Bud Light Sales

Cans of Modelo Especial beer, the perfect sipper for dancing the night away. AP Photo/Peter Morgan

Whether a crisp German lager, fruit-packed sour or deep and dark stout, I love beer. Nearly 15 years ago, I was bartending at a beer-focused bar when the craft beer boom was taking off in Boston, and I was lucky enough to taste new brews from around the world daily, for free.

Today, I find it hard to justify spending $20 or more on four cans of craft beer. That’s why I lean on inexpensive options that are often overlooked. And sometimes, let’s be honest, a cheap beer just hits.

Easy as it is to knock macro brewery lagers, their popularity isn’t solely the result of coast-to-coast distribution, ad dollars and a low price tag: Many people enjoy drinking these beers, because they can be pretty good. It just so happens that I’m one of those people. That’s why I’ve compiled a list of 10 of the tastiest affordable beers and where and when they can best be enjoyed. (Prices will vary depending on location).

1. Miller Lite at the beach

A hot day on the beach calls for an ice-cold beverage, and that’s when a Miller Lite shines – fresh out of the cooler, on a sunny day, surrounded by sand. It’s only 4.2 percent alcohol by volume – considerably lower than many craft beers – and that means two Miller Lites over a few hours won’t go to your head. The brew leads with hints of bitterness and subtle citrus hops, unlike many of its lower-calorie lager peers. Rinse down some salt-and-vinegar chips with your Miller Lite and enjoy the way it mellows the acid, or sip it on its own in the salty ocean air. Whether you’re on summer vacation or a winter escape to South Florida, you’ll appreciate the beer’s medium body and full flavor. Go ahead and focus on your tan. At about $15 for a 12-pack, this one’s a no-brainer.

2. Yuengling at the dive bar


America’s oldest brewery’s flagship beer is now available in 26 states, and if you’re at a dive bar that carries this caramel-forward, malty lager, consider your choice made. Yuengling is hearty and full-bodied enough to satisfy the craft calling without paying the craft price. And when a dive bar doesn’t have craft options, Yuengling is my personal go-to. Plenty of bars will charge about $5 and up for a bottle, draft or can.

3. Okocim O.K. Beer at your friend’s cookout

This Polish lager is the quintessential beer to bring to a backyard barbecue, without breaking the bank. Impress your friends with an obscure, but relatively easy to find, import that usually sells for $10 or less for a four-pack of tallboys. This classic lager made with Poland’s mineral-rich water is slightly sweet and malt-forward, with the hops taking the back seat. For that reason, it’s wonderful when paired with fatty cookout foods, such as greasy cheeseburgers, potato salad and especially sausages – a staple of Polish cuisine.

4. Tecate at the tailgate

It’s common for people to think of Mexican lagers only when they’re planning pool days – not necessarily autumn activities. But Tecate’s flavor profile goes just as well with fall tailgates as it does with watersports. This Mexican lager is crisp and crushable and pairs nicely with any salty or spicy pregame snack – think zesty Buffalo wings and hearty chili. Tecate is often available in 12-packs that ring in about $15.

5. Budweiser at the basement punk gig


It’s usually up to you to BYO refreshments to a house show. Bud is the choice for me for a few reasons. First, the price. I grab a six-pack for about $10, stick one (or two) in my pocket, and enjoy the crisp, malty flavors alongside the hammering drums. Second, Budweiser’s body can be quite filling, but at a late-night basement show, you don’t have to worry about pairing it with a meal. Bud also holds up even as it warms; so it’ll still taste good, even after an hour in your back pocket. Colder temperatures can suppress certain flavors; expect more bitterness as your pocket-Bud warms up.

6. Sapporo on a picnic or after a day hike

Available in cans as big as 22 ounces and as small as 12, Sapporo makes a versatile option for picnics because it pairs well with a variety of foods. Pack a 22-ounce can for less than $5 and share it with your picnic partner over anything from a banh mi bursting with cilantro and savory pork roll to a garlicky hummus and falafel wrap. Whatever the meal, Sapporo’s mild flavors won’t dominate your palate the way a hoppy IPA or tart sour might. The Japanese rice lager is light and clean, so it will go as easy on your taste buds as on your wallet.

7. Pabst Blue Ribbon on the fishing dock

Nothing says “American summer” quite like a sweaty PBR on a wooden dock stretching out into a lake. This classic brew might score more points for nostalgic memories than taste, but it excels in high carbonation, making that crisp, ever-so-slightly hoppy flavor pop with every cracked can. You can find 30-packs for about $25, and keep it chilled by your side as you cast line after line. At 4.8 percent ABV, it’ll stand up to your day on the water – regardless of whether you reel anything in.

8. Miller High Life on your couch


Live the high life even when you’re feeling a bit like a low life, bingeing a true crime doc or reruns, and pairing it with “the champagne of beers.” High Life has light hops and a subtle malty funk and can easily be sipped on its own or alongside an amaro. And if you like amaro, I suggest going a step further and adding Aperol and lemon juice to your brew for a simple Spaghett cocktail. A High Life also goes well with a good, greasy slice of pizza. The citrusy brew cuts the acidic sauce and pairs nicely with a crisp, buttery crust. Get a 12-pack of High Life for about $12 and consider your evening planned.

9. Modelo Especial at the DJ set

Heading to a DJ show to dance the night away? I’d order a Modelo Especial, a rising star lager out of Mexico whose sales surpassed Bud Light’s during one four-week stretch in May. It’s like Corona, but superior in taste, with less skunk and more complex flavors, such as honey and corn. I love it for a night of dancing because it isn’t heavy enough to slow you down, but its layered flavors keep it from being boring. Modelo is usually about $5 at a bar and less than $20 for a 12-pack.

10. Narragansett for the pickleball court

Affectionately called ‘Gansett by fans, Narragansett might just be the unofficial lager of New England. Its recognizable tall white can is synonymous with Boston bars, Rhode Island sports and anything involving water along the northern East Coast. Grab a six-pack of ‘Gansett tallboys for less than $10 while you’re heading to the court. It’s a great choice for the suddenly everywhere pickleball, as the sport demands physical activity without zapping your energy, making a postgame ‘Gansett a fitting reward. It’s light, dry and slightly hoppy, so it’s easy to chug between games or sip after them. Sharing a few of these with friends is the way this New England favorite was meant to be enjoyed. Wicked good, kid!

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