In our "Ask a Bartender" series, we've had quite a few, er, spirited conversations about cheap beer—specifically, about folks in the industry who genuinely love it. "Why do you folks have such shitty taste in beer?" would read a typical comment.
What I found much more interesting was that so many folks who know their way around an IPA or a Trappist beer would, instead, opt for a PBR. We asked a few people in the food and drink industries why they love their cheap beer of choice, be it High Life or Coors Light. Here's what they had to say.
It's All About The Moment
"I made myself two things at the end of my shift last night, a daiquiri and a Miller High Life. It was a long, shitty shift. It was really, really hot. Those are two drinks that made sense at the time. If I were at dinner at Per Se—which I have been and saved a long, long time for—I would be splurging and extra $600 for myself and my date and I'd be in the hands of the somm and off on a fantastic taste journey. But I'm not, it's 4:30 a.m., I have $1000 of credit cards to enter into the register and I need some malt and alcohol and not much else. We have fantastic beer at [my bar] Dram, but that doesn't mean I can or should rip into a De Ranke XX Belgian, not only is it expensive and better saved for a guest to enjoy at a more decent hour, it's just not satisfying in that particular moment—a Miller High Life is."—Frank Cisneros (Gin Palace, Dram, The Drink, Bourgeois Pig Brooklyn)
Consistency and Enjoyment
"I drink Miller High Life, in the bottles, preferably. Here's how I look at it. It's 142 calories (though it's not like I've ever let calories get in the way of a good time); it's light and refreshing (I have proven to myself in Vegas that you can rehydrate on High Life alone); but more importantly, I've never had a bad one. I've had some lame versions of my favorite cocktails, but I can ALWAYS count on the fact that once I pop that cap, I know what's in my future. Some people may look down their nose at me while they drink their hop bomb quadruple IPA, but riddle me this—how much did you pay for that? I'm 100% sure that I'll enjoy my beer just as much and still be able to afford a shot of Beam, while you're still waiting to catch your more expensive buzz."—Billy "Bonefish" Fannemel (Couloir Restaurant, Jackson Hole Mountain Resort)
Cold, Light, and Simple
"I drink Coors Light almost every day, but when I can't have that I fall on High Life or Budweiser. I prefer it in a bottle over anything else, it just seems to be the coldest option to me. Also, I think that the reason that we all drink cheap beer compared to your readers is because when we get off work or are on our days off, the last thing we want is a heavy, dark, flavorful beer to bog us down. I try drinks all day long for a living and when I am done I just love light, bubbly, and almost tasteless wonderful liquid. Finally, most people don't have the option to drink anything they want all the time. Most of us do. So when it is always available ,we end up going towards what we don't have behind our bars."—Junior Ryan (Clyde Common)
"My love of bad beer comes from living and going to school in upstate New York. Genesee beer is what we are weaned on up there—you can't get it in Boston, so I drink my other favorite cheap beer, PBR. My love of PBR comes from listening to the Allman Brothers as a kid; on the back of the record "Live at the Fillmore East," the roadies for the band are drinking PBR pounders. And if PBR was good enough for Dwyane Allman, then hell, it's good enough for me."—Todd Maul (Clio)
It's Basically Water
"I LOVE SHITTY BEER. It's a service industry thing. As a cook or a bartender, you're spending a good 16 hours a day, 6 days a week thinking on your feet, figuratively and literally. It's hot, it's sticky, you've probably been chugging plastic deli containers of sparkling water all night, and when the last customer leaves and you're packing up, the last thing you want is anything with body or any real flavor. At those times, there's nothing better than a cheap, watery beer, preferably fished out of the bottom of a 5 gallon bucket filled with ice and water where they've been chilling for the last hour. You want something cold and refreshing that you can down fast without thinking about it. Later in the night is when the fancier beer or bourbon comes."—J. Kenji Lopez-Alt (Chief Creative Officer, Serious Eats)
What About You?
Who else out there is a cheap beer fan? And what about it do you love?