Cheap American Beers: The Bracket — Sweet 16

Drink Features

We introduced you to the Cheap American Beers bracket yesterday, and today, the war begins! It’s the Sweet 16, with the winners advancing to the regional championship. If you have no idea what we’re talking about, it would behoove you to read that post if you want some context, because WE WILL NOT REPEAT OURSELVES!

Okay, fine, we’ll repeat ourselves. But really quickly. Ahem:

This is a bracket to decide the best cheap American beer for your party needs. Paste honcho Nick Purdy chose the beers on a trip to Kroger and two other convenience stores, in an attempt to simulate the experience ordinary Americans face when we hit the supermarkets and gas stations on a Friday night. If your favorite beer isn’t included (we hear you, crazy Genesee people), blame the city of Atlanta, not us. From there, we arranged the 16 beers into four regions, and had eight Paste staffers taste both beers in a blind test. In the case of a 4-4 tie, I made everyone turn around and either switched the beers or didn’t, and we tasted again. You’ll be shocked to know that every time, votes changed.

Oh, and there’s a People’s Bracket too! You voted in the first round yesterday, and at the bottom of this post, we ask you to vote in the Elite 8. What would a bracket of cheap American beers be without a little democracy?

First, though, let’s get to the first-round match-ups as went down at Paste headquarters in Atlanta. Here’s how the bracket looked before we started:



On to the first-round match-ups!


(1) Budweiser vs. (4) Busch


Right away, a classic duel between two of the nation’s ubiquitous heavy beers. This was also the first time I realized that all of us would be drinking from the same glass in each taste test. “Haven’t you done one of these before?!” Nick yelled at me, when I brought up hygiene concerns. No, I said, I had not. But I looked around and decided that Paste staffers, in general, were clean enough people. And I’m happy to report, nearly a week later, that I’m not sick in any way! Regardless, the first round was a complete blowout, with Budweiser proving its worth and, frankly, embarrassing the competition.

Budweiser defeats Busch, 8-0.

(2) Miller Genuine Draft vs. (3) Coors


I’m going to let you all in on some Paste inside baseball—there was some real controversy about which company, between Miller and Coors, should take the two-seed in the heavy and light division. I argued for Coors, but was voted down by the Miller bloc, who said their company had a higher profile. Who was right? Who was wrong? Hard to say, and, incredibly, this one ended in a 4-4 tie. Our first overtime of the bracket! Everyone turned around, I switched the beers, and we all tasted again. This time, Paste EIC Josh Jackson and designer Sarah Lawrence switched their vote, and Coors came away with a 6-2 OT win.

Coors defeats Miller, 4-4 (6-2)



(1) Bud Light vs. (4) Busch Light


After the total destruction at Bud’s hands in the heavies division, Busch Light was out for revenge. And it certainly made a better showing, but in the end it was Bud Light emerging with a 5-3 squeaker. This was also the first of many times that film editor Michael Dunaway confidently insisted he had chosen one beer when, in fact, he had chosen another. “I know Bud Light is C,” he said, “I choose that one.” But Bud Light was D, sir!

Bud Light defeats Busch Light, 5-3

(2) Miller Lite vs. (3) Coors Light


Readers, it’s time to confess; I’ve always been a Coors Light guy. It’s my cheap beer of choice, and I always get a little surge of happiness when I see a 24-pack at a party. I came in knowing, deep down in my heart, that I’d be able to identify Coors Light, and that even if it didn’t win, it would have my vote. And my undying affection. The result? I immediately forgot which beer was which after I placed them, and when I looked back at the key, I realized to my horror that I had chosen Miller Lite. HOW?! MY WHOLE WORLD, UPSIDE DOWN! Luckily, the next round would provide a chance at redemption, because Coors ran away with the win.

Coors Light defeats Miller Lite, 6-2



(1) Michelob Light vs. (4) Keystone Light


That no. 1 seed is slightly deceptive for Michelob, because it was originally supposed to be occupied by Yuengling. But the Pennsylvania beer’s distinctive color and taste made a mockery of our blind taste test, so we removed it completely. Michelob Light took over the top seed by default, and, to be completely frank, it was exposed as a fraud in a big way. Nick was so shocked by the result that he even made us re-do the test after he made the Michelob colder, but it didn’t matter. Keystone registered a shocking upset. We had a Cinderella!

Keystone Light defeats Michelob Light, 7-1

(2) Natural Light vs. (3) Icehouse


Natty vs. Icey (?) produced OUR SECOND DRAW OF THE BRACKET! What a battle. This time, I didn’t switch the beers around, and we re-tasted. Again, three people switched their votes. Assistant editor Bonnie Stiernberg, who at this point was pretty well done with tasting horrible beers, switched from Icehouse to Natural Light, and Nick did the same. Sarah (whose experience with cheap beers wasn’t exactly clear) switched the other way, but it wasn’t enough, and Natty was through!

Natural Light defeats Icehouse, 4-4 (5-3)



(1) Miller High Life vs. (4) Old Milwaukee


A lot of people worried that the champagne of beers might be looking ahead to an epic second-round match-up with PBR, but the focus was strong. Old Milwaukee put a game fight, but the High Life was high, and life-like, and unstoppable. Bonnie and I went with our hearts and chose Old Milwaukee, but we were the only stalwarts in a very pro-High Life room.

Miller High Life defeats Old Milwaukee, 6-2

(2) PBR vs. (3) Schlitz


A lot of folks were looking forward to this match-up, and complaining that two standbys like these had to face off in round one, which is why I want to put this next sentiment as delicately as possible: Taste-wise? Schlitz? Not great, Bob. This was a no-brainer from the get-go. Lots of scrunched up faces here.

PBR defeats Schlitz, 8-0

And that’s a wrap for round one. Here’s how the bracket looks for tomorrow’s round two, with some unbelievable match-ups. Bud vs. Coors, twice! Keystone looks to continue the Cinderella run! The Old-School championship between the High Life and PBR!




Now, on to your votes! More than 1,300 of you voted (wow!), and the only difference between our bracket and yours was that you put Michelob Light through against Keystone. Here now, your PEOPLE’S BRACKET!



Keystone vs. Michelob was the only tight race (about 55-45, in terms of percentages), and the Coors-over-Miller match-ups were the only “upsets” (proving I was right that Coors should have been the higher seed). The Buds won with about 80 percent of the vote (with Bud heavy creeping up to 90), the Coors’ each had about 60 percent, PBR was over 90 percent, and Natty Light and the High Life stood strong at 80 percent.

We’ve improved our voting system, and tomorrow we’ll be able to bring you exact vote totals. So, vote now! These are the Elite Eight match-ups, with the winner advancing to the Final Four. See you tomorrow.

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