Sunday, August 14, 2016


Michael Lewis' Moneyball might be the most influential book written about baseball, since it popularized many of the baseball management strategies used by the Oakland As. Their great innovation was to win without a lot of money by taking advantage of inefficiencies in the system. By using stats such as on base percentage when scouting players, for example, they could pick up great players for cheap who may have lacked the obvious physical attributes of the more highly prized prospects.

I have my own strategy, which I call Moneybeer, for getting tasty beers at a good price. The beers may not be as delectable as say an Edmund Fitzgerald Porter or Two Hearted Ale (two of my favorites), but for the money they're pretty damn good. They are Scott Hatteberg to craft beers' Mike Trout and Budweiser's Marv Throneberry. Not only are they better tasting than the name brands, they're also usually cheaper, too. Here are some of my candidates for best beer for the money.

Old Milwaukee
Old Milwaukee evidently made you a mountain man back in the 80s

I remember back in the 1990s, before the craft beer craze had fully saturated beer culture in America, Consumer Reports did a ranking of beers by blind taste test. (The beers were all relatively mass-produced.) Old Milwaukee won, which surprised me, since I always associated it with those cheesy "it doesn't get any better than this" commercials. But you know what? Yesterday it was hot as balls and I went to a Mets game with a friend. I packed a couple of Old Milwaukee tall boys in my ice chest to drink in the baking parking lot, and I'll be damned if that wasn't one of the best tasting beers I've ever had. There are better beers, but on a hot day few go down so smooth.

Pabst Blue Ribbon
Yes, a guy in Illinois made a PBR coffin for himself

This beer's reputation has been ruined by hipsters, but hey, hipsters often have good taste in stuff. It's cheaper than the mass market beers like Bud or Coors, and tastes better. One thing I've never understood is its distribution. So many liquor stores don't have it, and others only have it in thirty pack cubes. The other problem is that it has some kind of strange sugary chemical slurry in it, and I can't have more than two or the back of my throat starts tasting icky.

Narragansett Lager
Drinking a Narragansett is like entering a time machine, in more ways than one

This is a recent discovery. Awhile back I was at a work-sponsored happy hour at a bar, and my two drink tickets were good for either a shitty microbrew that smelled like yeast that a colleague gave to me because he couldn't finish it or a can of Narragansett. I went with the latter, and was happily surprised. It's out of Rhode Island, and I'll bet it's only available regionally. I happened to have it in their retro 70s cans (pictured above), which I can't seem to find in my local liquor store.

Preppies meet an old salt making chowder in the 70s in this Genesee ad 

From the forests and rusting factories in upstate New York comes Genesee. The first time I had it was on a total whim. I walked down to one of the local bodegas in my old neighborhood in Newark, and saw 24 ounce cans of Genesee for only a dollar. The cans were white with just a small red label, they looked so cheap and generic that I had to have one out of curiosity's sake. I like Narragansett better, but you really can't beat the price.

National Bohemian

Speaking of local beers, when I first went to Baltimore I was confused by seeing this on the taps at bars, and by all the people calling it "Natty Boh," rather than its given name. As my friend Jim once said of it, "I like a good shitty local beer." The aftertaste is a little thin, but I'll drink this over Bud any day.

Modelo Especial
Gotta love a beer that uses a garage rock classic in its ad

You've heard of Corona, Tecate, and Dos Equis, but you should be drinking Modelo. Their dark Bohemian version, Negro Modelo, is a higher priced and good, but the straight Modelo is the best Mexican beer for the money. Also a favorite on hot days.


This beer almost doesn't belong here because it is about the same price point as the big three. It is, however, SIGNIFICANTLY better than them. A lot of bars in these parts have it on tap, and if I am looking for something simple and good and cheap, this is what I order. My first experience with Yuengling was visiting a friend in Buffalo nine years ago. We went out to a dive bar with a friendly bartender with a Cheap Trick tattoo who kept lining up the Yuenglings, which I kept knocking down. Too bad this is the last time I've seen this friend. We really ought to catch up.

Ballantine Ale

Newark grew on the back of its industries, including brewing. At one point Ballantine Ale was one of the biggest beers in America, and by far its most popular ale (as opposed to lager). Like a lot of other industries in Newark, brewing fell too. (The Passaic River being polluted by Union Carbide's production of Agent Orange didn't help matters.) It's now brewed elsewhere, but is sold around here. It tastes like it's made more cheaply than it used to be, but being an ale, has a nice richness that a lot of cheap lagers lack.

Beers You Might Think Are Moneybeers (but aren't)
There are certain local or cheap beers that we all know are garbage, like Milwaukee's Best or Busch Light or Keystone. However, there are others that are more colorful that people like to think are moneybeers, but are just cheap.

Lone Star

I drank my fair share of Lone Star in my days in Texas, but usually only at my local bar, where they were often only $1.25 a bottle. You can't beat those prices. A friend and I joked that Lone Star tasted gritty, like there was a handful of Texas sand in each bottle. We drank it anyway, but Lone Star does not have the requisite quality to make it a moneybeer.

Old Style
"Brewed In God's Country" (more like brewed in the devil's rectum)

Some folks will try to tell you this is a moneybeer, but it tastes like stale goat pee. Can only be justifiably drunk while watching a game at Wrigley Field.

You won't be a stranger to indigestion, that's for sure

Gag-worthy. Tastes like it was fermented in a Detroit pot hole.

The beer is even more offensive than this ad

This once great beer is a crime against beer. I bought a 12 pack in college once because it was only four bucks. There was a reason for that.


Anonymous said...

This is the kind of popculture commentary I love from this blog. Thanks for this, especially the Genessee ad! I have to admit, I have never had Balantine's. Will this get me kicked out of the club house?

James W.

Werner Herzog's Bear said...

Thanks. Ballantine is available mostly regionally, so I can't blame you. Their IPA is actually really damn good, you should get it if you can.

Anonymous said...

Genessee cream ale is a regional delight that I think is solely found in upstate. If you ever have the chance to definitely pick up a case.