It has never looked better for beer drinkers. According to the Brewers Association, the number of craft brewers has increased steadily in the past 30 years, jumping from eight in 1980 to 537 in 1994 to 1,501 in 2008. Overall, the great variety of beer available today — from old-school Rust Belt breweries and small-batch niche producers — means more value for the beer-crazed among us. Here are MainStreet's top choices for great, cheap brews. There is something on this list for everyone — from canned craft beers to super-smooth American classics to good old PBR. What you won't find is anything priced over $7. When we say cheap, we mean it. Note on pricing and availability: Prices will vary from store to store. Most of these beers have national distribution, but a few of the beers, including Butternuts, have local distribution only. Photo Credit: mccun934
Butternuts is the brainchild of fanatical Chuck Williamson, who makes beer on a converted dairy farm in upstate New York. His motto: No muss, no fuss. There is no pretense in his luscious, sweet and malty Moo Thunder Stout. You can't help but chuckle at the dancing cow on the can, too. Price: $6.99 for a six-pack Photo courtesy of Butternuts Beer & Ale
Budweiser snagged two spots on this list. Its recently-introduced American Ale is described as "distinctly American in style." We don't know how to define American beer these days, but this seems to be Budweiser's way of dipping its giant foot into the craft-beer game. We'll play along. This is a fine, light-bodied ale with distinct citrus flavor. Price: $6.35 for a six-pack Photo Credit: Sonnett
Miller Chill is based on the Mexican recipe for chelada. The Chill is a light, 100-calorie beer with a salty-tart edge (it is flavored with a dash of salt and lime juice) and is super refreshing. Think summers by the pool. Price: $5.99 for a six-pack Photo Credit: andrewk100
Every month Eel River Brewing Co. offers one of its six packs at the discounted price of $5.99 (they normally cost around $7.00). This month, try their brisk Organic Extra Pale Ale brewed using organic hops from New Zealand and organic malt from the Pacific Northwest. Price: $5.99 for a six-pack Photo Credit:
Golden Wheat is Budweiser's take on wheat beer, which means it relies on malted wheat, instead of barley, during brewing. This beer is super-light, even fruity, with hints of coriander. Try it with a squeeze of lemon or orange. A perfect summer refreshment. Price: $5.99 for a six-pack Photo courtesy of Anheuser-Busch
Always easy to spot in its bright green bottle, Rolling Rock is a low-alcohol beer brewed from a mix of pale barley malt, rice and corn. It's crisp and bubbly. Price: $5.75 for a six-pack Photo courtesy of Rolling Rock.
Yuengling is America’s oldest brewery and the most famous resident of Pottsville, Pa. The Lager is the brand’s flagship beer, and it's easy to see why this beer is so popular: it’s super-smooth with an extra-crisp finish. Price: $5.29 for a six-pack Photo Credit: Sonnett
Like most beers on the market today, the Schaefer story begins with two German immigrants — in this case Frederick and Maximilian Schaefer — who came to America in the mid-1800s and started making beer. Schaefer was bought by Pabst Brewing Co., who has continued the Schaefer brothers' lager tradition. Price: $4.99 for a six-pack Photo courtesy of Schaefer Beer.
High Life is about straightforward, unassuming beer flavor at a bargain-basement price. Its tagline is "The Champagne of Beers," and while we're not sure it's quite so refined to deserve this title, it is one smooth lager. Price: $4.99 for a six-pack Photo Credit: bionicteaching
Pabst is the butt of all beer jokes as well as an American icon. Blue Ribbon is brewed by the same Milwaukee company that produces Schlitz, Colt 45 and Schaefer (also on our list). It's an amazing buy for less than $5 and has become a favorite among the hipster set, who no doubt drink it with irony. Price: $4.49 for a six-pack Photo Credit: Chris Harley
Lionshead is dry, crisp and clean — everything a classic lager should be. Not too hoppy with the perfect balance of sweet and bitter. Price: $7.99 for a 12-pack (or 66 cents a beer) Photo courtesy of The Lion Brewery.
Coors Extra Gold is a more intense and fuller-flavored lager with deep toasty, bready notes from roasted malts. Price: $3.99 for a six-pack Photo Credit: MillerCoors
Straw-yellow with billowy white foam, Red Oval Classic epitomizes the American macro lager style. It has a simple flavor profile and doesn't demand too much of the drinker. That's OK. Like the top beer on this list, it's produced by Wisconsin's Minhas Craft Brewery and goes down nice and easy. Price: $3.99 for a six-pack Photo Credit:
More golden than straw-colored, Rochester, N.Y.'s Genesee is another old-style lager. Like most beers of its kind, it is pretty one-note with a sweet nose. But that's just what takes us back to the lazy summers we spent drinking this beer, hanging out with friends. Price: $3.99 for a six-pack Photo courtesy of Genesee Brewing Company.
This beer, in a cheery yellow can, is brewed for Trader Joe's by Wisconsin's Minhas Craft Brewery, which also makes Rhinelander and Huber Bock. It's light-bodied, sweet and made for easy drinking. Price: $3.99 for a six-pack Photo Credit:
MainStreet's beer coverage doesn't end here. We have the scoop on some of the best organic brews out there and an informative story on weird hangover cures (should you find that you've learned a bit too much from our other beer stories). Cheers! Photo Credit: Misserion
Join the MainStreet team and other readers on our lively Facebook page! Discuss our newest stories and get links to breaking content, automatically. Click here to add us. Photo Credit: Facebook.com