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Life’s Too Short to Drink Cheap Beer

Written by Nickel - 138 Comments

Last week I had an epiphany… Life is far too short to drink cheap beer. Unless, of course, that’s what you prefer. Me? I’m fine with certain cheap beers. Miller High Life is currently my favorite low-end brew but, when I was in college, I drank an awful lot of Old Milwaukee. What it lacked in terms of quality, it more than made up for in terms of price. But I actually much prefer beers along the lines of Newcastle Brown Ale. So what’s the problem? Around here, a six-pack of High Life goes for less than four bucks, whereas a six-pack of Newcastle goes for a good bit over eight bucks. But then it finally dawned on me. I like good beer. And we can afford good beer. So I’m going to drink good beer. And that brings us to the question of the day, dear readers… What’s your poison? Good beer or cheap beer? Or maybe a good, cheap beer? C’mon, jump in and leave a comment. Name names and spread the word about your brew of choice.

Published on January 30th, 2006
Modified on September 10th, 2006 - 138 Comments
Filed under: Frugality

About the author: is the founder and editor-in-chief of this site. He's a thirty-something family man who has been writing about personal finance since 2005, and guess what? He's on Twitter!

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138 Responses to “Life’s Too Short to Drink Cheap Beer”

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  1. 1
    SavingAdvice Says:

    You have nothing to complain about…cheap beer out here is $2 a can…must be why I drink sake

  2. 2
    jim Says:

    In college, my beer of choice was Natural Light. Good ole natty light, we could get a case of 24 for around $8 when we bought in bulk and I loved the stuff.

    Now, I’m a fan of Yuengling, $10 for a 12 pack of bottles can’t be beat.

  3. 3
    FMF Says:

    I don’t drink (I had my fill in college). But can I name some other vices? They are:

    1. McDonald’s pancakes
    2. Diet Coke (free at work, thank goodness)
    3. Raw cookie dough

    Moose Tracks ice cream would be on the list, but I get all I want for free, so I’m not counting it! ;-)

  4. 4
    JLP at AllThingsFinancial Says:

    Miller High Life is actually pretty good. Sometimes, when it is on sale, you can buy Miller High Life for $13.99 for a 30 pack of cans. I’m not a fan of canned beer, but it isn’t bad.

    I go through phases where one beer is my favorite. Right now, my favorite would be Negra Modelo, which is $7+ a six pack. I don’t buy too much of it.

  5. 5
    Blaine Moore Says:

    Yuengling when I can get it, but I can’t get it regularly now that I live in Maine. Any time I travel (or have a friend that’s travelling) through New York or Pennsylvania I pick up a case or two of it.

    I am lucky in that I live in the state with the second most craft breweries. There are 3 breweries within a few miles of where I work, and 3 more within a mile or two of where I live. Mainer’s like good beer. My favorites have to be Shipyard and Gritty’s for the local stuff.

    I also brew my own beer. I have not been doing a whole lot lately since I don’t want to have to travel with a full carboy, and I am hoping to buy a house in the next month or two; I’ve been hoping that for almost a year though. My last batch of light beer doesn’t taste very good (I experimented a bit too much) but it works great for cooking (I just made a few more pounds of beef jerky with it this weekend). My normal light recipe is what we are going to give as wedding favors and is probably my favorite recipe. We have a porter aging in our closet right now that is ready to be bottled.

  6. 6
    Kim Says:

    It has been very difficult to resist Good Beer since we moved to Colorado. Our current favorite is Flying Dog In Heat Wheat, but Fat Tire is always a good standby. We can get them for under $7 a six pack if we shop around, but most of the corner local liquor stores have them for around $7.50. And then there’s always Happy Hour at the Flying Dog brewery when we want it on tap.

  7. 7
    dforester Says:

    Suffering from the same dilemma – being a “good beer” afficionado, AND a cheapskate – I turned to brewing my own, mainly out of cheapness – and then it grew into a hobby just for the sake of itsself (so the money may or may not actually be being saved, here ;-) …).

    I’m also a Newcastle fan, in addition to Guinness, and many others. ;-) Sure, there’s some manner of capital investment for a beginner’s set-up (~$100-$150), but a simple extract set-up can get you brewing for ~$1.00/12 oz bottle or less – a 5 gallon batch (2 cases) runs me from ~$30, for a lighter summery brew (Belgian Witbier) to $70 for my heavy, high-content, couldn’t-buy-in-a-store-if-you-wanted-to-anyway Christmas Ale.

    If you can afford a little more capital (maybe another $100-$150, give-or-take) once you’re into it, and don’t mind spending just a LITTLE more time at it in order to go to all-grain brewing, your cost per batch goes down dramatically. 6 lbs of malt extract extract could run you $20-$25 (the bulk of the cost of an extract batch), but the grain for a similar batch (maybe 10-12 lbs) is peanuts – way less than $1.00/pound – so the cost of that component is way less than $10/batch.

    The beer you can brew, if you keep good notes and are careful about sterility, is oustanding, even with an extract set-up. So say my beer-swilling buddies, anyway, who also appreciate darker/heavier ales. ;-)

    AND, if nothing else, it’s a great hobby. ;-)

  8. 8
    mbhunter Says:

    Guinness Stout — it’s Gaelic for genius!

    Very happy that they got the 15-pack of pub cans back in Costco.

  9. 9
    RS Says:

    Funny that you just posted this as just last week I went over to my neighbors house to watch a movie and he actually had “The Beast,” Milwaukee’s Best. I was amazed as I know he makes good money and like beer. He said that it was on sale this week so he picked it up.
    I am not actually cheap enough to get bad beer…I loves me some Sam Adams. If I am having a party or something were I need to get a lot of beer, I will just get Coors Light, but that it as cheap as I go.

  10. 10
    John Koontz Says:

    My beer of choice is Belgian – Duvel, Delerium Tremens, Chimay, etc… Although, I can drink Newcastle any day.

    But my real vice is Pinot Noir. Now there’s an expensive liquid.

  11. 11
    Blaine Moore Says:

    Only a half dozen more responses and you’ll have a new most talked about article…and in a shorter span of time, most likely. Wonder what that says about your readership…

  12. 12
    Jonathan Says:

    There’s cheap beer, like Miller High Life, and then there’s CHEAP beer, like Old Milwaukie. I gotta stay away from the latter. I still have a soft spot for all the Bud Light I drank in college, but now i’m a microbew snob – Pyramid, Widmer’s, or Red Hook please.

  13. 13
    Caitlin Says:

    I’d rather go without than drink cheap beer (let alone CHEAP beer). So I guess I am a microbrew snob as well (but also count in the major-brews of other countries). I’m a huge fan of any good porter, stout or nut brown in the colder months. And in summer I prefer lighter brews like an Sam’s seasonal, a good spicey hooegarten, heifeweizen and my old standby – magic hat #9.

    We drank popov vodka in college (though I seem to remember kegs of old milwaukee around) and THAT is some seriously bad swill. ::: shudder :::

  14. 14
    Jeremy Says:

    I agree with Blaine. Yuengling is my “cheap” beer of choice. Next in line is JW Dundee Honey Brown beer. These cost roughly $5 a six pack in my area. When I lived on the tundra, Moosehead was my poison of choice, but it’s a lot more expensive on the E. Coast.

    For good bears, nothing tops Pilsner Urquell.

  15. 15
    Joshua K Says:

    Here’s a topic I can go on and on about. For cheap beer, I’ve always been a fan of Mickey’s by the 40oz’s. It’s delish. Admittedly, Miller High Life’s not bad.But I find Bud Lite for about the same price, might as well go ahead. I usually look at the grocery store ads for a good deal on Bud products, and can usually easily strike a deal. The grocery store’s have the best prices. For the *GOOD* stuff, I used to choose Newcastle, Bass, Harp, but I’ve found some new favorites. Shiner’s Dunkelwiezen is excellent, and it tastes almost like Young’s Double Chocolate Stout which is great. I like YDCS’s nice refreshing wet flavor, and it’s “thin”. I’ve been a fan of Chimay, Corsendonk, and Lindemann’s for over a decade now though. But if you’re wanting good brew for a good price, it seems like Bud’s in the “sweet spot”. Also check Central Market if you have one near you.

  16. 16
    Michael Says:

    I drink good cheap beer by brewing my one. However, I splurge occasionally on a good import. Life’s too short to go through it drinking bad cheap beer.

  17. 17
    nickel's wife Says:

    Does anybody know what happened to “dry” beers such as Michelob Dry and Asahi Dry? They weren’t super cheap, but they were good. I can’t seem to find them anywhere although I must admit I haven’t looked very hard.
    Wife of nickel

  18. 18
    Mandy Says:

    I’m a big fan of “Fat Tire” which is becoming increasingly easier to find here in Ca.

    I do reflect fondly on my college days, though, when the most important was what we could get in a keg for the least amount of money. We drank a lot of “Natty Light” (aka Natural Light) back then.

  19. 19
    Joshua K Says:

    For nickel’s wife..

    I haven’t seen michelob dry in awhile, but I can regularly get Asahi Dry here in DFW. Most places carry it. Not for certain on your territory though.

  20. 20
    GB Says:

    I think my college experience must have been an anomaly. Old Milwaukee? Miller?..cheap beers? These were considered ‘expensive’ in my day.

    The ‘cheap’ beer standards in college for me were..
    Carling Black Label
    Golden Anniversary
    Piels
    Schmidts
    At the time (early 90’s) none over $6/case.

    That said, times and tastes change. A good way to enjoy good beers is to buy those craft brews by the case.

  21. 21
    Michael Says:

    There’s really only one “common” beer that I buy regularly, and that’d be Miller Genuine Draft.

    Outside of that, I sort of take turns purchasing Dos Equis, Heineken, Bass ale, and Foster’s.

    Good beer story: Whilst out shopping for a decent beer (we were on vacation, way away from home) in Minnesota, I entered a pretty tiny, backwoods liquor store. Nothing appealed to me at all; everything seemed to be of the Old Milwaukee and Budweiser ilk. I asked the counter attendant if she had any imported beers. Her response:

    “Imported? You mean like … from Iowa?”

    I think I ended up buying a 6pk of Sam Adams.

  22. 22
    bettis Says:

    don’t get me wrong, i can handle a $1 pbr from time to time. there is a time for everything. however, i am a drink-special specialist. you name a day of the week, and i have a restaurant in town that has drink specials on that night. who needs $1 pbr when you can get a $2 draft newcastle? not me! i’ll take the newcastle eight days a week.

  23. 23
    Jen Says:

    Guiness or Mackeson (the only beer that is excellent with chocolate chip cookies.) Schlafley’s Coffee Stout. Beer and coffee, a perfect combination. Only wish I could drink it in the morning at work.

  24. 24
    bill Says:

    high life is the greatest stuff ever… It used to be 6 bucks a 12 pack until they raised the price to 7.50….. u can get milwake’s best (beast) for 5 bucks a 12 pack or a 6 pack of red dog 16oz for 3 bucks…. nattie ice goes for 6 bucks a 12 pack over here….

  25. 25
    Scott Says:

    I admit I’ve been a bit of a “beer snob” in the last decade (since the days of cheap beer in college because that’s all we could afford).

    Now I’ve actually had times at a restaurant that I’ve made the “beer or soft drink” decision solely on whether they have high enough quality beer for my tastes (if not, I’ll go with a soft drink).

    Personally, I’ve developed quite a taste for micro-brews (and I’m sure this is at least in part due to the fact that I’ve brewed my own beer in the past).

  26. 26
    Beck Says:

    I’m with bettis on this one… there are beer specials every night of the week. We have a wood-fire pizza joint that has buck fifty domestic drafts on Mondays, where any other night of the week I’d pay $5 a pint. I also keep tabs on the specials of my favorite stores and stock up when appropriate.

    Life is too short and cheap beer is too nasty to do otherwise.

  27. 27
    sam Says:

    well I think miller high life is pretty discusting how ever you spell it. but my favorite cheap bear is coors bear lite and reg so yep its smooth and goes down easy…

  28. 28
    a Says:

    I was the ultimate beer snob – imports, micro, homebrew, etc. Then I bought a house. Ever since then Pabst and High Life have helped me swallow that mortgage much easier.

  29. 29
    Lance Says:

    For Good Beer its gotta Be Oberon by Bell’s and Blue Moon. But for cheap beer its gotta be Stroh’s or King Cobra…..

  30. 30
    Norb Says:

    I have to say, my most expensive beer was had this summer. My friends and I did a tour of Europe and while in Germany I had my best beer ever. German wheat beer is unlike anything I have ever tasted. For those who have not traveled abroad for a good beer, let me tell you, it is worth it. American beer, and even imported German beer is nothing compared to what you can get from a tap in Germany. As far as drinking beer in America, I am a sucker for microbreweries. I am still young and little jaded by starting my real years of drinking by going to Europe, but I have yet to find a GOOD beer I like in a bottle. I do however enjoy drinking a Miller High Life here and there.

  31. 31
    Pat Johnson Says:

    I also like good beer. However, I’ve found the perfect way to enjob good beer cheep! I started brewing my own. I can brew beer on the order of Newcastles for about 15 to 20 cents a beer. I can make a good basic ale for as little as 10 cents a bottle. Even if you use a kit that requires no boiling you can make good beer from about 40 cents a bottle. Using the basics and brewing from barley, hops & yeast alone gives you the abilitity to make the kind of beer you like at the lowest cost. Join a homebrew culb and get some real beer!

  32. 32
    Pat Johnson Says:

    I also like good beer. However, I’ve found the perfect way to enjoy good beer cheep! I started brewing my own. I can brew beer on the order of Newcastles for about 15 to 20 cents a beer. I can make a good basic ale for as little as 10 cents a bottle. Even if you use a kit that requires no boiling you can make good beer from about 40 cents a bottle. Using the basics and brewing from barley, hops & yeast alone gives you the abilitity to make the kind of beer you like at the lowest cost. Join a homebrew culb and get some real beer!

  33. 33
    MillionDollarCountDown Says:

    Deja Vu…heard this quote many years ago in context of a guy from Norway. The full comment was something like “Life is too short to drink cheap wine and dance with ugly women.”

    This is not my quote so please don’t flame me. I am just a messenger.

  34. 34
    Nick Says:

    My current top 7 pilsners (out of 20 so far):

    #1 Weihenstephaner Original Pilsener
    #2 Beck’s
    #3 Spaten Premium
    #4 St. Pauli Girl
    #5 Grolsch
    #6 Paulaner Lager
    #7 Rahr & Sons Blonde Lager

    All are crisp pilsener-style lagers that finish clean and are mild to medium hoppiness.

    Weihenstephaner is particularly good because it covers a wide range of flavors that never veer off course. It starts with a slight honeylike malt flavor with banana esters and finishes with just enough hops to clear the palate. Very tasty and refreshing (but packs a wallop… beware!).

    Beck’s and Spaten Premium aren’t nearly as adventurous, but they make quality everyday brews that are true to the pilsner style without any real deficiencies.

    St. Pauli Girl would rank #2 based upon flavor alone (excellent), but the funky aroma knocks it down to fourth place.

    Grolsch is what Heineken SHOULD be making. Mercifully free of skunkiness.

    Paulaner Lager has similar characteristics to Weihenstephaner Original (slightly more malt character, diverse flavor), but isn’t quite as refined.

    Rahr & Sons is a local brewer in Fort Worth, Texas. They make good beer. Their blonde lager is a perfect alternative for Bud/Miller diehards. It is similarly light in hops and alcohol content and has that typical “watery” mouthfeel), but the quality is way up there.

  35. 35
    adam Says:

    i’m surprised no one has mentioned coors original. it’s not bad at all, cheep, and better than any lite beer. after that i would say miller high life then maybe bud. as far as quality beers go, sam adams, blue moon, and newcastle.

  36. 36
    Dan Says:

    They say travel broadens; absolutely correct. In Europe, I discovered that I loved beer. It was American factory beer I hated. Now my waist has broadened significantly.

    We buy Newcastle at Sam’s Club for about $22 for 24 bottles. That helps make the good beers affordable.

  37. 37
    Stingy Student Says:

    If any of you are in the southeast, there’s a wheat beer brewed in NC called Blue Moon which is pretty good and cheap.

  38. 38
    cw Says:

    I second Grolsch and the beauty of traveling. . . as others mention, I found beer disgusting prior to living in the netherlands for 2 years. After enjoying cheap domestics like Grolsch (yay for #36!), Amstel, and Heineken… there was no going back (also, the netherlands close proximity to Belgian makes sampling lovely brews like Duvel/Hoegaarten/etc.) much less costly (and they tend to be fresher than what most of us can get stateside.

    However, Dutch beer holds nothing to Czech and German beers. Czech beer is among some of the best in the world (I’ve been told), and German beer is brewed to exacting standards (with stringent patents on brewing recipes/techniques). A few that I enjoyed were Augustiner and Franziskaner. Augustiner is a helas (sp?)… something similar to a pilsner. Franziskaner is a wheat beer (tasty stuff)…

    The Belgian wheat beer that I mentioned before (Hoegaarten) is best enjoyed with a slice of lemon in it, sitting on a terras, enjoying a rare sunny day in a land of endless rains….. ^_^

    FWIW, I guess Hooegarten is sold here as “Blue Moon”…. no idea about the quality though… weiss bier definitely has a distince taste to it, though.

    Damn…. this blog entry makes me miss that time in my life. Best domestic option I’ve found = Fat Tire… Bass Ale is also okay… both are best enjoyed at a Happy hour where you can get a “tall” for around $2.00, imo.

  39. 39
    cw Says:

    ps— I know Bass is not exactly “domestic”… my prior post makes it sound like that, tho

  40. 40
    ryan Says:

    For Cheap stuff, I go for some PBR (in bottles) 12 pack for 8 bucks. Good for BBQ’s.

    The good stuff, I usually go for something local (I’m in ST Louis), for me it’s a Schafly brew or O’fallon micro brew.

  41. 41
    BK Says:

    PBR me ASAP!

    Ja, und Beck’s!

  42. 42
    Chris Says:

    Life is too short to drink cheap beer. Having said that, I have severly shortened my life by drinking way too much cheap beer when I was younger. Now, like the other Micro snobs I’ve found beers that I’ll gladly spend a few $$ more, or even double at times, to give my cheap beer punished taste buds a dose of taste that makes you think of bald headed monks running around rolling wood barrels off horse drawn carts. I buy 2 sixes of Dead Guy Ale twice a year. The rest of the time I drink, have drank, the beers mentioned here. But what about mixed beer drinks – like Irish Car bombs. God, I love those!

  43. 43
    dani Says:

    Back in the day, i drank Natty 24/7. Now i get a hangover just thinking about it. IC (Iron City – Pittsburgh!) Light is the best cheap beer, ever. Miller Lite will do when IC isn’t available.
    But I looove beer – i work part time at a microbrew bar and restaurant. Best Perk? Free draft beer after every shift. I love, love, love Rogue Dead Guy Ale in the winter, Sea Dog Blueberry Wheat in the summer, Dogfish Head’s Punk (pumpkin beer) in the fall and Franziskaner’s Hefeweizen in the spring.

    Also, FYI:
    Hoegaarten and Blue Moon are two separate beers…Hoegaarten is lemony, Blue Moon is orangey – as well as the fact that Hoegaarten is an import and Blue Moon is owned by Coors.

  44. 44
    Foobarista Says:

    I love good beer, although I don’t quite drink as much as I used to :) Currently, the fridge has Fat Tire Ale, Gordon Biersch, and Sierra Nevada (I live in California and these are all local).

    My taste for cheap beer was wrecked in China of all places, where I lived near the first microbrew in Beijing. The place specialized in ales and stouts, and had generally wonderful beer.

    I do want to do the Germany and Holland beer tour someday…

  45. 45
    Tim Deniston Says:

    I must admit: I was a High Life junkie all through college. I still drink it if it’s almost payday and my checking account is bone dry. However, I have spent the past couple years discovering the best microbrews that are available in my area. I’ve found some really good stuff and some really bad stuff. I’ve even found several restaurants that have a “tour of beers” to participate in. Out of all this, I regret none of it. I’ve honed my beer-stincts and can pick out the subtle flavors out of the finest of beers. And I still enjoy kicking back a few Miller Lites with the boys on the weekend, but nothing beats a good specialty beer.

  46. 46
    Nathan Says:

    Ahhh, to make it easier on yourself just remember this. Though the beer is twice as must it usually has at least that in alcohol, AND flavor-with the exception of malt liquer-which doesn’t fall into the same story. If i were to dabble in rice beer from designed for the depression era then I might have to agree with miller, high life preferably:)

  47. 47
    sinead Says:

    definitely coors light…..light by name, price and nature AND it beats that bloated feeling!! cant get much better ;)

  48. 48
    RAL Says:

    I was stationed in Germany for 3 years recently and by far the best beer we had was Kulmbacher on tap…very cold and very smooth. Of course any beer at Oktoberfest is awesome!!!

  49. 49
    iota Says:

    Hey nickel try this experiment, pour highlife in a glass swirl it around a bit and take a big sniff..

    Highlife smells terrible, I used to drink it, but, ever since I took a moment to actually smell it, I put it away in favor of other beers.

  50. 50
    Beer Snob Says:

    First, I live in Utah, behind the Zion-curtain, so high-end beer is metered out only by individual bottle at the State run liquor stores. Gut-rot capped at 3.2% (by law) is available elsewhere. So, I’ll drink a cheap beer (Bud, Miller, Coors, Nat) if given, but I’d never pay for that swill. The ‘cheapest’ beer I buy is Henry Weinhards (6%), which at $1 bottle at the liquor store, is price comparable to the so-called micro-brew that is mass-produced by the big labels. When I can afford it, my personal favorite is the venerable Pilsner Urquell, but at $2.85 bottle, it’s a luxury indulgence. Utah is not the ideal state for beer lovers.

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