The 13 Best Cheap Beers: Bargain Brews Taste Tested

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You love beer, but everything is expensive these days. Sure, you’d love to throw down ten bucks for eight ounces of barrel-aged black gold at the bars every weekend like you used to, but you’ve got bills to pay. 

You need a plan b, a plan BEER.

Luckily, beer is still an affordable luxury. You might not be buying a new car this year, but you can still get a world-class six-pack of beer and feel like you’re doing okay. We’ve compiled a variety of different beers to choose from that won’t break the bank the next time you head to the beer store. The best part? These classic beers will easily find a spot in your beer fridge alongside all of those 12 percent IPAs we both know you’ll never drink anyway.

Best Cheap Beer Overall: Hamm’s

Type: American Style Lager | ABV: 4.7% | Calories: 142

Remember when you could get a 30-pack of Keystone Light for $12? Well, you’re not playing beer pong tournaments anymore, so how the beer tastes matters a little more. Hamm’s has all the kitsch and nostalgia you love but tastes way better than Coors Light or Miller Lite

I find the “land of sky blue waters” way in the back of liquor stores. Twenty-four-pack beer cases don’t fit on shelves, so keep your eyes low to the ground and hope there’s a case two left over from the college kids.

The best part? Most places sell 24-packs of Hamm’s for less than $15. And folks, you really can’t beat that Hamm’s down!

Best Cheap Craft Beer: Narragansett Lager

Type: American Style Lager | ABV: 5%| Calories: 145

Long live the regional cheap beer! Baltimore has Natty Bo. Chicago’s got Old Style. The nation’s smallest state, Rhode Island, has ‘Gansett beer. This crisp lager goes perfectly with local bivalves on a warm summer day, but I was surprised to find this classic craft available at my local stores near the mountains. Luckily, despite its journey, it still tasted great, and the price was just right.

Best Cheap Light Beer: Bud Light

Type: Light Beer | ABV: 4.2% | Calories: 110

Bud Light has had a rough year. It recently was surpassed by Modelo as the top-selling beer in the US. But here’s the thing: Bud Light still is the best tasting light beer available, and the price still can’t be beaten. Light beer gets a bad rap for being watery and thin, but Bud Light has an outstanding balance of beer flavors, and that’s what matters.

Best Cheap Lager: Miller High Life

Type: American Lager | ABV: 4.6% | Calories: 141

The “champaign of beers” has garnered a cult following from an unlikely source: craft brewers. Okay, it might not be a stretch to believe that a bunch of bearded hipsters have an affinity for a crispy boi like High Life, but at least the rest can trust that these guys know a good beer when they taste one. Plus, compared to ultra-premium lagers like Michelob Ultra, the High Life will have you feeling like you’re winning the game of life.

Best Cheap American Beer: Pabst Blue Ribbon

Type: American Lager | ABV: 4.8% | Calories: 142

PBR is the poster beer for budget beer. The beer is the standard for the American Lager style, which prioritizes drinkability and refreshment. This well-balanced lager is a workhorse at countless dive bars where a PBR and shot of whiskey isn’t just a bargain but a ritual.

Best Cheap Brewers Favorite: Coors Banquet

a can of beer sitting on the hood of a car
Photo by Blake Emge on Unsplash

Type: American Lager | ABV: 4.6% | Calories: 147

Want to hear a secret? After a long day of pumping out double-dry hopped IPAs or fruited sours, most real craft brewers just want to unwind with something crisp. And since real brewers aren’t necessarily making a ton of money, the price has to be right, too. Coors Banquet is one of those beers that those in the industry gravitate towards. Coors’ crystal malt sweetness shines through this beer and the bitterness balances so you can have a few.

It makes sense! They call it a banquet beer because gold miners used to prefer it after a tough day on the mountain. It seems to work for a head brewer in the same way.

Best Cheap Pilsener: Corona Light

Type: International Style Lager | ABV: 4% | Calories: 99

Pilsners (and pilsner-type beers) are the most popular beers in the world. You’d think this fact would correlate to affordable prices, but pilsners tend to be kind of pricey. So, the best way to enjoy cheap pilsners is to know where to look for them – even if they are explicitly marketed as the style.

Corona Light has all of the makings of a well-balanced German pilsner without the import pilsner price. The beer has sturdy bitterness, grassy hops, and a clean, cracker-like pils malt character. If you’re in a pinch – or on a budget – Corona Light is an excellent pilsner for the money, and at only 99 calories, it’s easy on the waistline, too!

Best Cheap Mexican Beer: Pacifico Clara

Type: International Lager | ABV: 4.4% | Calories: 143

Mexican imports are dominating the beer-scape these days. They’re all light and crisp, but something else makes them attractive today: Mexican beers are marketed as a great value. Sure, Mexico has craft beers, but the locals don’t drink them; tourists do. Locals prefer the taste and price of beers like Pacifico. With high prices in the states, that need has extended to America, too.

Pacifico can be described as a light version of a German or Czech pils. It lacks the bitter hops of authentic and American versions, but this golden beer has a full malt character that beer lovers genuinely appreciate and is easy on the wallet.

Best Cheap Pale Ale: Sierra Nevada Pale Ale

Type: American Pale Ale | ABV: 5.6% | Calories: 175

Driven by the citrusy notes of cascade hops balanced with caramel notes of 2-row malts, Sierra Pale Ale is more of a legendary craft beer than a cheap beer. It was likely one of the most expensive beers when Sierra Nevada Brewing Company first released it three decades ago. Still, today, due to the success it helped create, not to mention its scale, Sierra Nevada Pale falls perfectly well into the inexpensive beer category without having to sacrifice flavor that helped change the American beer scene.

Best Cheap IPA: VooDoo Ranger

Type: India Pale Ale | ABV: 5% | Calories: 150

Okay, IPAs and cheap beer might seem like a tough needle to thread. Hops are expensive, and VooDoo Ranger definitely uses plenty to offer an intense hop flavor in their various IPA variations. Chances are you are searching for inexpensive beers specifically because you’re tired of pricey IPAs. That said, once you develop a taste for bitter hops, it is tough to go back to light American Lager, so based on their size and scale, you can expect VooDoo Ranger IPAs to be a few bucks cheaper than the latest, ultra-hyped new beer by your local craft brewer. VooDoo isn’t going to be the cheapest beer in your shopping cart, but sometimes you’ve got to pay a little more for great beer.

Best Cheap Wheat Beer: Leinenkugel’s Seasonal Shandy

Type: Weiss Beer | ABV: 4.2% | Calories: 130

Can the perfect summer beer also be one of the best cheap beers? You bet! Shandy is a beer blend, typically a wheat beer with lemonade, but other non-alcoholic beverages can be used, too. Midwest legacy brewery Leinenkugel’s has turned the fun and refreshing shandy into its best selling beer brand.

The beer is designed for easy drinking, just as it was intended for thirsty cyclists by German pub owner Franz Kugler. The modern version comes in various flavors, ensuring you won’t get bored if you spend your hard-earned beer money.

Best Cheap Dark Beer: Yuengling Traditional Lager

Type: Amber Lager | ABV: 4.5% | Calories: 141

Certain beers have reputations that precede themselves. Yuengling is the oldest brewery in the United States. Yet, its thoughtful and pragmatic distribution centering on its home area of the Mid-Atlantic and Florida has created a demand for its traditional lager that is truly remarkable, especially since the beer isn’t anything special. Other than loyal fans, Yuengling has one other thing going for it: it’s a cheap beer, but that doesn’t help you if you live West of the Mississippi.

The beer is a light body amber lager, similar to Genesee cream ale – another regional classic. This crisp beer is a good drinking beer that is perfect for a dimly lit bar or out on a sunny beach.

Best Cheap Stout: Guinness Extra Stout

Type: Irish Stout | ABV: 5.6% | Calories: 180

Stouts and porters have been working-class beer drinkers beers for centuries. Today, stouts have gotten the bourgeoise treatment with pricey barrel-aging and exotic adjuncts, but at its core, the stout is a beer for beer drinkers who would rather drink their beer than Instagram their beer. Guinness Extra Stout fits the bill of a bargain beer but punches above its weight on flavor.

Everything is super expensive these days, but that doesn’t mean you need to give up the things you love – and the solution isn’t about trading down to bad-tasting beers. Just keep this list with you, and the next time you need a good beer at a decent price, find one of these and toast the simple, cheaper things in life. 

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Andy Sparhawk is an avid beer lover and the former editor-in-chief for Andy is the lead writer for The Beer Babe and lives in Westminster, Colorado, with his family. As beer enthusiast and experienced beer judge, he loves sharing his experiences with The Beer Babe's dedicated audience of beer enthusiasts.