’s hot dog than a Labatt Blue draught, but the import pricing keeps LB out of the running for highest honors. Same goes for the Schlitz ‘60s formula – which is supremely delicious but priced more like a micro brew. A lot of the throwback brands – Rolling Rock, Old Milwaukee, Stroh’s – are now corporate-owned, contract-brewed, and frankly not what they used to be. I want to like Miller High Life because its TV ads crack me up, but it’s got that gross corn adjunct aftertaste that too often plagues cheap lager. Ditto for Yuengling Premium. It loathes me to admit this, but the much-maligned Budweiser might be the highest quality American adjunct lager on the market. Sure, sure: there’s not much to it. You barely taste any hops. The flavor is, at best, subtle. But the key to a great cheap beer is to hold the bitter aftertaste to a minimum and keep the product fresh. Bud comes through on both counts (the “born on” label is one of the best things to ever happen to American beer). It's a quality, consistent product. When it comes to this style of beer, you have to ask two questions: A) Does it taste good on a hot day when you’ve just come in from mowing the lawn and you’re dying of thirst? and B) Does it go well with pizza? If we’re talking Bud, the answers are “yes” and “yes”. I even had a bottle of Bud at my wedding (only after downing a couple glasses of Guinness, but still…). If Bud was good enough for the greatest day of my life, I sure as hell can’t knock it.
Like anyone who’s ever gotten into craft beer, I went through my phase of writing off the likes of Bud as horrendous corporate swill. But let’s face it: who’s got the money to buy micro brews all the time? I spent $16 at the beer store last week and only came home with four bottles! Even the most discriminating beer drinker needs a good, solid cheap beer in his fridge for hot days and greasy burger meals and unexpected visits from friends. Budweiser just might be that good, solid cheap beer. Contrary to what the hipsters might tell you, it’s better than P.B.R.