It’s the beer your mom and dad drank, the first beer you ever snuck before you were legally allowed to drink, the beer you spent years swearing you’d never touch again once you fell in love with the craft segment of the market. But still, you’ll always have a soft spot for one in particular.
Depending on what part of the country you grew up in, the hometown hero of pale lagers varies, but the sentiment is the same. The way the scent your childhood crush wore brings you back to simpler times, the taste of a clean, cold, carbonated, pale lager pouring out of a can or bottle takes you back to the days when your life felt just as fresh and new.
Even the most beer snobnoxious of the crowd will proudly fill his can koozy with a “Vitamin R” from time to time. It’s as unassuming as flannel in the fall and has a taste you may not be able to pick out of a lineup of similar beers, but when someone offers you a Rainier at a party in Seattle, you say yes.
This vintage favorite is so well loved that Will Ferrell approached the company to ask if he could do free commercials for the brand. Why? In his words, “I just love Old Milwaukee. That's my official answer. I just love a good, crappy beer.”
Pabst Blue Ribbon
Blame it on branding, or a classic look, or the man-buns-and-ironic-T-shirt segment of the market, but there can’t be talk of classic American beer without a mention of PBR. Although this should possibly be filed under the “hipster goggles” category, along with Crystal Pepsi and tobacco pipes, there’s no denying how large this beer’s fan base is.
If you grew up in Chicago and spent your youth in the stands of Wrigley Field, your love for this beer runs deep and fierce. Sure, you get it when newcomers don’t understand why you like it, but that doesn’t stop you from resenting them for it.
The beer better known as “The beer that made Milwaukee famous,” almost lost its footing when it tried to change its formula and brewing process; the natives were not happy. After it returned to the original 1849 recipe (or as close an approximation as the new parent company could manage), those who grew up with this are back to being in love with it.
Miller High Life
It is the champagne of beers, after all, as well as the beer that launched an iconic American beer company. Since 1903, this beer has been showing up on store shelves, and—like it or not—generations of Midwesterners cut their beer-drinking teeth on bottles of this stuff.
This list isn’t comprehensive; many well-loved vintage beers are still out there with rabid followings. Truth be told, most people wouldn’t be able to pick their favorite out of a blind-taste test, but that isn’t the point of the beer in the first place. It’s the feeling you get when the can or bottle is in your hand, when you see the brand on the label, when the memories start to flicker behind your consciousness. I recently asked an accomplished chef, a man who has dedicated his life to flavors, why he always drinks cheap American beer after a shift. He responded with, “Because crappy beer doesn’t make me think; it just makes me happy.”
Which beers make you happy?
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