I’ve spoken before about my feelings regarding expensive beer: in short, as a person who doesn’t spend a whole lot of time at bars, where it’s not uncommon to spend $7-8 on a perfectly average beer, I’m totally cool with it. But I also realize that, for some people, there’s just no wrapping your head around spending $20 or more on a bottle of what amounts to one or, at best, two servings of beer. And really, as much as I enjoy leading the charge to get people interested in the fanciest of fancy beers, I also realize that there’s just as much pleasure to be taken in finding the best bargains on store shelves. So here we’ll look at five very, very good, readily available beers that can be enjoyed without cashing in on the 401k you probably don’t have anyway.
Ballast Point, Victory at Sea
Ok, so yes, this a 22oz bottle of this beer will set you back $10, which, if you’re thinking about this in terms of price per ounce, is still kind of a lot. But! You have to think about what you’re getting: an absolutely world-class porter brewed with huge amounts of coffee and vanilla. It also comes in at a whopping 10% ABV, so… well, there are much worse things you could do while watching, say, an episode of The Walking Dead.
Southern Tier, 2XRye
Really, I could have included any of the beers from Southern Tier’s 2x series of double, or imperial, strength takes on standard styles. Their 2xIPA is outstanding, as is their 2xStout, but I have a particular fondness for the fall seasonal 2xRye, which features a wonderful balance of sweet malt, super piney hops and bold, spicy rye. 6-packs are widely available for a mere $10.99.
Bell’s, Expedition Stout
This is another one that may not seem like much of a bargain, but only if you haven’t had it. For $15, you get a 6-pack of a huge, chewy 10.5% ABV imperial stout that boasts tons of chocolate, licorice, and a little bit of dark fruit. The added bonus here is that you’re also getting one of the best (and most affordable) beers that actually improves with age. Buy yourself a couple 6-packs and set one aside for next year. You won’t be sorry. (You’ll want to act fast on this one: once it’s gone–and it will be gone soon–it won’t come back for another year.)
The doppelbock is not a style many American craft breweries are making these days, which is sort of a shame, but also not really–not when you consider that the best one in the world, by a considerable margin, I’d say, is available for $3.99 per bottle and it comes with a fancy white plastic ram tag. The doppelbock, and Celebrator in particular, is the perfect fall beer: tons of molasses notes, a thick, pleasant mouthfeel, with hints of chocolate, caramel and plums. Alternately, if you’re into Oktoberfests, I’d venture that they make the best one of those, too, also for less than $5.
Lagunitas, Hop Stoopid
Assuming you can get past the extremely silly name, which is the sort of thing people who hate craft beer would be perfectly justified in complaining about, what you have here is an almost comically easy to find beer that, when fresh, is probably the closest you will come to finding a beer that tastes like the famed Pliny the Elder. You’ll want to make sure you’re not buying an old bottle–if there’s dust, walk away. For $5 per 22oz bottle, though, you really can’t go wrong.
Follow Mike Conklin in Twitter @MikeConklin.