Cheap beers have a reputation for bad taste, low quality, and unfavorable comparisons to water – but that reputation isn’t always accurate.
You don’t have to be a beer snob and spend big to enjoy good American beer. Many inexpensive, mass-marketed options have more to offer than you might think, with crisp, authentic flavors that you can enjoy all year long.
Here’s a closer look at the best-tasting cheap beer on the market, including some classic favorite beers as well as a few brands you’ve likely never heard about.
Raise a glass without lowering your bank balance! You might even find your next beer of choice on this list!
Made from pure Rocky Mountain water, Coors Banquet is an American original dating back to 1868. While I’m a fan of all of the beers from Coors, even Coors Light, if you’re looking for their best cheap beer option, go with the Banquet, their first and most popular offering.
First, how can beer drinkers not love the iconic bottle? It’s squat and amber-colored with a distinctive red cap – unchanged since 1936.
Coors Banquet has a light, sweet taste with just the right level of carbonation. Crisp and refreshing, it’s a great domestic beer choice after a day spent hiking in the mountains or hitting the slopes.
Do you live near Golden, Colorado, or plan to visit? Check out the Coors Brewery, which offers free tours as well as the opportunity to try the freshest Coors in the world!
Miller High Life American Lager Beer
We all know the famous slogan: The Champagne of Beers. But do you know what it means?
In the early 1900s, bottled beer was a rarity. Instead, people drank mugs of beer in saloons or carried beer home in – get this – buckets.
Then along came Miller High Life. Bottled in glass, it immediately stood out as a fancy alternative to any other way you could drink beer (which, again, included buckets).
Miller played it up, too, adopting “The Champagne of Bottled Beer” as their slogan and designing their bottles with sloping sides, like a champagne bottle. They’ve even added foil around the bottle’s neck at many points during the beer’s history.
High Life is light and drinkable with hints of apple juice, corn nuts, and toffee. With an alcohol content of 4.4 percent ABV, it’s a drinkable beer perfect for late nights, ball games, and relaxing after a long day.
Originally a local beer in Pennsylvania, today, Rolling Rock is sold all around the world. It’s a light body, hoppy beer with straw coloring and a smooth texture. Of course, you can’t miss its distinctive green bottle.
Aside from the color, the bottle is notable for its mystery. On the back of the bottle, you’ll find the number 33. Is it the temperature used to brew the beer? Does it relate to the year Prohibition was repealed? Is it a sign the beer is connected to a secret society? Nobody knows for sure, and Rolling Rock won’t say.
If you’ve ever had a Rolling Rock, you’ve likely read the blurb on the bottle about how it’s made. The beer is brewed in glass-lined tanks, a process that was considered cutting edge in the 1930s and remains an efficient, clean brewing method even today.
Brewed in the Land of Sky Blue Water, Hamm’s has been an affordable favorite in Minnesota and Wisconsin for over 150 years. German immigrant Theodore Hamm arrived in Saint Paul back in 1856, and his legacy remains strong even today.
Don’t let the low price fool you. Hamm’s has some award-winning taste. It was named #1 in both a Chicago Tribune blind taste test and a Paste Magazine blind taste test.
The beer is light-bodied with a crisp flavor and clean finish accented by notes of lemon, malted barley, and bread. It’s much maltier than most brews on the macro market, giving it a fuller flavor than what you’d expect for its price.
If you’ve never been East of the Mississippi, the name Yuengling might be unfamiliar, but folks along the East Coast are likely well aware of this popular inexpensive beer brand.
They say they’re American’s Oldest Brewery. While that specific claim is tricky to verify, their Pottsville, PA, brewery is definitely historic. You can even check the place out yourself by taking a free tour.
Note that the Yuengling brand is surprisingly political. In 2016, they enthusiastically endorsed Donald Trump for President.
The amber lager is usually considered a step up, taste-wise, from Budweiser and Miller. It has a hoppy taste with hints of bread and a slight bitterness.
Night Shift Nite Lite
You’ve probably noticed that most cheap beers are major, mass-produced brands available just about everywhere. But craft breweries are also starting to get in on the action with lower-priced options for the cheap beer market. Perhaps the most well-known cheap microbrew is the Nite Lite from Night Shift.
It’s a crisp beer with complex notes of barley, corn, and fruit. There’s a noticeable citrus bite that pairs well with the overall high level of maltiness.
Night Shift is a Massachusetts-based brewery founded in 2012 by three friends. Rob, Mike, and Michael originally made beers for their friends and family before finding wider fame.
Their craft brew is currently sold in Massachusetts, Connecticut, Pennsylvania, Maine, and New Hampshire. Not too bad for a company that initially distributed their beer from a Subaru Outback.
America isn’t the only country that makes great-tasting cheap beer. From our neighbors to the South, there’s Tecate, a refreshing Mexican lager at an affordable price.
Founded in 1944 by Alberto Aldrete, Tecate is named after the Mexican city where it’s headquartered. Just a few years after the beer hit store shelves in Mexico, it became an in-demand import in the US, specifically Colorado, New Mexico, Arizona, and Texas. Today, the brand is famous worldwide.
The refreshing, slightly bitter taste is ideal for a warm summer day. If you’re looking to add a twist, salt the rim of the can, then add a splash of Cholula hot sauce. It’s a quick and easy way to make a Michelada, a popular Mexican drink.
If you’ve never heard of National Bohemian beer, then you’ve likely never visited Baltimore. About 90% of all National Bohemian beers sold are sold in Charm City. It’s not just a cheap, tasty beer; it’s also a cult classic.
Although not bursting with intense flavors, Natty Boh has a light, refreshing taste that’s well-suited for practically any time of year. It has a moderate alcohol content of 4.28%.
Plus, you can’t forget about the beer’s delightful and awesome mascot, Mr. Boh. He’s a cartoon character with one eye and a handlebar mustache.
Why does he have one eye? Nobody knows, but locals joke he got into a fight with Gunther, the mascot from another popular local beer.
Also known as The Beast, Milwaukee’s Best is perfect for when you want a lot of beer but don’t want to spend a lot of money.
Truthfully, it’s not the richest, most flavorful beer you’ve ever had, but it is stronger than ever. In 2016, the company upped the alcohol content on their lager from 4.3% to 4.8%, and their light beer from 5.9% to 6.9%.
They promoted the increase heavily, a move that drew some criticism but likely spread the message to their target audience – people who want cheap, strong beer.
Today, the cheap brew is still crafted in its original home of Milwaukee, Wisconsin, where it’s mainly sold across the Great Lakes and East Coast regions.
The King of Beers might not be the king of taste, but it’s the king of sales. Introduced in 1876, it was the first national beer brand, and today it’s the most popular beer in the country. It ranks twenty-first on the Forbes list of the world’s most valuable brands.
As expected from such a mass-market brew, the taste of this uncomplicated beer is non-offensive and relatively mild. You’ll detect more notes of grains and rice rather than hops.
Interestingly, the Budweiser everyone is familiar with isn’t the only brand of beer in the world named Budweiser. An utterly unrelated brand called Budweiser exists in the Czech Republic. Whenever a trademark dispute arises, the US Budweiser brand typically goes by Bud.
If you’re looking for one of the best affordable lagers with the highest alcohol content, check out Natural Ice. As with any beer with “ice” in the name, you’ll want to drink this one ice cold because it has a strong, not-so-great taste when served at room temperature.
Natural Ice has a thick, syrup-like texture that hides an impressively high 6% alcohol content. The unique ice-brewing process takes the beer below freezing. Then, ice crystals help add smoothness and depth to the taste.
While Natty Ice isn’t winning anyone over on taste, it’s surprisingly drinkable and packs quite a punch for the price.