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Uninspiring beer: Americans drink a lot of it.
Craft beer may feel ubiquitous these days, but its sales in 2014 were still only about 11 percent of the American market. (The Brewers Association defines “craft” brewers as “small, independent, and traditional,” which still includes brewing behemoths like Boston Beer Company and Sierra Nevada.) How big are the big boys? Bud Light alone brings in $6 billion in retail sales.
But just because it seems like undesirable macro beer is everywhere, doesn’t mean you don’t have options. Here are local alternatives to some of the top 20 brands of beer sold in the United States last year.
Miller Lite A third of the top 20 beer brands sold in this country are unspectacular, cheap, socially acceptable alcohol delivery mechanisms classified as generic light lagers. I get it, you’re looking for something that you don’t need to think about and refreshes you easily. In this case, why not try DC Brau’s Brau Pils, a very drinkable brew featuring light carbonation and a slight hop profile that should meet your needs.
Bud Light One could argue that Bud Light is the Pepsi of macro beer: wildly popular, but hosting a unearthly sweetness that smacks of too much artificial flavoring (even though it’s made with rice, not corn). You should stretch out to Port City’s Essential Pale Ale, an American pale ale that looks like Bud Light, but smells like fresh apricot and grapefruit instead of syrup. Trust us, the extra 50 calories are worth it. Just do some jumping jacks or something.
Natural Light So, you’re looking for a party beer? Atlas Brew Works’ District Common is widely available in cans, incredibly delicious when cold, and all but asking to fill your Koozie right this very second. Better yet, just move your party to Atlas’ Ivy City taproom and dive headfirst into the rest of its portfolio.
Michelob Ultra Light, Natural Ice, or Bud Ice Put that down and drink literally anything else.
Budweiser, Corona, Heineken For all these American adjunct lagers’ “brewed the hard way” bloviations; for all their messaging that would tell you that appreciating great craft beer is somehow counter to the American Dream; for all the unavoidable advertising featuring Neil Patrick Harris and beaches: these are likely the most locally replaceable adult beverages on the market today. For starters, District Chophouse’s oft-ignored but incredibly reliable brewhouse pours their take on “light lager” that drinks clean and has all the familiar malty goodness that you get with the big boys. Brewmaster Barrett Lauer even cuts off a percentage point on the alcohol content, so it goes down even smoother.
Bud Light Lime, Bud Light Lime Straw-Ber-Rita Wait, these are beers? The good news is that Right Proper’s Ornette (a 3.7-alcohol farmhouse ale heavily featuring stone fruits) and Bluejacket’s The Jam (a strawberry Berliner weisse) are basically what these two beverages, respectively, would be like if they were actually serious about providing you full flavor instead of faux fruit.
Bud Light Platinum Take solace in the ease with which anyone with a pulse in this city can procure a bag of Swedish Fish and a bottle of rubbing alcohol at the nearby pharmacy.
Miller High Life, Pabst Blue Ribbon, Yuengling These bastions of the craft beer borderline are omnipresent in the District. Generally, each are justifiable options for consumption. But if you typically fall back to one of these three beers, go ahead and try something new that’s made around here: Flying Dog Brewery’s Easy IPA, Hellbender Brewing Company’s Bäre Bönes Kölsch, or 3 Stars Brewing Company’s Above The Clouds.
Photo by Jessica Sidman
Click here for more from our 2015 Beer Issue.