At the risk of using an inflammatory headline, "cheap beers" seemed easier to convey than what I really mean: American macrobrewed light lagers. Yes, the Millers, the Buds, the Coors… if you have to drink them (say you find yourself at a party with only the cheap stuff), which one(s) should you choose?
I thought this would be an amusing topic to write about for my first "Beer Hacker" column, though I kind of wish I’d written it to be timely with the Super Bowl. Ah, well, better late than never.
The beers I selected are what you’d typically find at your local grocery/convenience store/bodega: Miller (Genuine Draft, Lite and High Life), Budweiser, Bud Light, Coors Light, Pabst Blue Ribbon, Keystone Light, Rolling Rock, and Corona. To get at the best of the bunch I’m tapping the collective resource of the web—namely, the BeerAdvocate and RateBeer websites.
I’ll be utilizing these two sites quite a lot for my Beer Hacker columns, I think. Between them, you can find nearly any brewery and beer out there, and their rating systems give you a fantastic overall view of a particular beer—which I’ve usually found to be quite accurate. In a word, they rock.
Unsurprisingly, none of these beers has high scores on either site, so obviously they have to be judged on their relative merits: what turns out to be the "best" beer of this group will still be an order of magnitude lower in the rating scale than a decent microbrew.
Let’s examine the scores, in alphabetical order:
(out of 100)
(out of 5)
|Miller Genuine Draft||67||1.63|
|Miller High Life||73||1.66|
|Pabst Blue Ribbon||74||1.75|
We can see from these scores that BeerAdvocate’s top three are PBR, Miller High Life and Rolling Rock; RateBeer’s are Rolling Rock, PBR and Corona. The two sites dovetail pretty well; both Bud Light and Coors Light are in the bottom of the list.
My own subjective experience backs this up. (Don’t you just love subjectivity?) Regular readers probably know PBR is my preferred macro lager, and Coors Light is just nasty. And Miller High Life is "the champagne of beers," so it’s no surprise that it rated highly.
Let’s translate these scores into something more friendly. Using the highest-rated beer for each site, I "graded" each one on a curve, and sorted in order from high score to low score (I used the 5-point scale BeerAdvocate also uses on the back-end of their scoring system, which skews their original numbers a bit):
|Miller High Life||99%||PBR||84%|
|MGD||85%||Miller High Life||79%|
|Miller Lite||82%||Miller Lite||68%|
|Bud Light||68%||Bud Light||57%|
That seems pretty clear to me. The main variance I notice between the two datasets is the higher ranking of Corona on the RateBeer side. Corona is easily one of those beers that can go either way—it tends to get skunked easily due to being bottled in clear glass—so it’s no real surprise. Personally, I can drink Corona without complaint, as long as it’s not skunked.
So, when presented with the American macrobrewed light lager (and no other choices!), you should choose something from (arbitrarily) the top three whenever possible: Pabst, High Life, Rolling Rock, and maybe Corona. The numbers don’t lie!