The 20 Greatest Cheap American Beers, Ranked

Which is your favorite?


(Photos: Pabst Blue Ribbon & Budweiser & Rolling Rock)

Yes, you read that right: mass market beers. No, this isn’t branded content. We’re seriously here to celebrate American, mass-market beer. It’s been the beer snob’s whipping post for too long.

We’re not looking forward to the angry tweets for saying this, but the fact is that most craft beer is not refreshing, and the ones that are are too expensive for day drinking. With each passing year there are more exceptions, but we don’t pack IPAs for the beach and definitely don’t think 9 percent ABV when stocking a cooler.

And if you’re going to be drinking all day, at the beach or wherever you spend your summer, you shouldn’t be paying a dollar a beer.

Cheap, American, mass-produced beer is not the peak of flavor and taste, but it occupies a particularly important space in the American experience—the need to get drunk while also staying hydrated. Most of what you drank in college kept your bloat quotient low and let you enjoy the mood without introducing bitterness units into the discussion.

Yes, enjoy every beer you can. Enjoy them all. But remember, global warming is real, so whether you’re packing a cooler for the beach, or a few cases for a circuit of national parks, or just prepping for a weekend of grilling, have the sense to supply your guest (and yourself) with some refreshing options.

We collected (and ranked) our 20 favorites, and gave you a price per can to keep in mind when you’re trying writing us that hate mail. Here’s our totally unscientific ranking for your amusement:

20. Keystone

You’ll probably remember Keystone from such things as “that bad night in college” and “that other bad night in college,” but it’s a perfectly drinkable beer. That Keystone guy just really creeped us out in the commercials. $.60 per can

19. Michelob Ultra

If there were a graph of this list from most drinkable to least drinkable, Michelob Ultra would be dead center. It’s an acquired taste, and unlike some of this list it’s only really good when ice cold. That’s really all there is to say. $.83 per can

18. Natural Ice

Honestly, there are a lot of entirely forgettable beers that made their way to college parties based on price, and Natural Ice was always one of them. We still think it’s ideal for beer pong games, we just like losing a little less. $.71 per can

17. Budweiser

The king of beers pissed off beer drinkers a few years back by acting like craft beer is a dainty waste of time. They should have just been honest: There are times when you want a Russian Imperial, and times when you just want a drink in your hand. Budweiser is that drink. $.71 per can

16. Busch

The economy brand within the Anheuser portfolio is, well, actually not that bad. We have to be honest that it’s still not even close to the best beer on this list, but if you’re stretching the budget too thin for a beach week, this is a corner you can cut off bud just fine. $.65 per can

15. Miller High Life

An ever-so tiny step up in flavor from Bud, the “Champagne of Beers” isn’t all bad, especially you’re having a backyard burger. It’s even good for hiding that deep char taste when your buddy flips the patties one too many times. $.63 per can

14. Miller Lite

Say what you will, but for us Miller Lite will always be the anti-Bud Light. It’s what you get when you want to spend a little extra, but still drink a case in a day. Maybe those years are behind you, but everyone gets nostalgic sometimes. $.83 per can

13. Natural Bohemian

Natty Boh was originally a Maryland beer, until Pabst bought it, and 90 percent of their sales are still allegedly in the state. As such, we recommend it with seafood and drinking away another year of crushed World Series hopes. $.75 per can

12. Bud Light Lime

We’re not being sarcastic when we say that lime flavored water that slowly gets you drunk was a brilliant marketing move by Budweiser. It may be too sweet for some occasions, but it’s ideal for the beach and any boating activities you might be packing for. $.89 per can

11. Narragansett

Our most expensive beer on this list is likely the one you’ve not tried. The Rhode Island beer’s claim to fame is being the beer of choice for Quint in the 1975 movie “Jaws,” so we highly recommend a case of it alongside your tackle box. $.92 per can

10. Schlitz

Schlitz is a bastard child of a beer brand, passed around among parent companies for decades. It’s crisp and sweet and has a lot of history, but it’s just never been given the respect it deserves. We’d rank it higher, but we’d have to find it first. $.87 per can

9. Grain Belt

Grain Belt is one of those great old standards that just lost the war of time against giants like Budweiser and Miller. The price point is a little high, and it’s a bit harder to find, but it’s a nice alternative when you’re playing around with your favorite bargain beer. $.79 per can

8. Schaefer

As a piece of Americana, Schaefer is a need to try, and at 60 cents a can, it’s also cheap to buy. We’re not sure why, like Grain Belt, so many owners have sold it off. We do know it was huge in Puerto Rico for decades, and those people know summer drinking. $.60 per can

7. Coors Light

Of the so-called “Big Three” we happen to like Coors light the best. Maybe it was all of those cool temperature-based color changing cans that got us. Or maybe it’s just that, of the three light beers, Coors tastes the most like beer. $.83 per can

6. Milwaukee’s Best Premium

Our second cheapest beer on the list, Milwaukee’s Best has declined in popularity in recent years, as the more popular siblings got more attention. As such, it remains a bargain even within the cheap beer world. $.58 per can

5. Bud Light

The light king of beers is, in the U.S., both as ubiquitous and flavorful as water. But we’re here to remind you that it’s also just as refreshing. $.71 per can

4. Rolling Rock

Rolling Rock is the cheapest beer on this list, and while you may be nodding your head and thinking “as well it should be,” we’d invite you to try it again sometime, or at least keep a few on hand for the not discerning friends that raid your fridge. Think of the savings. $.55 per can

3. Yuengling

Even today Yuengling is one of those secret beers that you’ll find craft lovers drinking when no one is looking. Somehow even as Sam Adams lost its edge among the beer snobs, Yuengling’s easy-drinking lager has retained a modicum of respect for being tasty and refreshing. $.79 per can

2. Pabst Blue Ribbon

The ultimate hipster beer, PBR is also one of the most celebrated of the light American lagers, with a nice flavor even among the relatively bigger names. We see it as the working man’s beer, even if that man is making human hair iPhone cases in Brooklyn. $.63 per can

1. Coors Banquet

The ultimate beer from the heart of America, Banquet’s rolling hills and snowy peaks theme wants you to think Banquet is great for relaxing after a day hiking through national parks. But we’re not going to check your FitBit before you open one. $.78 per can