Since the beginning of the craft beer revolution there has always been an undercurrent of opposition, namely craft beer vs. macro beer. This may have been a false perception, as I have now discovered that macro beer is not the opposite of craft beer, just an inferior version of it. How do I know this? Because I have recently been made aware of craft beer’s true opposite: “value” or “budget” beer, sometimes know as “store brand” beer. I now think of beer in a linear spectrum with regular macro beers in the center (brands like Budweiser, Heineken, Pabst Blue Ribbon, etc.), acting as the neutral point or “zero” value. To the left you have craft beers in the positive range and to the right you have value budget beers in the negative range (meaning that they are worse than macro beers), making them craft beers’ true opposite.
We’ve probably all been walking around a Wal-Mart and seen “Mountain Lightning” and “Dr. Thunder” which are the Wal-Mart brand versions (inferior tasting knock-offs) of popular sodas like Mountain Dew and Dr. Pepper. These are produced with similar packaging and names but at a lower price, because who wants to pay $1.17 for a tasty soda when they can pay $0.88 for a “similar” soda. The $0.29 you saved goes to pay for that slightly “off” taste you tolerate every time you drink a glass. Apparently, this happens in the beer world as well, but the scary thing is that they are knocking-off the most popular beers like Bud Light and Coors Light. So what does a cheaper, generic version of Bud Light taste like? (My guess is broke alcoholism with notes of white trash).
A good example of this would be Game Day Light and Game Day Ice beer, the 7-Eleven convenience store brand. Notice the font used on the word “light” and the color scheme. Who does that remind you of? Game Day Light is 3.9% ABV and in its heyday you could buy a 12-pack for $6.99. What about Kirkland Signature Light from Costco, where you can get a 48-pack for $21.99!. That’s not even $0.46 per beer, what a deal! We often think of Keystone Light and Natural Ice as the poorer cousins of Coors Light and Bud Ice, but compared to Game Day and Kirkland Signature they don’t seem like such broken branches on the beer family tree, do they?
That brings us to what is possibly the most heinous example of all: Tesco Everyday Value Lager. If you’re not familiar with Tesco, that’s not surprising, it’s a UK based grocery and general merchandise store. They offer a beer that comes in a 4-pack of 440ml cans (14.88 oz) for 1.00 British Pound, which is $1.54 U.S. This beer is a whopping 2% ABV, which explains the “everyday” part of the name, since you could drink it every hour of everyday, and never be over the legal limit. The “value” part of the name probably refers to the 4 tall aluminum cans you get for $1.54 (as long as you don’t mind dumping them out), which can be used to make planters, lampshades, candle holders and such.
In the past we’ve been very critical of beers like Bud Light and Rolling Rock, referring to them as “cold, watered-down gym sock squeezins” and “green bottled mouth repellent”, so what does that make budget beers? At $0.38 per 14.88 oz can, what quality of ingredients can Tesco Everyday Value Lager even be made from? I can only assume it’s been brewed from the finest British dental sink run-off and leftover crumpet yeast. We haven’t even touched on what any of these value beers must taste like. I haven’t had the pleasure of trying any of them, but my imagination goes to a bad place when I try to picture it. I can’t shake the image of Elmo pissing into a trough filled with old 9-Volt batteries and stale sourdough bagels that is being filtered through plywood scraps. In terms of flavor, I feel like that is the best case scenario…