The cheapest beer that actually tastes great

If there’s one thing Homer J. Simpson has taught us over the years, it’s that beer is good. And beer has never been more popular than it is now, with microbrews and craft beers popping up all over the place. These days, brewing beer is really considered an artisanal craft, and plenty of people will no doubt draw impressions of you based on what kind of suds you decide to swill. Of course, as beer continues to grow as both a craft and a complement to fine foods, it’s becoming increasingly expensive. The best tasting beers will try to wreck your wallet before they ever get a chance to take on your liver.

But hope isn’t entirely lost for you beer drinkers who’d prefer something with a little flavor, as opposed to yet another can of cheap stuff that tastes like a combination of raccoon urine and the inside of a hubcap. There are some great beers out there that won’t leave you broke, meaning you can finally say goodbye to Milwaukee’s Best … a beer whose name has always left us wary of ever visiting a city that would claim that as its “best.” Here are some of our favorite beers you can get for under $10 per sixer.

Sea Dog Blue Paw Wild Blueberry Wheat Ale

Coming in at just under $10, we’ve got a New England specialty. If you happen to order a pint of Sea Dog Blue Paw Wild Blueberry Wheat Ale… well, first things first, try to figure out a shorter name. That’s a mouthful. And speaking of mouthfuls (segue!), you might find yourself chugging a delicious beer that’s accompanied by a hearty helping of actual blueberries. It’s not as gross as it sounds, we promise — and it’s just when you order it at the bar.

When you enjoy a blueberry ale in the comfort of your own home, you can skip the actual blueberries if you want, because this beer packs enough of a flavorful punch without them. It’s a great brew for enjoying an early summer weekend on the coast of Maine or, if you’re not really feeling that vibe, it’s just a delicious, fruit-flavored beer for occasions like… Tuesday. It’s an award-winning beer, too. In 2007, it won silver at the World Beer Festival, in the fruit beer category.

Tecate

If you’re looking for a good, cheap alternative to “better” Mexican beers like Corona or Pacifico (both of which you can get for under $10 per six-pack in most places, by the way), then Tecate may be the beer for you. One of the interesting aspects of Tecate, though, is that a lot of its most ardent fans insist you drink it out of cans, rather than bottles or pint glasses. One such proponent of this method of boozing is Hellboy — and yes, we know he’s a fictional character, but if you go back and watch his two movies, you’ll note that he enjoys himself a nice can of Tecate or 12 on occasion. And Tecate Light is also one of the fastest growing light beers in the United States.

One of the toughest things about finding a good, cheap beer is getting one that’s smooth and won’t leave you regretting your decision to imbibe the next morning. There’s a reason the phrase “Bud Mud” exists, after all, and PBR has been known to give the mother of all beer-related hangovers. But Tecate goes down smooth and stays smooth all the way through your system. And whether you’re adding in a dash of hot sauce or just sticking with a lime, it’s a damned fine bit of refreshment for a hot summer day.

Leinenkugel Summer Shandy

Did you ever notice that the most delicious beers tend to be the most refreshing, and the ones you want to just sit out on the deck and enjoy, feeling the breeze and ignoring all of the problems in the world, like “your children” or “adult responsibility”? There are obviously some exceptions, with some heavier porters standing out among those best tasting beers. But if all you want is a relaxing afternoon of cool, light refreshment, then you’d be hard-pressed to find a better brew than Leinenkugel Summer Shandy. This Wisconsin-based brewer has given us a lemon-infused beer that, while it isn’t particularly high in the ABV department (a mere 4.2 percent), is definitely going to hit the spot all day long.

As with all Leinenkugel beers, it’s also pretty damn cheap. A six-pack will generally run you no more than $9, putting it just a shade above cheaper domestic options like Bud and Coors. And considering those things are basically only good for playing beer pong and cleaning out your bowels, we feel like the extra dollar or two for a six-pack of Summer Shandy is most definitely worth the trade off.

Sierra Nevada Pale Ale

Now, this may very well be the most “hipster” beer on our list. This California-brewed beer comes in at right around $9 for a six-pack, and has a serious reputation as being among the best pale ales in America. As far as cheap craft beers go, this may very well be the gold standard. And that’s for good reason, too: it’s just a really, really good beer. Even if you’re not a big fan of IPAs in general, chances are you’ll be able to enjoy a Sierra Nevada Pale Ale, which has plenty of hops but isn’t overly bitter, and the spice levels are just right. This beer has become a favorite among various demographics in all regions of America for a reason, after all.

When you do something well, people are going to take notice. And when you do something really well, people are going to emulate it, and that’s a big part of the appeal of Sierra Nevada Pale Ale. It’s a beer that won’t break the bank, but if someone spots you drinking it, you’ll give off the impression that you actually might know a thing or two about suds.

Josephsbrau Heller Bock

Now here’s a beer you’ve almost certainly never heard of … unless you live near (and frequent) a Trader Joe’s. That’s because this beer is brewed specifically for Trader Joe’s, with that particular grocery store chain selling a few of its own alcoholic creations for very, very low prices. The good thing about Trader Joe’s is that you can buy the beers individually, or mix and match and create your own six-pack, and each of the chain’s beers runs in the range of a buck and a quarter, give or take. That makes it just about the cheapest six-pack on this entire list, and it’s actually pretty damn flavorful, on top of that.

It’s pretty light and smooth for a bock, which are traditionally darker and a little heavier than you’d expect from the sweetness and creaminess that comes through in this beer. One of the strongest flavors to come through is caramel, though obviously it’s not overpowering to the rest of the brew’s ingredients. But at the end of the day, if you want a beer that’s big on flavor—without being bitter—and is also easy on your wallet, you might need to make a special trip to Trader Joe’s and give this bock a try.

New Belgium Chocolate Chip Cookie Dough

Believe us, you’re going to want to look past the name, and the fact that this was a collaboration between New Belgium and Ben & Jerry’s, and give this beer a try. And you’re going to need to hurry, because it won’t be available forever. Not only was this beer brewed as part of a charitable campaign, but it actually tastes … well, really freaking good. It seems hard to believe, but from your first sip you’ll notice that it really does taste like chocolate chip cookie dough ice cream.

And while that may seem off-putting to some people (we are talking about beer, here, and by and large ice cream and beer really don’t mix), it’s worth giving it a try while it’s still on shelves. You can grab a six-pack for under $9 in stores all over America, and taste the chocolate and vanilla flavors that are somehow completely noticeable, but not remotely overpowering. And since it’s 6 percent ABV, it packs a decent little punch, as well. If you miss out on this brew this year, don’t worry; New Belgium and Ben & Jerry’s have now collaborated two years in a row. Considering how successful the first two have been (the original being a Salted Caramel Brown-ie Ale, which … oh god, so good), and factoring in they’re doing this for charity, we suspect you’ll have a chance to try an entirely new flavor when winter 2017 rolls around.

Miller Lite

Hey, we know what you’re thinking: Miller Lite? Really? Look, we’re not saying that Miller Lite is the greatest beer ever brewed by man. But if you’re ever forced to go with a cheap 30-rack of domestic beer, you could do a hell of a lot worse. There are really the three big “domestics” in America, including Miller Lite, Bud Light, and Coors Light. While most people probably wouldn’t be able to tell the difference between the trio, for my money, Miller Lite is the best of the bunch. Coors Light loves to brag about being brewed with the ice cold water of the Rockies, and it tastes like they left way too much of that water in the actual beer. Bud Light, meanwhile, tends to have kind of a tinny, metallic quality — no thanks.

That leaves us with Miller Lite: an actual, bona fide, award-winning American lager. We’re not kidding about it winning awards, either. Back in 2014, it won Gold at the Great American Beer Festival, so clearly they’re doing something right. If you have to pick a cheap American beer that comes in mass quantities for less than a dollar per beer (a 30-rack is about $22), Miller Lite is the way to go.

Samuel Adams Cherry Wheat

We started with a New England specialty, so it only makes sense that we end with another New England specialty. More widely known than Sea Dog, of course, is Samuel Adams. It’s always a good decision, after all. But while some may prefer the regular, original Sam Adams lager, or others might be partial to one of the seasonal brews like Octoberfest or Sam’s Summer Ale, it’ll be tough for you to find a more delicious and flavor-packed beer from Sam Adams than Cherry Wheat. And at 5.3 percent ABV, it packs a pretty decent little punch, too.

Look, we’re talking about the best tasting cheap beers here. And when you think of the best taste for a brew, you want something that doesn’t feel like a chore to work down your throat. So many beers are overly bitter, or watered down, or just taste bad. When it comes to actual taste, Sam Adams delivers with the sweet flavor of Cherry Wheat. Yes, it tastes like cherries. It’s pretty mild and very smooth, with that wheat flavor to balance out the sweetness of the cherries. And at around $9 for a six-pack, it’s not going to break your budget, either. And that is always a good decision.