True story: The first time I got drunk was freshman year of college. While inebriated, I sent an email to the entire school that included, among other things, the lyrics to “The Super Bowl Shuffle” as well as a (false) claim that I’d defeated the computer Deep Blue in a chess game. The moral? Always drink responsibly.
And now, without further ado, I ado hereby present the unerring, unredacted and 100% correct L.A. Times Domestic Beer Power Rankings. For the purposes of this rankings, I have sampled and judged a large selection of popular domestic beers. And while I’m certainly not implying that any of the beers listed below are “watery” or “swill” or “bad” in any sense of the word, I’ll just say that the $22 Ironfire Outcast Dead Imperial Red Ale you like so much will not be found within this article.
I ranked the beers based on two qualities: 1) taste and 2) chuggability, a highly scientific metric I devised to measure how easily a given brew goes down the hatch, like a refreshing mountain stream tickling your esophagus.
1) Miller High Life
How are you going to argue against the Champagne of Beers? How could you not proclaim a beer with an elegantly sloped neck designed to resemble that of a champagne bottle, and occasionally bedecked with gold foil to reinforce the point, the finest American beer in all the land? This, beyond all, is the beer that says luxury, affluence and esservescence.
Miller High Life has a bouquet that tastes pleasingly of apple juice and Corn Nuts, light and sweet with just a hint of toffee. It’s highly drinkable and is remarkably skunk-free considering it comes in a clear glass bottle. The fact that it comes in squat little 7-ounce ponies for lightweights like me is all the better.
Chuggability ranking: 6
2) Bud Light
Like Natalie Imbruglia and this ligament in my left ankle, I’m torn. This was a contender for No. 1, and it could have gone either way. Bud Light is clean, crisp and ideal for hot-weather consumption. It tastes like a slightly alcoholic cream soda. It also positively crushes, sales-wise, every other beer in America. By, like, a lot. Bud Light shipped around 33 million barrels in 2017, double that of the second most popular beer, Coors Light.
And, yes, because I am a human being with a soul, I also enjoy Spuds MacKenzie, the sunglasses-wearing, skateboarding bull terrier from 1980s Bud Light commercials. But it wasn’t quite enough to push this beer into first place.
Chuggability ranking: 7
3) Rolling Rock
There’s something very welcoming about the deep green glass of the Rolling Rock bottle: It says comfort, hominess, the forest, high school. This is a malty-tasting beer with a clean and quite smooth finish, but the flavor that sings through (if there really is one) is one of a general toasted-ness. Make sure this is very cold when you drink it.
Chuggability ranking: 12
Much like the wagyu slider, the name of this beer makes you think it could be somewhat Asian; upon further inspection, you realize it isn’t at all. Established in 1829, Yuengling Brewery, which bills itself as the country’s oldest, got its start in Pottsville, Pa. The beer is very difficult to find on the West Coast and has a strong local feel to it, despite pumping out a couple million barrels a year.
The flavor is fairly stolid, much like the Midwestern temperament — a bit sweet with a slight lingering bitterness in the back of the throat.
Chuggability ranking: 11
5) Bud Light Lime
You know what? I’m just going to go ahead and admit that I like Bud Light Lime. I’m not sure there’s actually a more perfect beach beer — it’s just as good as a Corona or Pacifico. And when soaking up unhealthful UV rays, the lime flavor tastes remarkably not like a cleaning product.
Things change under the dark, sobering shadows of an actual bar, of course. Would you order Bud Light Lime in a bar? You certainly would not.
Chuggability ranking: 15
6) Coors Banquet
Founded in 1873, Coors has fully embraced the Rocky Mountain aesthetic of rugged dudes doing rugged dude things: Hiking. Panning for gold. Roping a steer. Or, if you’re a hot young St. Elsewhere-era Mark Harmon, putting on some waders and walking through a cold mountain stream.
The beer itself has a malty-sweet flavor — the finish is a little more sour than I’d have imagined from the breath of the Rockies, but at least it doesn’t linger.
Chuggability ranking: 14
Clydesdales. Beechwood-aging. The frogs that proved the world wrong and learned to say “Budweiser.” If there’s another beverage that says “America” more vociferously than Budweiser, the self-proclaimed “King of Beers,” I’ve yet to sample it.
Budweiser is a little malty, a little sweet and a bit heavier than you’d expect.
Chuggability ranking: 17
8) Michelob Ultra
Cotton candy’s alcoholic liquid equivalent: Michelob Ultra. This beer tastes like practically nothing, only vaguely sweet and goes down easier than Placido Domingo on a Sunday morning.
Chuggability ranking: 2
9) Pabst Blue Ribbon
I’m not exactly sure how Pabst Blue Ribbon got its reputation over the last decade or two of being something of a hipster beer (or what hipster even means, frankly). Because it’s cheap, I suppose? And has that state-fair, Americana look and feel to it? Whatever the reason, it’s probably not that the beer is super delicious, because it’s not. But it’s perfectly fine. Flat, nutty and a little sour, PBR has a delayed bitterness that lasts at least as long as a Neutral Milk Hotel song.
The beer itself isn’t bad. It’s slightly malty, a little sweet and is fairly drinkable — the flavors and slightly bitter aftertaste linger after you’ve set it down.
Chuggability ranking: 10
I tell ya, I’m not usually one to fall for the cowboy nostalgia of beer commercials, but this old Busch commercial, where they break it down a cappella halfway through the theme song, gives me legitimate chills. Actual goose pimples on the forearm.
Busch beer is fairly oaty with a slight mineral aftertaste. It’s not the most inspiring beer, but it may make you want to saddle up.
Chuggability ranking: 13
11) Coors Light
Coors Light, known as the “silver bullet” because of its signature shiny, metallic cans, is mostly what you want in a light beer. It goes down about as easy as a dozen White Castle sliders. The taste is not quite where it needs to be, though — it tastes like hard water; it’s minerally like when you’re drinking from a garden hose or a water fountain at the public park.
Chuggability ranking: 4
12) Bud Light Platinum
This is the sleek, turbo-charged version of Bud Light. This is what the Wall Street bros drink when they’re looking to cut loose but also need to watch their calorie intake because they don’t play lacrosse anymore (and weirdly, Bud Light Platinum has just 8 fewer calories than regular Budweiser). It’s a denser, slightly more bitter version of Bud Light.
Chuggability ranking: 23
13) Busch Light
Busch is so named because of the company that owns it. Anheuser-Busch InBev, with almost $55 billion in revenue in 2018, owns so many beer companies. In addition to all the Budweiser brands, they also have Corona, Michelob, Stella Artois, Beck’s, Rolling Rock and dozens of smaller brands. Ever wonder why a lot of your beers sort of taste the same?
Busch Light is actually an outlier, though, in that it tastes like nothing at all. I literally wrote down “no tasting notes.” It doesn’t taste like anything. It tastes like Arrowhead water. It is refreshing, though!
Chuggability ranking: 1
14) Miller Genuine Draft
I won’t pretend to know what “cold-filtered” actually means, or if it makes a marked difference in the taste of a beer. But in the case of MGD, which leans heavily on the adjective, it makes the beer remarkably … average. Like a 40-something-year-old man, the beer is fairly round and middle-of-the-road. There’s nothing particularly notable about it, save for a lingering, slightly acrid finish.
Chuggability ranking: 19
15) National Bohemian
With a name like National Bohemian, one would think of the beer as somewhat iconoclastic or unconventional. This is decidedly not the case. Natty Boh, as it’s affectionately known in Baltimore, where it is the go-to domestic beer, is about as un-bohemian as it comes: it’s yeasty and slightly creamy, with a mild skunkiness to it. It is, however, fairly cheap and chuggable.
Chuggability ranking: 5
16) Steel Reserve
Like Carrot Top, this is unexpectedly full-bodied. The austere-looking Steel Reserve can has plenty of writing on it to let others around you know that you’re serious about your drinking. This beer isn’t terrible — it’s sort of malty and sweet — but it just doesn’t have much soul. And it’s not something I’d want to drink more than one of. Fortunately, as this beer has a jaw-dropping 8.1% alcohol content, you may not need to.
Chuggability ranking: 26
17) Samuel Adams
Would you rather have a good version of something cheap, or a cheap version of something good? Would you rather have a super good grilled cheese sandwich, or a somewhat disappointing chateaubriand?
Sam Adams is a bit like the latter. It’s a bad version of a good beer. It’s trying hard. Trying with its deep amber color, tasting a bit too sweet and hitting a few caramel notes. But, like my last relationship, it leaves a slight lingering bitterness.
Chuggability ranking: 25
18) Natural Light
Natty Light: The staple of every bad college party. Forever staining the carpets of dormitory basements across the country. Natty Light is bad, sure, but it tastes like so little, can it actually be that bad? It tastes like when you accidentally grab the Brita from the fridge and pour water all over your cereal — slightly malty and very, very watered down.
Chuggability ranking: 3
19) Bud Ice
Bud Ice is apparently the product of ice brewing, wherein the beer is brought to a below-freezing temperature and allowed to freeze, just a tiny bit. When the resulting ice crystals are removed, you’re left, in theory, with a slightly more concentrated beer with a higher alcohol content.
In the case of Bud Ice, the alcohol percentage difference (5.5% versus 5% for regular Budweiser) is marginal, but the taste difference is quite noticeable. And it’s not a good noticeable. Bud Ice is sharp and very sour, like that brilliant but fundamentally damaged single friend you have who’s been on the dating apps for way too long. At least the taste dies off immediately, leaving no lingering memory.
Chuggability ranking: 18
20) Miller Lite
The classic Miller Lite commercials of old feature the never-ending debate over which is Miller Lite’s most notable characteristic: That it tastes great? Or that it’s less filling?
The debate is over. It certainly doesn’t taste great. After a particularly bubbly and fizzy nose, the actual flavor of Miller Lite then becomes clear — that of a frat pledge’s khakis at 3 a.m. on a Sunday morning. Like the memory of an encounter with the wearer of such khakis, the stale, skunky taste is difficult to shake.
Chuggability ranking: 22
21) Keystone Light
“Grab a ‘stone,” the friendly copy on the Keystone Light can encourages you. It should be noted that this is a different imperative than “grab ’em by the stones.” So sure, grab a ’stone, but know what you’re getting. A pretty average light beer that tastes slightly minerally and lasts a bit longer on the palate than it should.
Chuggability ranking: 9
They don’t let beer and cigarette companies advertise with cartoons like they used to, but let’s revisit an old Hamm’s beer commercial from 40 years ago in which a bunch of cartoon animals are playing a game of pickup baseball.
Suddenly, an adult, human man appears on the screen and encourages you to drink a refreshing Hamm’s beer. Then, like nothing happened, we’re back with the cartoon animals. Those were different times. And maybe Hamm’s beer was different back then, too, because today it’s certainly not much to write home about. Flavorless and largely without character, save a vague swampiness, it’s certainly easy to drink, but I wouldn’t feed it to any forest creatures.
Chuggability ranking: 8
23) Natural Ice
Natural Ice, the high-alcohol version of Natty Light, is a bit like the double black diamond ski trail at the resort: when you approach with undue hubris and take it in too fast, you run the risk of hurting yourself as well as others. Natural Ice is sharp and bitter but leaves virtually no aftertaste, like how hand sanitizer disappears without a trace.
Chuggability ranking: 16
I had an old teacher who used to constantly make a lame crack about Schlitz beer. He’d say something like, “when you’re out of beer, you’re full of Schlitz!” and then chuckle to himself.
I’m not sure exactly why he thought that was funny, or even precisely what the joke was, but he overlooked one essential: that the beer, Schlitz, basically tastes like cardboard. Like a big cardboard box. It drinks more smoothly, thankfully, than a cardboard box.
Chuggability ranking: 20
There’s a line from the old 1987 “Leisure Suit Larry” computer game that goes, “Your mouth tastes like the inside of a motorman’s glove,” used as a prompt to get you to use your breath spray. I never really knew what that line meant when I was a kid, but, after drinking some Icehouse, I now get it. The lingering, sour taste stayed on the back of my throat for a good two minutes after I finished drinking. I could feel fur growing on the back of my tongue. That’s not a good feeling.
Chuggability ranking: 21
26) Bud Light Orange
Imagine a “Twilight Zone” episode in which a horrible, rich man owns an orange grove and secretly despises oranges but loves to drink beer and wishes his whole family would die — and they actually do, when an asteroid strikes the orange grove (the horrible man is out of town when this happens) — and he finally gets to just drink beer in solitude for the rest of his life, but he didn’t realize that the asteroid striking the orange grove actually caused the groundwater to permanently get contaminated with orange flavor forever, and all the beer he will ever drink for the rest of his life will taste like oranges.
Anyway, that scenario would feasibly produce a beer like Bud Light Orange, one of the strangest, most nauseous beverages I’ve had in quite awhile. The orange flavor is so pervasive and overwhelming, like what would happen if Yankee Candle decided to open a brewery inside an Orange Crush factory.
Whereas Bud Light Lime can convince you to reasonably suspend your beer disbelief in the service of kind-of refreshing, fake-tasting fruit flavor, this is a shandy gone horribly, horribly wrong.
Chuggability ranking: 24