These Are Our Favorite Cheap Beers
Sometimes all you need is a basic brew. After testing eight, we identified the the ones you should keep on hand.
Outside's long reads email newsletter features our strongest writing, most ambitious reporting, and award-winning storytelling about the outdoors. Sign up today.
The one constant to a good après tailgate, backyard BBQ, or summit celebration? Beer. While you may have a go-to brew to mark these occasions, here at Outside, we posed a very scientific question: Which one is the best? To answer this, we diligently blind-tested eight “cheap” beers—nothing over $10 for a six-pack—both straight out of the fridge and at room temperature (to simulate an after-hike beer that warms up in your pack). These five stood out.
Our Favorite Three
This Jamaican pale lager beer was a winner when served both at room temperature and ice-cold. For the former test, we were looking for beers that were palatable and, as one tester said about Red Stripe, “not horrible” and “at least had some flavor.” Served chilled, testers liked Red Stripe’s malty, sweet flavor, which was surprisingly bright and smooth. “I would like to enjoy this beer on a backcountry road with my dog,” said one reviewer. The only drawback is the 11.2-ounce glass bottle that Red Stripe is typically served in—while great for BBQs and tailgates, it might be a hazard in a loaded backpack. We’d advise sticking with one of the company’s 16-ounce cans if you’re going into the wilderness.
Montucky Cold Snacks
Newcomer Montucky Cold Snacks beat out other established beers with its light flavor and delicate aftertaste. Served warm, testers noticed a subtle yeast tang and liked that “it was smoother than the others we tried.” Served cold, Montucky elicited some “yums” and was singled out for its light to nonexistent aftertaste: “It’s really nice at the beginning, but the flavor kind of tapers off, which is good because most of the ones with an aftertaste aren’t great,” said one tester. While Montucky does offer its lager in 12-ounce cans, it’s mostly found in 16-ounce tallboys. And we’re not complaining about that.
We added this Mexican lager to the list just for kicks, and it quickly became a fan favorite. Testers liked that the beer had slightly more body to it than others and found it refreshing, even when served warm. “It doesn’t taste like water with just a bit of something added to it,” said one reviewer during the room-temperature test. “It actually has some good flavor, if that’s possible.” The accolades continued in the cold test, with drinkers noticing honey-sweet and malty notes. “If I was planning to drink more than one beer, I’d probably go with this one,” said one reviewer. Like Red Stripe, Corona is typically served in 12-ounce bottles, but we would recommend grabbing it in the available 12-ounce cans if you plan on storing it anywhere but a fridge or cooler.
While they didn’t excel in both tests, these two beers stood out in the individual warm and cold trials.
This American lager had notes of oatmeal and grain and was “decent,” according to one reviewer, even when consumed at room temperature. “I could drink a whole can of that,” said one tester. “It’s light and refreshing and isn’t going to fill you up.” Another positive: it’s the cheapest beer we tested, coming in at $14 for an 18-pack.
While it was deemed a bit lackluster in the warm test, from the first sip, this American lager was a favorite when cold. “I really like that,” said one tester. “It has a really good flavor from start to finish.” Others praised it as “light and bright” and noted a good body with a hint of malt and grain. There is one drawback: while we were able to find Rainier cans in Colorado, the search might be hard to impossible if you’re based on the East Coast. Rainier’s distribution is mostly concentrated in the West.