The Cheap American Beers Bracket: A Champion is Crowned!

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It’s here, cheap beer drinkers of America. It’s the day most of us have been waiting for our entire lives. Finally, after decades of ignorance, we’re going to have a definitive answer to the “best beer” question. The next time you hear two people dating the relative merits of Bud and Coors, you can simply tell them that the issue has already been decided, and direct them to this link. This is the beer debate to end all beer debates, just like World War I was the war to end all wars.

If you haven’t been around this week, I recommend you catch up on previous rounds:

Tuesday: Introduction
Wednesday: The Sweet 16
Thurdsay: The Elite 8

Today, we’re going to pit four beers against each other in the Final Four, and also reveal the champion of the PEOPLE’S BRACKET. And if you don’t like clicking links, here’s the short version of what we’re about: Eight Paste staffers convened in Atlanta, sent co-founder Nick Purdy out to collect a selection of beers from local gas stations and one Kroger. We then held a blind taste test with 16 beers separated into four regions. If there was a 4-4 tie in any round, everyone turned their backs, I switched the beers or left them as they were, and we drank again. This proved to be an effective tiebreaker.

Here’s how the bracket looked after yesterday’s action (click for a larger version):



Now, then. We won’t keep you in suspense any longer. Let’s go back to Paste Headquarters, one week ago, and find out the best cheap beer in America.


(1) Budweiser vs. (1) Bud Light


As you see, this is an incredible tale of an underdog company proving everyone wrong and sending not one, but two beers to the Final Four. Either that, or a corporate giant succeeded against our best wishes. To be fair, though, the heavy and light regions were full of corporate giants, so it’s not like the little man was getting squashed here.

There were a lot of strange trends in this semifinal. I think, by this point, many of the tasters had cheap beer fatigue, and that was especially true of co-founders Josh Jackson and Nick, who normally only drink beers crafted by Tibetan monks from organically grown free-range barley stalks in Mesopotamia. Personally, I was just starting to get into my cheap beer groove, talking loudly, making bizarre proclamations, etc. But for the most part this had turned into a grind. Many of us (including film editor Michael Dunaway, who I keep calling out because I’m a bad person) had no idea which beer was supposed to be heavy and which was light. The exception, of course, was cheap beer aficionado and multimedia editor Dacey Orr, who may actually have cheap beer running in her veins and who knew immediately what was what. In the end, it was Dacey who delivered the dramatic eighth vote, consciously choosing Bud Light as some kind of tribute to the parties in her memory.

(1) Bud Light defeats (1) Budweiser, 5-3

(1) Miller High Life vs. (4) Keystone Light


I’d love to sit here and tell you that Keystone’s incredible Cinderella run, which included surprise victories over Michelob Light and Natural Light, culminated in a championship. But the truth is that it became a liquid embodiment of the Peter Principle, promoted just one round beyond where it really belonged. This wasn’t pretty; you don’t come into a showdown with the Champagne of Beers unprepared, and it seemed an awful lot like Keystone was just happy to be in the Final Four. From the very beginning, as Josh, Sarah, and Nick came in with quick votes for the High Life, followed by Bonnie and the two Michaels, the outcome was clear. Dacey and I cast two votes for Keystone, but at that point it may have just been a pity vote. I can’t remember; I had entered a cheap beer fugue, which would only end later that night with me crying in Olympic Park, shouting the name “Jimmy Carter” over and over.

(1) Miller High Life defeats (4) Keystone Light, 6-2



(1) Bud Light vs. (1) Miller High Life


The excitement was palpable, folks. We shook off our cheap beer miasma, and all across the room, eyes were wide in anticipation. All of us, I think, wanted High Life to win, if only because of some misplaced sense that it was less of a faceless mega-giant. But we couldn’t know where it was on the table; placard A, or placard B? All we could do was take our sips, be honest with ourselves, and cast our votes. They began to roll in. BUD LIGHT, said Josh Jackson. HIGH LIFE, said designer Sarah Lawrence. BUD LIGHT for Nick, BUD LIGHT for editor Bonnie Stiernberg, HIGH LIFE for film editor Mike Burgin, BUD LIGHT for film editor Michael Dunaway, HIGH LIFE for me. That made it 4-3 in favor of Bud Light, with just one voter left.

With a calm smile, Dacey Orr strode to the tasting table. She took a sip of the first beer. “That’s Bud Light,” she said. She was right. Then the second. “High Life.” Again, correct. Indecision grew on her face. Should she be loyal to Bud Light, the ubiquitous beer of her college experience? Or go with her heart, which told her that High Life had the better taste.


Four-four. A draw, in the championship. Everything that came next was a blur. I switched the beers. We tasted again. And the votes were switched! Josh, Nick, Sarah, Bonnie—they all went different ways. I’ll always believe it was the greatest overtime session in beer tasting history. When the dust had settled, and the carbonation had breathed its last bubble, only one beer remained: THE HIGH LIFE.

(1) Miller High Life defeats (1) Bud Light, 4-4 (6-2)

The Final Bracket:



And so the Champagne of Beers was triumphant. The day was coming to an end, and one by one we left the offices. We knew, though, that our lives would never be the same.*

*Except for the brand loyalty that would never change. Why would logic or empirical results make any difference? I chose against Coors Light twice, but guess what? I’m a silver bullet man ‘til death.



But enough about us! How did you choose? Coming into today, we had Budweiser, Coors Light, PBR and Michelob Light facing off in the Final Four. For the third straight day, more than 1,000 votes have been tallied, and here are the final results.


(1) Budweiser defeats (3) Coors Light, 566-452
(2) PBR defeats (1) Michelob Light, 810-206


(2) PBR defeats (1) Budweiser, 625-392

PBR TRIUMPHS! The final People’s Bracket:



So there you have it! The people love PBR, and this result has been fairly obvious since the beginning. It must be all those blue ribbons it won in Milwaukee. (Dirty secret: The company is now based in Los Angeles.) Thanks to everyone for voting and reading. It’s been a wonderful journey, and when we hit the convenience stores tonight across this great land, we’ll be empowered with beautiful, cheap, American wisdom. Have a great weekend!