Beer on the Cheap:

Aug 31 • Drink Features, GRUB & GUZZLE7 Comments

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Beer drinkers can find independent brewers for less

BLUE RIBBON WINNER: Seth Parham enjoys both the dirt-cheap cost and moral standards of Pabst Blue Ribbon. Photo by Carter Smith.

The craft beer movement is really vibrant in Wilmington. As a bartender who works a selection of over 125 beers, it’s still inevitable that customers come in and order cheap $2 domestics over the $3.50 special on a small craft brew. On Mondays, it’s more disheartening because occasionally the $2 microbrew special will lose to a $2 High Life! Hands on the bar, eyebrows raised, these people don’t even bother scanning the coolers, because they have already made their decision based on the scale of quantity versus quality. One tall boy it is, then!

While it is easy to knock these people for their drinking choices, most of the time I cannot blame them. Half of them struggle with minimum wage, late rent, electricity bills, high gas prices, student loans, childrens’ needs, the starving artist lifestyle and more. Being a poor kid myself, I sympathize as I watch them dig change and crumpled one-dollar bills from their pockets, and give it all away so they can enjoy one drink and also tip.

Personally, I am picky with beer. Usually, I avoid succumbing to the thin, watery domestics myself, but it can’t be done all the time. I hear people talk about their desires to drink better beer and not support the corporations—yet, money is a problem. Many have asked, “What is a good solution to this drinking predicament?”

In the end, there still can be a choice here. For someone like Wilmington local Ted Roberts, who back in April told encore Live Local columnist Gwenyfar Rohler that he was refusing to drink beers from AB-InBev and MillerCoors, there are options like Yuengling and Pabst. These beers are independent from the Big Three. In fact, on Pabst’s website, after Anheuser-Busch merged with Brazilian/Belgian corporation InBev, they proudly stated how Pabst will be one of “the last of the famous iconic U.S. brewers to be fully independent and American-owned.”

“When it comes to the cheap beers, I tend to go with PBR because it’s normally the cheapest, it tastes all right and it’s not owned by companies like Anheuser-Busch,” local beer drinker Seth Parham says.

Both Yuengling and Pabst have been around since the early- to mid-1800s and, to this day, they still manage to not sell out to  empires. Sure, they have grown into the corporate world a bit, and are considered part of the domestics family, but people like Roberts and Parham can still quench their thirst, have some extra cash in their pockets, and in the end have their conscience at ease.

“Coors is good for making equipment and all,” Parham quips. “As far as taste goes, I’m not impressed. With cheap beers, taste-wise and morally, Pabst wins.”

In any Food Lion or Harris Teeter grocer, a six-pack of Yuengling is about $6, whereas a PBR six-pack is about $5 to $6. For more ambitious buyers, a 24-pack of Yuengling cans is about $17, whereas a 24-pack of PBR cans is around $13.50 to $14. For those more attentive to quantity, a cheap tall boy of either won’t break the bank and are mostly avaialble in the nearest convenience store.

Those with strict non-corporate beer diets should be wary, however. There are always a few specific products from smaller companies that are still somehow associated with the bigger guys (i.e., National Bohemian is distributed through Pabst Brewing Company, yet bottled through Miller). It’s important to really do the research to choose wisely.

For those who chide the domestics and pour their support solely into the independent micro and craft breweries, Sam Adams and New Belgium are probably the best options. Naturally, they’re more expensive than the domestics (around $17 for a 12-pack of Sam Adams Boston Lager or New Belgium Fat Tire), but it’s still a fair price and quality American beer from a small microbrewery. It offers a variety of tastes and bodies to select from. Other craft breweries and independent imports might find in the store: six-pack of Saranac is around $8; mixed 12-pack of Magic Hat beers is about $15; 12-pack of Red Stripe bottles is around $13.50.

For those North Carolinians who are really committed to sticking to local beers, they’ll be pleased to know that I was delighted to walk into newly opened store Carolina Farmin’ and see one of my favorite NC breweries, Duck Rabbit, on display. It was one of the cheapest ($9 for a six-pack) state beers available. Of course,  we have a fantastic brewery on Front Street that offers daily $1.99 mugs of their homemade brews.

With the growing craft beer awareness, people are bound to run into tough decisions based on taste, finances and ethics. Take note my fellow broke-ass, beer-drinking brethren: There are cheaper paths to take to support people and companies in line with a local buy, all the while being simultaneously easy on our pockets and purses.

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7 Responses to Beer on the Cheap:

  1. Another great article about craft beer that some how forgot to mention my favorite bar/ store. Cape Fear Beer and Wine has a dollar off NC beers every Saturday!

  2. Christina says:

    NC beer drinker, if you’re CFW&B staff, you know I love you guys to death :)

  3. Barbary Coast says:

    WOW! You do an article on PBR and cheap beer,and no mention of Barbary Coast?! $1.50 16oz PBR every single day, as well as over 100 craft and micro brews. Oh and did I mention it’s the oldest bar in Wilmington? I know we are on the south side of front street and all but geeze!!! We’ve been here for 67 years, long before most. Take a stroll down front street next time and stop by for the cheapest and coldest PBR in town. :-)

  4. admin says:

    We would like to point out that this article serves first and foremost as a price list of suggested beers to readers, more so than a business directory of where to get said beers. We understand tons of bars in town serve PBR and other cheap beers all the time. Because we’re only allowed so much space per week, we naturally cannot list everyone.
    —Shea

  5. Brewmaster Bill says:

    Another option for getting craft beer at a competitive price would be the Kirkland brand available through COSCO. A case runs around $18 and the beer is almost as good as the best micro’s around. At half the price, you can’t go wrong.

  6. Dan says:

    Check out this chart of brewery ownership and you might not feel so fuzzy about Pabst. http://motherjones.com/tom-philpott/2011/08/beer-charts It’s purchase by Metropoulos & Co. last year has made it part of a very large family of breweries. Guess they figured the end was coming soon for iconic, independent American breweries because they sold two short years after AB. I’m not knockin PBR drinkers. At least it is American still. But please don’t try to link it to the craft beer scene or independence. Their business model is the same as all the other macro-brewery swill and they rely on our dependence on cheap beer to flood the market with same old same old. If you want to drink cheap, support independence, and spread the word about real beer to help encourage variety, then hook up with your local homebrew club. Someone is sure to be willing to trade beer for a helping hand [or just take pity on you :)], and they often hold meetings or events at local establishments so you can still lend some support to your local retailer as well.

  7. admin says:

    Dan, can you share a local homebrewer club in ILM. I would like Christina’s next piece to include them. Thanks for the head’s up!—Shea

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