11 Of The Best Cheap Beers In America, Ranked

These beers are always home on a Friday night, waiting for your call.

cheap beers
Photo by Flickr user Mike Trudeau

My high school days consisted largely of sitting on the back of a pickup truck drinking cheap beer. (Of course, I was 21 in high school and/or went to a high school where the drinking age was high school age. Moving on). And in college, we drank cheap beer in pine forests, dorm rooms and, eventually, in bars. In other words, I’m a cheap beer expert. Like the way scientists can detect the existence of planets just by studying light patterns, I can tell a good cheap beer just by the condensation dripping down the can. As such, we wanted to impart some hard-earned beer knowledge about something I know a lot about: cheap beer. Sometimes they’re the best, sometimes they’re all that’s available! Below are 11 versions for you to crack open (in case of emergency). Cheers!


11. Coors

They call this the Banquet Beer, but really it’s a lot like Utica Club: overly heavy for what it’s trying to be. Coors is the unfiltered Marlboro Red of light beers. People who drink it consider themselves old school – cowboys even.

10. Natural Ice

Likely the strongest of all the cheap beers. We learn early on in college that anything “Ice” at the end means “stronger.” So, “Natty Ice,” as it’s known, was the first thing people looked to buy if money was an issue, which it often was. Natty Ice is bitter, so much so you can taste the cheap booze going down when you drink it.

9. Utica Club

Ah, the cheap beer I drank most my freshman year of college. Utica Club has a name like a small yacht someone is trying to convince you is a cruise ship. It’s beefy, for a light beer, and fills you up.

8. Coors Light

While I often wanted MGD those fateful high school days, the people buying the beer all too often bought Coors Light, which has always tasted the most watery of any cheap beer ever. Is it all water? I’m still not sure.

7. Rainier

This refreshing beer originated in Seattle, WA in 1878. For a company to still be around THAT LONG, they must be doing something right. And that something is simple, crisp light beer. Anecdotally, visiting most bars in the Seattle area, Rainier is just about the most popular brew, despite being surrounded by so many craft options.

6. Olympia

The other most popular beer in Washington State is just a few years younger than Rainier, which originated in 1896. Olympia is brisk and clean and a touch lighter in body than Rainier. If chilled properly, it tastes like a rushing river out of an ice luge.

5. Pabst Blue Ribbon

Likely the most popular “tall boy” can of beer in the country. Everyone knows the white can with the big blue ribbon. If given a blind taste test, I’m sure I couldn’t differentiate between PBR, Olympia and Rainier, so let’s call them all super duper fantastic!

4. Miller Lite

I’ve been working in a bar for about seven years now, and this one fellow has been coming in since day one. He orders two Miller Lite bottles each night and each  night I rib him and say, “Tastes great, less filling.” Miller is fine beer. It’s also a beer I used to be able to drink a bottle of in under three seconds. I’m not sure why I’m telling you this.

3. Miller Genuine Draft

For some reason, I always liked MGD best out of any of the other Miller family beers. It tastes the most robust, like it has some body and a strong flavor composition, relatively speaking. Whenever someone would pick up a case of beer in my early drinking days, I’d always request MGD.

2. Yuengling

One of the first beers I ever drank, Yuengling is thought to be the oldest operating brewing company in America. I drank a ton of it when I lived in New Jersey and while the beer is easily drinkable and on the lighter side of the spectrum, it has some good flavor, a touch of malt, and is often served at parties as the high class cheap brew option.

1. Rolling Rock

If I could only drink one beer from this list forever, this would be the one. It’s sophisticated for a light beer. Heck, it comes in a fine green bottle! It tastes the most like a craft pilsner and doesn’t leave me feeling awful ever. That’s a win!

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