There’s a time and a place for expensive, artisanal beer — for dry-hopped IPAs, barrel-aged barleywines and the terroir of spontaneously fermented wild ales. But, much more often it would seem, there’s a time and a place for just the opposite. Those are times when you just want a beer, and you don’t want to think much about it.

And at those times, a beer tends to taste only as good as the setting. I’ve had more craft beer than I tell my doctor, but the best beer I ever had was an ice cold Sapporo over a bowl of spicy ramen. Or was it while sharing a cooler of Pacificos on the beach with my family? I also seem to remember drinking a particularly fantastic, sweaty can of PBR while playing bocce behind a dive bar in South Carolina.

You get the idea.

Cheap beer is unselfconsciously itself. The perfect unity of refreshment and alcohol. Craft beer “enthusiasts” occasionally get a little heated about “flavorless” cans of macro beer, but sometimes you don’t want an expressive, expensive pint that’ll make the room tilt.

To prove it, we reached out to a long list of beverage directors, bar owners, craft beer brewers and other experts — many of whom toil away making or serving esoteric, undeniably delicious or purposefully interesting beer, but afterwards crash on their couches with a cheap and easy, everyday drinker. Here’s what they reach for (or fondly recall) when not drinking craft.

The Best Cheap Beers, According to Brewers, Brewery Owners and Other Experts

From trusty Budweiser to a crisp lager brewed in the Bahamas, the below list represents the cheap beers our opinionated experts attest are the best.

Kirin

kirin ichiban beer bottle
Kirin Ichiban

"One of the benefits of cheap beer is consistency. It happens very often that craft beer can't provide that. Lately, on the cheap beer side I've been drinking Kirin. This Japanese lager has enough taste but still remains light in body, the perfect combination for any summer activities." — Ramón Manrique Hung, Beverage Director of The Proletariat in New York City

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Modelo Negra

bottle of negra modelo beer
Modelo

"As my friends and family will tell you, I will roll up on a jet-fuel-laced margarita without hesitation, but I have zero nostalgia for cheap beer. I save irony for other parts of life. But when the jet fuel's already smacked me and the quesadillas are hitting the table, I reach for Negra Modelo. A quick burst of caramel, just enough bitterness, and poof — it's gone. Don't overthink it." — Garrett Oliver, Brewmaster of The Brooklyn Brewery

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Corona

corona beer bottle
Corona

"Corona in a clear bottle that’s sat in the sun for a few seconds before opening, with a lime down the neck. All of those elements are crucial to get the appropriate aromatics off the beer, and to allow it to happen inside the bottle. Clear bottle. Sun-skunked. Fresh lime. That Corona is an unmatched experience that everyone should cherish." — Doug Resier, Founder of North Carolina's Burial Beer Co, a one-time Gear Patrol collaborator

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Iron City

can of iron city beer
Pittsburgh Brewing Company

"My go-to cheap beer is Iron City. I'll always have a soft spot for it based on history, but honestly, it's been overhauled in the past handful of years and is legitimately a delicious, easy-drinking, inexpensive beer. Nostalgia aside, there isn't much special about it. It's an American light corn lager just like many others, but to me, it has a better balance and is less cloying than some macro brands. Not sure of its reach, but if you're ever in Pittsburgh, make sure to have one or ten. You'll get it." — Andrew Witchey, Founder of Dancing Gnome Brewery in Pittsburgh

"I've said it before and I'll say it again: Iron City Lager by Pittsburgh Brewing Company is what I reach for on a damn near daily basis. It's the perfect light, American lager. Pairs very nicely with food, tastes great all year round, and can be categorized as an approachable choice for all types of beer drinkers. Kinda funny — 10 years ago this week I moved to Pittsburgh; I'm very proud of this city and the natives can underscore my feelings around 'reaching for an Iron.'" — Aadam Soorma, Head of Marketing at Trace Brewing in Pittsburgh

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Tuborg Green

tuborg green beer bottle
Carlsberg

"Whenever I'm lucky enough to take a trip to Denmark or Sweden, Tuborg Green is where it's at. If I could find it in Florida that would be my go-to. I love it because it's cheap and always brings back fond memories of hanging out with friends, going back and forth on the ferry between Denmark and Sweden with no purpose other than to drink and have a good time." — Ben Romano, Head Brewer of Angry Chair Brewing in Tampa

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Polar Beer

polar beer bottle
Drizly

"Since the very beginning of my drinking life, I would say Polar Beer from Venezuela is without a doubt my number one option since I grew up drinking that beer. For me it means friendship, family and the best times in my country of Venezuela. Lucky enough that I can find that beer here in Miami." — Ignacio Montenergo, Co-Founder of Florida's Tripping Animals Brewing Co.

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Miller High Life

miller high life beer
Miller Brewing Company

"First off, in nearly every case — OK in every case (you can't always trust those draft lines to be clean) — I'd avoid getting a 'cheap' or macro beer on tap. I opt for it in bottle or can form. And while I don't know if I'd call it a 'favorite' as much as a 'go-to,' Miller High Life is definitely 'The Champagne of Beers.' And it's never the first beer of the night! In any and all cases, my first choice is a local lager, and many craft/independent beers now fall into a 'more affordable' category!" — Ann Reilly, Executive Director, New York City Brewers Guild

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Yuengling

yuengling beer bottle
Yuengling

"My favorite cheap beer remains Yuengling Lager. I moved to Philadelphia in my early twenties, and back then when you wanted a Yuengling in most neighborhood bars, you just asked for a 'lager.' For me, just the sight of the bottle is evocative of being young and carefree, and the taste of that beer is indelibly associated with that period of my life. I also truly think it's a cut above the taste of other mass-produced lagers." — David Faris, former host of Electing to Drink, produced by Good Beer Hunting

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Pacifico

pacifico beer bottle
Pacifico

"Pacifico is always in my refrigerator, especially during the warmer months. I drank Pacifico for the first time when I was living in Southern California nearly 15 years ago and fell in love with it, so there’s a strong connotative relationship, but it’s also really damn good. It’s balanced, refreshing, and is always a crowd pleaser whether on the beach, grilling in the yard, or out on the golf course. More often than not, I’m just looking to drink a tasty beer that doesn’t need to be analyzed or considered. This fits the bill every time." — Matt Osgood, beer journalist for Good Beer Hunting and Vinepair, among others

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PBR

pabst blue ribbon beer can
Pabst Blue Ribbon

"My cheap beer is PBR. I like it because it’s easy drinking. It’s consistent and has good traditional beer flavors. I enjoy going to breweries and trying new beer but what I really like is sitting with good friends in a backyard, listening to music and drinking beer. And craft beers fill my belly after two or three." — Chris “Boston” DiMattia, owner of Charleston, South Carolina's The Recovery Room, which sold more 12-ounce cans of PBR than any other bar in the world from 2014 to 2020

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Hite Extra Cold

hite extra cold beer bottle
HiteJinro

"We're spoiled with a wide array of outstanding Korean restaurants near D.C. in Northern Virginia. Nothing works better with the sweet, spicy and sour flavors of Korean cuisine than an icy half-liter bottle of Hite Extra Cold. Korea's best-selling beer is rice-based, low in alcohol and purely refreshing. The perfect beer for these occasions." — Greg Engert, Beverage Director and Partner of Neighborhood Restaurant Group, which owns ChurchKey, a D.C. beer bar)

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Heineken

heineken beer bottle
Heineken

"I’m going with Heineken. It was a favorite of my dad’s growing up, so there’s some nostalgia there. And I’ve always enjoyed their marketing campaigns. Plus, the iconic green bottle, the intentionally “skunked” flavor, are just distinct in my brain for a lot of reasons. I always smile when I see it in a fridge or at a party." — Michael Oxton, Co-Founder of Night Shift Brewing in Massachusetts

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Budweiser

budweiser beer bottle
Budweiser

"Budweiser, because of my dad. He always has a 30 pack in his truck wherever he goes. When I was a kid, they were sold as reusable bottles and the cases were hard boxes. I used to use them as cereal bowls.

And I remember going to pick them up. In Pennsylvania, where I grew up, you can only get whole cases of beer in one spot. No liquor — just beer. It was a mini warehouse with huge pyramids of beer cases when you walked in. Then you’d go in the cooler — because he always bought cold beer — and when I was big enough, he'd let me carry the case. When you went to check out, there was this long roller you dropped it on and it was fun. It was always the same cashier lady and she gave me a lollipop.

It was the first place I ever used a hand cart too. So, Budweiser." — Jason Scheerer, General Manager at Max's Taphouse in Baltimore

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Orion

orion beer bottle
Orion

"There was a point sometime in the earlier days of COVID when summer was just beginning in New York City and makeshift outdoor dining was finally happening that made every small outing feel like the most special of all occasions. For my fiancé and I, it was making our way down the block to our favorite Japanese restaurant and bar for dinner with plenty of Orion beer.

In those days, I needed it for all the simple comforts a basic lager can provide after a long day of work during stressful times. But even as things have gone back to normal, I've found myself ordering it whenever I see it out at dinner, bringing it to house parties or rooftop gatherings and sneaking six-packs into my fridge as one of my 'house beers' for binge watching sessions and baseball games.

It's shockingly well-priced for an import and being just a little bit harder to come by makes it feel like even more of a special treat — even if it's just a perfectly crafted lawnmower beer from abroad." — Zachary Mack, owner of New York City's Alphabet City Beer Co. and a Certified Cicerone

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Presidente

presidente beer bottle
Drizly

"Presidente Dominican Lager is my macro guilty pleasure. I grew up with my Dominican friends, Nick, Alex, and Felipe in Portland, Maine and then family moved back to Santo Domingo when I was in high school. I visited the family over the years in the DR and ice cold Presidente JUMBOS were like water. Each bodega prides themselves on serving the beer right before it’s freezing point, so when you open the bottle the entire glass frosts over but doesn’t become beer slush — Presidente Pass revoked if it slushes — and it’s finished with a lil' baby brown to-go bag.

When it’s 100 degrees, you just ate some chicharrones de pollo Dominicano, and you get a freezing Presidente and maybe 2 fingers of Brugal or Mamajuana… baby you ready! That’s why it’s on the 'brewers menu' at Novare. If you know you know, and it’s the only macro beer we carry. I just enjoyed one with my old pal Felipe, who grew up and is now the head brewer at Other Half Finger Lakes.” — Shahin Khojastehzad, owner of Novare Res Bier Café in Portland, Maine

"Nearly frozen pilsner style beer is an undeniable pleasure to drink — especially in August — and even more especially when you are required to reach into the slush of an igloo cooler to grab a bottle or two — your hand going numb as you search around for the coldest one. Anyway, my favorite is Presidente!" — Jason Synan, brewer and co-owner of New York's Hudson Valley Brewery

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Kalik

kalik beer bottle
Commonwealth Brewery Limited

"When it comes to enjoying a beer, context is big. The situation in which I'm drinking can matter just as much as the beer itself. And when I'm thinking of a perfect beer, it's hard to beat an ice-cold Kalik at Pete's Pub in the Bahamas. Sipping a crisp, super-cold and effervescent lager, feet in the sand, looking out at crystal clear ocean water is a wonderful thing." — Branch Rothschild, Brewhouse Manager at Allagash Brewing Company in Portland, Maine

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Gl. Carlsberg Porter

gl carlsberg porter beer can
Carlsberg

"When I first landed in Copenhagen, I was surprised by the cold. You grow accustomed to it, but I quickly learned the May I remember from NYC would be quite different from the May in my new home. Upon arrival, not having my bearings, and wanting a beer to wind down the night, I remember walking to the closest chain grocery store and coming across a can of Gl. Carlsberg Porter.

It struck me as odd to see an 8.2 percent Baltic porter, in a 500ml format, from a large, industrial brewery, sitting next to a bunch of inexpensive, uninspiring pilsners. Its appearance is pitch dark and its body is satisfyingly silken. Its deep, mocha-colored head signals a beer with heft. Enjoyed blind, with its brewery of origin obscured, I think most would be hard-pressed to not tip their hat in approval. It’s that good.

But, perhaps best of all, it’s found in most grocery stores and corner shops for a mere 20 kroner. For context, your average craft IPA starts at 40 kroner and rapidly goes up from there. It’s roughly $2.75 for a half liter of delicious, potent porter." — Cory Smith, beer photographer and writer whose work appears regularly in Good Beer Hunting, among others

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Modelo Especial

modelo especial beer bottle
Modelo

"Being a brewer, I naturally gravitate towards low ABV, crispy and crushable beers. A lager is exactly what I crave. My favorite, go-to cheap beer would have to be Modelo Especial. The smooth and crisp finish Modelo has makes it the perfect summer beer. Served best with a lime, of course... And not only is Modelo readily available in most stores, it’s also very approachable for those not familiar with the style. With a light sweet aroma, subtle notes of biscuit and corn with a clean finish, Modelo Especial will always be my cheap and favorite refreshing easy sipper lager beer." — Tasha Dixon, Brewer at Ardent Craft Ales in Richmond, Virginia

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Narragansett

narragansett lager beer can
Drizly

"'Cheap' doesn’t have to mean watery or mass-produced. The true cost of so many 'cheap' macro lagers is the homogenization of our taste and our culture and I just can’t get on board with that kind of spending. My favorite cheap beer is the house low-ABV lager or ale at the closest brewery. Barring that I gotta go regional: a sixer of Narragansett from the corner bodega makes for a fun, low-cost park or apartment hang." — Sam Casner, Beverage Director at New York City's Tørst and a Certified Cicerone

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