The Spectacle Blog

The Beer Spectator: Why Drink Cheap Lagers?

By on 4.23.14 | 5:35PM

“I’m surprised you’re drinking that swill,” my observant roommate uttered.

“It’s refreshing, it’s cold, and I don’t have to think about it,” I replied about my beer of choice for the evening.

That beer, commonly called PBR, is one of my go-tos on a low budget week. When I can find PBR by the twelve-pack, I pick it up. Why not? 

Some hate the taste. Some reject it for its simplicity. Some even frown upon its very existence.

Yet we ignore the passion that follows such a beer; a fiery love that drives a community in Milwaukee to “bring PBR home.”

This week I'm taking a break from spring seasonals to address a question: What makes us love something so simple? The answer: It’s refreshing, comforting, cheap, and it reminds us of home.

Pabst Blue Ribbon is indeed the simplest of beers. On a humid and sticky day, nothing else really hits the spot like PBR, or any cheap lager for that matter.

Sometimes we don’t want to think about hops. We don’t want to analyze what type of chocolate or caramel went into this beer, or where in the world that barley came from. We just want to sit and vacate our minds.

Nothing does it better than the simple lagers that many craft beer lovers choose to despise. They’re extraordinary because there’s nothing special about them, as Matt Naham says.

Even if you don’t drink PBR or Bud Light or Yuengling, there’s something to be said for roots. My roommate craves Boston Lager because that’s what his dad drinks while watching the Pats game.

I also drink Yuengling because I bought it by the mug in college outside Philadelphia.

The Bring PBR Home Campaign wants to move PBR back to Milwaukee because “Pabst belongs here, plain and simple.”

Beer is grounded in culture, just like any art form. Geography and culture affect both the nature and prevalence of the local beer culture. Britain and Germany created ales and lagers long before beer moved to American shores; the beverage grew there due to the climate’s harsh effects on grapes.

The Germans imported their lagers to the plains, mountains, and cities of the United States, where they quickly became industrialized under Anheuser-Busch, Miller, and Coors. Yet those breweries, before they became Anheuser-Busch Inbev, SAP Miller, and MolsonCoors, were appealing because of their taste.

Clearly both our taste buds and culture have matured since the 1800s, when those breweries arose. But American drinkers must never forget their roots, and, especially in the time of the Internet, we should prize that which is regional.

Finally, there is a value in buying an aluminum can full of God’s nectar for under a dollar. The ability to buy a twelve-pack for eight dollars at a local store exemplifies one of the many blessings of living in the United States.

With that realization comes a conclusion: Beer is democratic because of its price point. In the alcohol world, wine guzzlers and Scotch sippers consider beer chuggers to be the ugly plebeians in the corner of the dirt-floored tavern.

Yet it’s simply untrue, and we beer drinkers know that. Everybody has his or her own cheap lager. There is no shame in that. Here’s to drinking for home. Here’s to drinking to relax. 

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