We’ve made no secret of our love affair with regional American food and drink here at First We Feast, from hot dogs and sodas, to hyperlocal oddities such as horseshoe sandwiches in Springfield, IL and loco moco in Hawaii. While the culinary landscape evolves across the country and boundary-pushing restaurants pop up in the most unlikely places, it’s the casual classics that still preserve a sense of heritage, binding together communities and driving local traditions.
The same can be said for beer: While we spend most of our travels hunting down local craft beers, it’s important to remember the time before hops took hold—a time when people around the U.S. pretty much drank the same beers (American lagers inspired by German pilsners) yet clung fiercely to the brands that held sway in their region. Today, all college kids drink Bud and Miller, but it wasn’t so long ago that penny-pinching boozers stuck to more regionally labels like Utica Club, Narragansett, and Schaefer.
Granted, many old-school brands that have managed to survive the shifting tides of the beer industry are often a shadow of their former selves, having gone through all manner of mergers and buyouts and—more likely than not—eventually been bought by Pabst Blue Ribbon, which has been steadily building a powerhouse portfolio of nostalgia-based brews (Lone Star, Blatz, Schlitz, and Old Style, just to name a few). Yet some remain family-owned to this day, and even those that are little more than labels at this point have the power to tug at the heartstrings. After all, sometimes you just want a cold, cheap beer, and it just feels right to grab the one that all the local old folks are drinking.
We asked our fellow beer drinkers in the Complex offices to share their favorite budget beers that tend to get overshadowed by the big boys and out-punched by newer craft breweries, yet still hold a certain magic. Click through the slide show to learn about some of the country’s under-appreciated cheapo suds.