Let’s talk about six-packs. No, not those six-packs. We’re talking about the carbonated drink that has the opposite effect on your tummy: beer. The beloved beverage helps take the edge off, tastes amazing after an intense workout, and even boasts health benefits.
We live in a time where top-notch beer—not that watered-down stuff we drank in college—is easier than ever to find. The only problem is that a six-pack of the good stuff can set you back a pretty penny. To save time at the liquor store and cash at the register, we asked four beer experts to weigh in on six-packs that taste expensive but won’t break the bank.
Editor's note: Prices reflect the lowest available price for a six-pack on Wine-Searcher.com and may vary depending on location.
While this lager doesn’t pack as much flavor as other craft brews on this list, it’s worth trying, says Joshua M. Bernstein, author of The Complete Beer Course. Most lagers are cheap beers made for easy guzzling, but Narragansett breaks the mold with a slightly bitter taste, providing a “crisp and light road to refreshment,” Bernstein says. Plus, it typically comes in 16-ounce cans, giving you even more bang for your buck.
For a reasonably-priced crowd-pleaser, Deschutes Brewery’s Mirror Pond Pale Ale is a great go-to, says Michael Larson, author of Beer: What to Drink Next and co-founder of beer review website The Perfectly Happy Man. “A solid mainstay, this clean, crisp refresher has enough malt backbone to balance a pleasing citrus-hop bite,” Larson says. The bright, slightly sweet pale ale pairs perfectly with a wide variety of foods too.
This is one pale ale that’s criminally overlooked, Bernstein says. It’s also one of the most dependably delicious beers on the market. “The pale ale is a floral, citrusy dream with a splash of grapefruit and just enough spiciness to keep you on your toes,” Bernstein says. He's such a fan of Sierra Nevada that he says this blend sets the template for all modern American pale ales.
Few breweries have a porter as a flagship, but Oregon-based Deschutes Brewery does. And they do it well, Bernstein says. This is one of those dark beers that won’t weigh you down. Bernstein describes the brew as “balanced and beautiful"—and anything but boring. “The smooth and chocolatey porter has an appealing kiss of bitterness on the conclusion,” he says.
This Czech-style pilsner from Lagunitas Brewing Company may look like a light beer, Larson promises that the taste is anything but. The “summer quencher with a ton of flavor” has a balance of bread and hops, forming an enticing aroma and taste. “The sweet malt flavor gives a support to the hops, which are present but not overpowering, resulting in a clean, refreshing brew,” Larson says.
This brew comes with all of the characteristics you’d expect from an IPA without the high alcohol content, says David Clarke, co-owner of Cooper’s Craft & Kitchen, a restaurant that doubles as a craft beer mecca. “At 4.5- percent ABV, this session IPA is loaded with fruity and tropical fruit-flavored hops,” Clarke says. And since it sets you back less than $9 for a six-pack, this is a brew you can drink on any budget.
Another brew from Founders Brewing Company, this is a rich beer that won’t make you poor, Larson says. The “impressively dark” brew pours thick and viscous with a dessert-like aroma of caramel, light coffee, and rich maltiness, Larson says. “While some porters can seem thin, even watery, Founders' take on the style is smooth and thick, but not syrupy,” he says. Sounds delish.
Loaded with Citra hops—some of the most sought-after hops on the market—this India pils lager comes from a fantastic brewery in Middlebury, Vermont. “Citra hops give this 5.75-percent lager a beautiful flavor of citrus, including lemon peel, grapefruit peel, and light notes of tangerine,” Clarke says. The flavorful blend is a great introductory brew for new craft beer drinkers—it looks like well-known lagers but sets itself apart in taste.
This ale is an “absolute gem out of Michigan,” says Jimmy Dunn, the general manager of Dempsey’s, a New York watering hole. “This American IPA is one of the best-selling beers at Dempsey’s,” he says. “An all-around classic at 7-percent ABV, it has a really good hop profile to it with floral and malt notes.”