Let’s get this party started and find out the cheapest way to get loaded drinking flavorsome beers. Well, at least high-alcohol beers…I can’t always guarantee flavor!
Join me as I embark on a noble quest in search of the Holy Grail of students and budget-conscious beer lovers everywhere – cheap beer with high alcohol content!
Cheap beers may not have the best of reputations when it comes to flavor, so they should at least get you loaded or offer a slight buzz.
In the US the average strength of the top ten best-selling beer brands is between 3.8 % – 4.8% ABV for a regular beer. Obviously, this average has been significantly lowered by the popularity of light beers, but we can assume that any beer which has an ABV of 5% or above is considered a higher-alcohol beer. Cheap Malt liquor-style beers which use adjuncts such as corn syrup or other fermentable sugars to bump up the ABV normally average about 8%.
The strongest beer in the world is actually a Scottish beer known as Snake Venom at 67% ABV which is distributed by the Scottish-based brewery Brewmeister. However, at around $76 a bottle, it isn’t really what you would call a cheap option.
Instead, we are looking for beers that come in at around $6 – $10 for a six-pack and which also have an alcohol by volume of 5% or higher.
Prepare to be entertained, enlightened, and, most importantly, thirsty for more. Join me on this intoxicating journey as we explore the realm of brews that won’t break the bank but will undoubtedly leave you pleasantly buzzed!
The Appeal of High-Alcohol, Cheap Beers
One of the primary reasons for the appeal of high-alcohol, cheap beers is their affordability and accessibility. Cheap beers with high alcohol content offer a budget-friendly option, allowing individuals to indulge in a stronger brew without spending a significant amount of money.
They are widely available in various retail outlets, such as convenience stores, supermarkets, and liquor stores. Their presence in these establishments makes them easily accessible to a wide range of consumers.
A Focus on Alcohol Content
Another aspect that draws individuals to high-alcohol, cheap beers is their emphasis on alcohol content. While standard beer styles are known for their balance between alcohol, malt, hops, and yeast characteristics, high-alcohol beers prioritize the alcohol content above all else. This prioritization appeals to those who are seeking a more intense and potent drinking experience.
For some, the higher alcohol content offers a stronger buzz or a faster route to achieving their desired level of intoxication. It can be seen as a shortcut to reaching a desired state of relaxation or euphoria. In social settings, where individuals may be looking to let loose or have a good time, high-alcohol beers can provide the desired effect more quickly than their lower-alcohol counterparts.
Social Dynamics and Party Culture
High-alcohol, cheap beers are frequently associated with gatherings, celebrations, and events where individuals come together to have a good time. These beers are an excellent option for those who want to create a vibrant and energetic atmosphere, where people can let loose and enjoy themselves.
The “Bang for Your Buck” Mentality
Lastly, the “bang for your buck” mentality plays a significant role in the appeal of high-alcohol, cheap beers. Many individuals view these beers as a value proposition, as they provide a higher alcohol content relative to their cost. This perception leads consumers to believe that they are getting more for their money.
Brewing Techniques for High-Alcohol, Cheap Beers
The brewing method of high-alcohol, cheap beers requires specific techniques to achieve the desired potency while keeping production costs low. Here, we will explore some of the key brewing techniques employed in the creation of these beverages.
Fermentation and Alcohol Production
The process of fermentation is crucial in producing alcohol in beer. Brewers typically use malted grains, such as barley, as the primary source of fermentable sugars. However, to achieve higher alcohol levels in an affordable manner, adjunct grains and sugars are often incorporated into the recipe.
Adjunct grains, such as corn, rice, or wheat, are added to the malt bill to supplement the fermentable sugar content. These adjuncts are less expensive than malted grains and contribute to a higher alcohol yield during fermentation. Additionally, the use of simple sugars, such as corn syrup or table sugar, can boost the alcohol content further, as they are easily fermentable by yeast.
The Use of Adjunct Grains and Sugars
Inexpensive adjunct grains and sugars not only increase the fermentable sugar content but also contribute to a lighter body and a cleaner taste in high-alcohol, cheap beers. The use of adjuncts can dilute the malt flavors and reduce the overall cost of the ingredients, making the beer more affordable for consumers.
The Role of Yeast and Temperature Control
When aiming for high-alcohol beers, brewers often select yeast strains that can tolerate higher alcohol levels and have robust fermentation characteristics. These specialized yeast strains are engineered to withstand the harsh conditions that arise from higher alcohol concentrations.
Temperature control during fermentation is also essential. Higher-alcohol fermentation can generate more heat, which can stress the yeast and impact the flavor profile of the beer. Brewers must carefully monitor and regulate the fermentation temperature to ensure a healthy and controlled fermentation process.
Which Cheap Beer Has the Most Alcohol?
Let’s take a look at 10 of the cheapest (except for one) beers available in the US today which have that all-important higher alcohol content some budget-minded beer drinkers may be looking for.
Bud Light Platinum ABV 6%
Let’s start with what was until recently the most popular beer in America, Bud Light (thanks, Dylan Mulvaney, for ruining that one for us!). I’m not talking about the traditional Bud Light beer which has a low ABV of just 4.2%, typical of most light lagers, but Bud Light Platinum which bumps the alcohol content by volume up to 6%.
Bud Light Platinum seems a bit of a contradiction for a beer that has “Light” in its name. It’s certainly not light in alcohol at 6% ABV, even regular Budweiser only has 5% alcohol by volume, and the calorie count at 170 calories is much higher than a traditional light beer which normally comes in under 100 cals.
What it does share with the Bud Light brand though is the same crisp clean refreshing lager taste but with a little extra sweetness from the extra alcohol. Bud Light Platinum has been brewed for those who want a cheap beer but with higher alcohol or one that is, as the bottle states, “brewed for the night”.
Miller High Life ABV up to 5.5%
Another one of America’s most historic lagers, High Life has been called the champagne of beers in the past but is now marketed as more of a sub-premium brand with later beers from the Miller Company, like Miller Light or Miller Genuine Draft, now considered the flagship brands.
With an ABV of 5.5% (although it can be as low as 4.6% in some states), Miller High Life is one of the cheap beers with the highest alcohol content. The pressure carbonation which contributed to the champagne status of this beer also helps the extra alcohol kick in on the palate.
Colt 45 ABV 5.6%
Colt 45 is an American brand of lager that is often sold as a malt liquor option. Introduced in the spring of 1963 by National Brewing Company, through a series of acquisitions and mergers the brand is now owned by the Pabst Brewing Company. Prior to 1963, the only nationally available malt liquor brand was “Country Club”.
Malt liquor typically refers to beers with higher alcohol content and is often associated with urban neighborhoods and the choice for parties. These beers typically have alcohol levels ranging from 6% to 8% ABV (alcohol by volume) or even higher.
The production of malt liquor will normally utilize adjunct grains, such as corn or rice, alongside malted barley, resulting in a lighter body and a crisper flavor profile, despite the hint of a malty taste. The affordability of malt liquor, along with its higher alcohol content, has made it the perfect option for consumers looking for a potent and budget-friendly beer.
Natural Ice ABV 5.9%
Another of Anheuser-Busch’s brands, Natural Ice is one of their many sub-premium brands, along with Natural Light, Busch, and Busch Light.
Natural Ice is one of the stronger beers in the A-B InBev portfolio and has an ABV of just under 6% at 5.9% ABV. Its signature refreshing, crisp, and clean finish is something only Natural Ice can deliver. Natural Ice is brewed with a blend of premium American-grown and imported hops and a combination of malt and corn that lends Natural Ice its delicate sweetness. Then the ice-brewing process helps to give it the signature rich and smooth Ice taste.
King Cobra ABV 5.9%
Anheuser-Busch has even dipped its feet in the premium malt liquor market with the King Cobra brand. At 5.9 % ABV King Cobra is a robust, full-bodied, premium malt liquor with a special fermentation that produces a bold and distinctly strong taste at a budget-friendly price.
However, don’t get this one mixed up with the King Cobra Double Fermented beer from Belgium. Although it’s sold as the world’s first double-fermented pilsner beer, the Belgian King Cobra has a lower ABV at 5.2%, pretty standard for Belgian ales, and certainly is not a cheap beer. This European lager is referenced in the bottle, a practice normally reserved for the Trappist ales of Belgium, and even comes in a champagne-style bottle to stress the premium nature of the beer. Certainly not a cheap beer with high alcohol content, there are a lot cheaper ways to get a buzz!
Olde English 800 ABV 5.9% – 8.0%
Another malt liquor, this time brewed by the Miller Brewing Company (or Molson Coors or whatever name they use this week!), Olde English 800 has its origins in the 1940s when it was first brewed as Ruffes Olde English Stout, created by the Peoples Brewing Company of Duluth, Minnesota (even the brewery name sounds like a people’s cooperative for making cheap and affordable beers!).
Over the years, the beer/malt liquor has been rebranded several times, first to Olde English 600, and then when Pabst bought the brand it was named Olde English 800, a name Miller Brewing still uses today.
Although there is some controversy about whether malt liquors class as beers, Olde English received the gold medal in the American Style Specialty Lager category in 1997. So malt liquor is at least a type of specialty lager in the eyes of the BJCP and Beer World Championship awards. It’s brewed with malted barley, water, and yeast like a beer, so why not?
For beer drinkers looking for cheaper beers with higher alcohol content, there are plenty of options in the malt liquor market which have that same beer taste but at a much cheaper price.
Steel Reserve ABV 8.1%
With an ABV of 8.1%, Steel Reserve is one of the strongest cheap American adjunct lagers on the market and is ideal for enjoying on a hot summer’s day, just not too many of them! The beer is a full-bodied lager but has an extremely rich and smooth taste that goes down rather too smoothly and easily. Some have even found Steel Reserve almost has a citrusy taste which is enhanced by adding a slice of lemon as you drink for a fresh summer taste.
Steel Reserve is brewed by the Miller Brewing Company and named after the large steel vats in which it is brewed at their Milwaukee brewery. There is also an even higher ABV version of Steel Reserve available at a higher price and the Steel Reserve Company (owned wholly by Molson Coors) produces a range of fruit-infused seltzers or beers using the Steel Reserve brand.
Steel Reserve beer comes in “Black” and “Silver” varieties, also known as “Triple Export Malt Liquor” and “High Gravity Lager” respectively. Unfortunately at the time of writing, there were rumors that Molson was to axe up to 14 of its brands, including the Steel Reserve beers, and focus just on the “spiked” seltzers they produce using the name.
Hurricane High Gravity Lager ABV 8.1%
Further throwing more fuel onto the “Is malt liquor a beer?” fire, Anheuser-Busch released Hurricane High Gravity Lager in what many saw as a response to the Miller Company and Steel Reserve’s “High Gravity” moniker.
To make matters even more confusing, Anheuser Busch also produces this beer under the name “Hurricane High Gravity Malt Liquor”, which seems to be the same product with the same high 8.1 percent alcohol content as a popular choice for budget drinkers.
Samuel Adams Utopia ABV 28%
We’re getting seriously strong now with a high alcohol content of 28% ABV. Produced as part of the Specialty range, Utopias are released in a haphazard manner with very little warning of when they are due to launch. This definitely doesn’t fit into the cheap beer category, but they are certainly higher in alcohol with past versions even hitting 29%, and I think they deserve a mention just for the effort which goes into producing these stunning super-high ABV beers.
Samuel Adams pioneered barrel aging, and every release uses specially selected bourbon barrels where the beer is aged for up to 30 years to produce some of the world’s most extreme, oldest, and strongest beers.
Just don’t call them cheap, at over $200 for a 24 oz bottle it certainly isn’t one of the cheapest beers in the world. An ideal Xmas gift for the lucky beer lover in your life (I hope my wife is reading this, hint, hint!).
Natty Daddy ABV 8.1%
For our final cheap beer with high alcohol content, how could we overlook the King of the Cheap beers, Natural, and the daddy to all the other Natty beers, Natty Daddy? Another cheap strong-in-alcohol beer from the nation’s largest brewer, Anheuser Busch describes Natty Daddy as an American-style malt beer with an amazing taste that packs a punch. Natty Daddy is one of the American malt liquor/beers that can truly be described as a beer, as it uses the same ingredients as the popular beer Natural Light.
At 8.1% ABV, the main rival in the cheap beers with high alcohol content would have to be seen as Steel Reserve, although people who have drunk both “beers” tend to agree that Natty Daddy tastes much better than Steel Reserve, with more of a familiar beer flavor with some residual sweetness left by the adjuncts.
Cheap Beers with High Alcohol Content – Final Call
In conclusion, cheap beers with high alcohol content offer an accessible and cost-effective alternative for those seeking an intensified drinking experience. While they may not possess the complexity and refinement of craft beers, they have their own unique appeal. Brewing techniques, including the use of adjunct grains and sugars, fermentation methods, and yeast selection, play crucial roles in achieving higher alcohol levels.
However, it is important to emphasize responsible consumption and to be aware of the potential risks associated with high-alcohol beverages. By understanding these factors, beer enthusiasts can make informed choices and appreciate the distinct qualities of cheap, high-alcohol beers.