You didn’t come here to read about the best cheap beer (or maybe you did), and I don’t plan on preaching to you about why I think Coors Banquet is the penultimate beer in that category. Instead I’m going to have some fun and ramble about the stages of cheap beer and what they mean to the drinker in me, in you, in everyone.
1. Natural Light
“I’m in high school and this is the only beer I like”
Ah yes, the days of getting an older brother or sister to buy a 12 pack for you and six friends to get “drunk” with have arrived. You tried your dad’s Budweiser and thought it was disgusting, so you went with the cheapest, most watered-down option on the market: Natural, or “Natty”, Light. And it is delicious. Your new weekend hobbies include pouring Natural Light all over yourself and running around in circles with your friends.
2. Natural Ice
“I’m still in high school and this shit gets me so drunk bro”
You’ve graduated. No, not from high school. You’ve graduated from the mildly alcoholic water that is Natural Light to the slightly more alcoholic cauldron of Natural Ice. The full-flavored 5.9% alcohol by volume means that you can, on average, drink less beer to achieve the same desired effect. You still haven’t quite acquired a taste for beer, so whatever it takes to not look like a wimp in front of your friends is exactly what you’ll do. In the end, you’re only trying to get drunk and feel cool about it. Natural Ice will do the trick.
3. Bud Light Lime
“It’s the summer after 11th grade and I feel cooler than ever”
You’ve been reeled in by another one of those pesky marketing campaigns. There was an ad on TV that made Bud Light Lime look like the perfect, most awesome way to start your summer, and so you gave your brother entirely too much money to pick up a sixer of the ole Bud Light Lime for your weeknight routine of drinking in the field behind the elementary school. As you sip this concoction, you think to yourself, “This sucks, I want my Natural Light back,” but out loud, you and your friends rave about how Bud Light Lime is possibly the greatest invention known to mankind.
4. Bud Light
“I have a summer job and Bud Light Lime sucks”
Eventually you realize that Bud Light Lime isn’t as good as both you and the Bud Light marketing team would like you to think. Since you’ve picked up some part-time work at the local Sears, you’ve finally got some money of your own and you’ll be damned if you aren’t going to spend it on some real beer. Damn, it feels good to not be bankrolled off birthday money from Grandma for a change. From this day forward, you’re a Bud Light man. A real man, if you will. Your chest hairs are even starting to come in, and you even had your first kiss.
5. Keystone Light
“I’m a college boy now”
You’ve moved into your dorm room, and as soon as your parents left and orientation was over you went out looking for your first college party. You found solace at the Sigma Kappa Douche house, where they had a keg of some beer you’d never seen before. The super cool frat boys told you it was Keystone Light. It wasn’t quite as good as the Bud Light you drank during your high rolling high school days, but it sure as hell does the trick. If the frat boys are serving it, it’s got to be good, right? So you make the switch.
6. Miller High Life
“I just got a fake ID”
The only bar that will let you in serves Miller High Life in bottles for only two bucks. Looks like you’re livin’ the High Life now, baby. College just got a whole lot cooler. “High Life” literally describes your life now, and you make it known to everyone around you. You can’t get enough of it. You hop on a table and belt out the lyrics to a song that was on the radio when you were strapped into a car seat in your mom’s sedan. Before you know it, you’re hunched over the toilet bowl in your off-campus house, taking Snapchats of yourself as you vomit up the cheese fries and High Life cocktail of the evening. When the room stops spinning, you type “#college” and send what might be the best Snapchat of all time to every one of your high school friends.
“I’m older, and therefore Weiser”
You’ved puked up one too many Miller High Lifes and thus decide to make the switch to a better beer. Besides, you’ll be 21 soon and the time has come to ditch those silly underage beers for something more sophisticated. Drinking Budweiser makes you feel like your dad, and your dad is a total boss, so it’s a win-win. He would be proud to learn that you’ve finally acquired a taste for real beer. You order a pizza, daydreaming about sharing your first legal Budweiser with your Pops. You send your Dad a picture of the Budweiser pyramid on your coffee table and pass out with a half-eaten slice of pepperoni pizza in your lap.
8. Pabst Blue Ribbon
“College is over but I still live here and this is all I can afford”
You ride that Budweiser wave of happiness all the way through graduation. The Dean hands you that fancy piece of paper that’s supposed to mean you learned something, though you can’t for the life of you imagine what that might be. After a year-long grace period, that first student loan bill arrives and you start thinking it might be smart to start saving a few bucks here and there. Pabst is a couple of dollars cheaper at the local Rite Aid, so you make the switch and never look back. You shower less often now to save money on your water bill, and you can’t afford razors so you hardly ever shave, but you and Pabst have a nice life together and you wouldn’t have it any other way.