25 Cheap Beers to Avoid at All Costs
Cheap beer means different things to different people. To the uppity corporate executive, it’s a burden to be tolerated, but never endured by choice. To the party-going college student, it’s a fact of life, no more questioned or fussed over than small dorms and uncomfortable matresses. But no matter where you stand, cheap does not usually mean good! So what’s a taste-conscious beer drinker to do? Fear not, for we have assembled this list of 25 cheap beers to avoid so you wont have to learn the hard way.
[Note: We realize that taste is a subjective preference and some people will disagree with some of these beers. The idea was simply to list beers the average person would agree are cheap and bad.]
A former bartender we interviewed for this article was quoted as saying, “when I used to do that, the absolute WORST beer we sold was Shaefer.” Indeed, many a beer drinker can recall slogging down a can of Shaefer for its rock-bottom price and widespread availability. Amazingly, Shaefer was the top selling beer in Puerto Rico during the 70’s and 80’s, but it has fallen from grace considerably since then, and is now owned by the next beer on our list.
2) Pabst Blue Ribbon
When you can buy a can of beer for a buck in New York City, you know it must be pretty cheap. Unfortunately, Pabst Blue Ribbon is not one of the more enjoyable beers out there, as many a bar patron can readily attest. It’s the kind of beer you’ll probably have to force yourself to drink when there’s nothing else. But if you’re throwing a party and cheap is king, it’s tough to go wrong with PBR.
3) Red White & Blue
Another tried-and-true criterion for knowing a beer is cheap is when it became popular during an economic recession. That’s exactly what Red White & Blue did in the early 80’s, becoming known for its cheap price and patriotic packaging. Today, Wikipedia notes that Red White & Blue is popular among “drinkers on a budget”, such as college students and low income people who want “an honest beer, at an honest price.”
No list of cheap. college-ready beer would be complete without Keystone, the “hangover beer” which can be had for pocket change at package stores around the country. Bearing a similarly mediocre taste as Pabst, Keystone is frequently used in games like beer pong and flip cup, where low volumes of beer are consumed and taste is not the main factor.
While Schlitz billed itself as “the most carefully brewed beer in the world” and “the beer that made Milwaukee famous”, it is best remembered today as cheap beer from a past era. The company was riding high during the 70’s, but soon found itself plagued by production problems and a demand from management to ruthlessly cut costs, which, needless to say, showed up in the taste.
Another cheap beer “blast from the past” is Rheingold. This once-mighty brew held 35% of New York’s beer market from 1950-1960, spoken of by the New York Times as “a top New York brew guzzled regularly by a loyal cadre of workingmen who would just as soon have eaten nails as drink another beer maker’s suds.” Unfortunately, catering primarily to blue collar workers meant holding down costs and, invariably, taste.
7) Black Label
Yet another cheap beer owned (in the U.S.) by Pabst is Black Label. Despite being a one-time big hit in the UK, Black Label is more or less synonymous with cheap everywhere else, and is nowhere near the top seller it once was. It’s flat, choking taste should go a long way in explaining that!
8 ) Bud Light
One of the more popular cheap beers – especially in bars and on college campuses – is Bud Light. While the original Budweiser enjoys a solid reputation among beer drinkers, Bud Light is widely regarded as a cheap substitute, too light to deliver rich taste or real, enduring flavor. Like Keystone, Bud Light can often be seen in beer pong and flip cup tournaments. Seeing it anywhere else smacks of poor taste or a thin wallet (or both!)
9) Miller Light
Miller Light, in addition to being cheap beer, is also typically seen as a girl’s drink. It’s not quite clear why this is so or how it happened, but beer drinkers should nevertheless be aware of it before ordering one at the next bar or party. Even female drinkers should know not to expect much in the way of taste when they down one of these bad boys.
10) Busch Light
A distant cousin of Bud Light, Busch Light is a similarly cheap, “made for beer pong and flip cup” brew marketed to college students and those on low budgets. It’s also a great choice for the calorie-conscious beer drinker (if there is such a thing!) Steer clear if you’re looking for pristine taste however, as Busch Light will only leave you dissapointed and regretful.
11) Natural Light
Sometimes beer is cheap because it tastes bad, as one image captioned “Natural Light tastes like a yeast infection” indicates. Needless to say, even college students generally strive for something a bit more tasty and satisfying than Natural Light, with its impossibly watered down texture and even less exciting aftertaste. Tellingly, the Cheap Beer Challenge concluded that “It is really, really, terrible. It tastes really bad.”
12) Coors Light
Rounding out our inventory of cheap, mediocre-tasting “Light” beers is Coors Light. While real Coors (like real Bud) is quite good, the Light variety simply isn’t up to snuff, drawing complaints from beer drinkers about its watered down taste and “hangover” factor. The latter trait is shared with Keystone.
13) Rolling Rock
Not even a cool name like Rolling Rock can save this beer from the cheap status it currently posseses. The pale lager has a long-standing reputation as cheap beer, leading Co-Ed Magazine’s “Brew Review” to note “the “Pale Ale” tag is a tad overreaching, as the taste isn’t very hoppy.” Still, the review concludes, it’s a great alternative to “the abysmal Bud Light.”
14) Red Dog
Another Miller creation, Red Dog doesn’t fare much better (if at all) than Miller Lite. Ask most college students their opinion of it, and you will likely be greeted with a few scornful snickers and (if they’re honest) a guilty admission of buying it for a party when a more worthy beer proved too expensive for their limited budget.
Older readers will recall Narragansett, once the number one selling brand in all of New England. Unfortunately, not even celebrity endorsements from the beloved Boston Red Sox could save this cheap beermaker from going belly up in 1981, though they have since re-opened in 2005. According to Wikipedia, the reformed company now holds a slim share of the market compared to its former position.
16) Milwaukee’s Best
If this is the best beer Milwaukee has to offer, we shudder to drink their worst! While the clever name was enough to inpire the naming of the pop-punk band “Mest”, the beer itself can boast few favorable taste reviews, described by BusinessWeek as “competing largely on price.” Then again, if you are a “practical, hard-working man 25-35″, maybe price is all you care about!
Touted by its many commercials as “Australian for beer”, Fosters is a lesser known (in the U.S.) but still cheap beer. If you’re bored with (and dissapointed by) the American beers on our list, why not roll the dice and give this Australian brew a whirl? After all, it can’t be much worse than Shaefer’s!
18) Olde English
Primarily consumed in ghettos and run-down inner cities, Olde English malt liquor is sold in both cans and 40 oz bottles for a bare minimum of expense. Wikipedia notes its high alcohol content and low price, concluding that it is an ideal beer among “those on a tight budget wanting to become inebriated quickly.”
An ice lager, the Miller-owned Icehouse took home gold medals in 2003 and 2007 at the Great American beer festival, proving that inexpensive beer doesn’t always taste the part! Be warned however that ice lager is a different taste than the typical Keystone/Bud Light/Coors Light college trifecta, and should be tasted before being counted on for use at parties.
You won’t find Hamm’s at too many college parties, but you might have seen it inside the Texas Chili Parlor in the recent movie “Death Proof.” If you’ve seen the movie, you’ll understand why being advertised in the Texas Chili Parlor instantly qualifies Hamm’s for placement on this list. For those who haven’t, just know that it is a very cheap and decidedly un-tasty.
While the uninitiated might be fooled by Genessee’s claim to be “cream ale”, this would be a mistake! According to the Cheap Beer Challenge, “cream ale means absolutely nothing, it is just some pretentious BS that a cheap beer stuck on its package to make it sound better.”
22) High Life
Cheap Beer Challenge wasn’t much kinder to Miller High Life, going so far as to call it the “champagne of beers.” This can best be interpreted as a reference to High Life’s extremely weak, flat, and overall bad taste, which wont be earning it any points among beer enthusiasts with an ounce of taste in their tongues!
23) Old Milwaukee
When companies use the word “Old” in their product name or marketing, it’s usually for two reasons: to reassure people of a long-standing good product, or to distract people from the quality of the product. Sadly, Old Milwaukee is an example of the latter, as it is well-known for being both cheap and bad. So don’t be fooled into thinking otherwise!
24) Michelob Light
If you haven’t guessed by now, light beers aren’t the best sources of taste and quality. They are however cheap, a tradition Michelob Light carries on in grand fashion. If you’re trying to get a game of beer pong together and there’s nothing else, Michelob will suffice. Just don’t say we didn’t warn you when your face puckers up like you’ve been weaned on a pickle!
25) National Bohemian
National Bohemian is another cheap beer you would be hard-pressed to find someone speaking positively of. Whether it’s the “too light” lightness or the flat out unexciting flavor, there’s just something about National Bohemian that makes it unappealing to beer drinkers who aren’t constrained by price or limited variety.