The Bottom Shelf: Guide to Buying Cheap Light Beer

Malcolm Freberg
(Photo: OBSEV)


I recently wrote about Pappy Van Winkle, the $2000-a-bottle bourbon, and my inner college student is furious. He's wearing a tank-top and gym shorts, fiddling with a lacrosse stick, sporting a disgusting Texas Longhorns hat with a torn up brim. He's doing some mental math — something he staunchly avoided for four years — and is staring at me, snarling.

"Bro, with that money you could buy, like, over a hundred cases of Natty Light, bro!"

Firstly, I apologize to anyone I ever knew between the ages of 18 and 22. It was a phase.

That being said, frat-me has a point. Many of us would have a hard time justifying buying liquid moon rocks mixed with essence of Beyonce that cured E.D. for $2000, let alone a single bottle of bourbon. So let's examine the other end of the spectrum: cheap beer.

There's absolutely nothing wrong mass produced, budget beer. OK, nevermind, there is. They taste pretty poor, especially compared to the craft movement that's taking over the country. But at a BBQ, a pong game, floating down a river, or just about any other casual Americana scene, there's something comforting about light beer. You don't need gourmet sushi every night; sometimes buffalo wings hit the spot. Same principle here.

The three best-selling light beers are Bud, Coors, and Millers. They have absolutely nothing in common. Here's your cheap beer buying guide holy text:

You're no doubt thinking there are notable exclusions from this list; allow me to address them: PBR isn't technically 'light'. I've already discussed Mexican beers. Keystone and Natty Light are disallowed for consumption by anyone over 22 *inner college student smacks conscious with lacrosse stick, then skips class to play the original Guitar Hero on PS2*


No Good Very Bad Swill

I don't want to tell you this is bad. I'm not saying that. I'm not saying, if you like this, there's something severely wrong with you. I'm definitely not saying that.

What I am saying is that, perhaps you've not tried anything else ever.

The guys may have invented light beer, and that's awesome. But upgrade the recipe for shit's sake. The Wright Brothers invented the airplane, but they wouldn't still be flying their model today.

There's no way to describe the taste other than 'bad beer'. That's all I can think when I drink it. They tried to give it flavor, they really did, but instead they ruined it. Like a DIY halloween costume, you try it yourself because it's cheaper, and the result is absolutely terrible. That's Miller Lite.

Drinking this makes me almost want water instead, and that's saying something. What they should have done was…


It's Cold. That's All. And That's Enough.

Think about any Coors Light commercial or marketing ploy. Do they discuss taste? Nope. Do they discuss quality? Nay. Do they discuss the brewing process? Of course not.

The only adjective ever referenced with Coors Lite is 'cold'. And that's fine. Just own what you are, and be the best at it. And dammit, Coors Lite is coldest. You can even tell it's cold, because they're going to put magic labels on it that tell you when it's cold. Who cares that that's not something the company controls when you're serving it out of your refrigerator/ice box/glove box: Coors = cold.

Taste is ignored in the marketing because they ignored it in the brewing. They just make water. Coors Lite tastes like nothing — and sometimes that's perfect. For drinking en mass, or for a bit of hydration, this is the cheap beer of choice. 

But for a 'beery beer', there really is 


Only One Option

It's not great beer by any stretch. But drop the pretension so prevalent in craft beer culture today, and it's good enough.

It has a bit of flavor that's not nasty on the palate. It can, despite what Coors would have you believe, be served cold. And there's something American about it (not it's ownership, unfortunately). Add in a low production cost, and you have a formula for success.

…though marketing helps, too.


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