The craft beer explosion has introduced thousands of new and exciting beverages of widely varying styles to the market. And while all of this diversity is nothing but great news, there are still a few longstanding American beers produced by some of the world's largest brewers that are absolutely clutch when a drinker wants a particularly reliable, no-frills, straightforward lager or ale. The following beers are four of the best, along with a bit about what makes each of them dependable go-tos any time of the year. Grab a cold one—or six—for your next cookout, beach day, picnic, or ski trip.
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Made with nothing but water, barley malt, rice, yeast, and hops, "The King of Beers" is still brewed much like it was when it was first introduced in 1876. Though some archaic beer purists might invoke the 16th century Reinheitsgebot (or "German Beer Purity Law") and bemoan the use of any type of adjunct in beer (all ingredients other than barley, water, and hops), Budweiser's rice content is part of what gives the beer its genuinely crisp, refreshing flavor.
Perhaps most uniquely, Budweiser is also the only brewer in the world to still maintain the practice of beechwood aging its beer. As it krausens and carbonates in a tank with beechwood chips for 21 days, the chips allow more surface area for the yeast to rest and eat more of the natural brewing impurities one wouldn't want in a lager. The result is an incredibly clean, easy-to-drink American lager with just enough light American-German hop flavor to keep things interesting.
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Coors Banquet is named after the feasts at which it was enjoyed by Rocky Mountain miners in 1873 when the Coors brewery first opened. Coors is another longstanding American Adjunct Lager but differs from Budweiser in that it is made with corn rather than rice. The result is a slightly sweeter, bready flavor that millions of American drinkers enjoy and prefer.
Coors claims that the water used in their beer comes from the Rocky Mountains themselves, flowing all the way down to the brewery in Golden, CO. Chinook, Hallertau, Herkules and Taurus hops are what give the beer a subtle bite, while legend has it that the malts used by the brewery can be linked to seeds of Moravian barley from the Czech Republic, which Adolph Coors II received as a gift in 1936. This light, clear beer is best enjoyed when nice and cold!
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Upon its introduction in 1903, the "Champagne of Beers" was dubbed so for its Champagne-shaped bottle that features narrowed shoulders. Given that penetrative UV rays are known to skunk beer, the clear vessel might not be best for the liquid inside of it, but Miller High Life's iconic packaging does give make the classic lager instantly recognizable. (Miller does, however, use a modified hop extract that's more resistant to the damaging effects of light).
As another corn-based lager, the "unpretentious" golden yellow beer is smooth with slightly sweet notes of cooked corn, grass, and grain. At 4.6 percent alcohol by volume (ABV), it's the lightest beer of the three mentioned thus far, and might just go down the easiest—but it also happens to have the most flavor, pairing incredibly well with a wide variety of foods: from barbecue, to grilled fish, to spicy Thai or Indian food.
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"Guinness is good for you," claimed the old slogan for the perfect breakfast beer/hangover-cure. But although the saying was developed in the 1920s, the beer it represents dates as far back as 1759 when Arthur Guinness began brewing at the St. James's Gate Brewery in Dublin, Ireland, where he signed a 9,000-year lease. To this day, one of the most recognizable beers in the world—one that defined the Irish stout as a style—is still a delicious, nearly-black brew that pours with a thick, creamy head. The aroma is rich and roasty, with hints of chocolate and coffee.
The balanced flavor is full of mocha and sweet, dark malts, all tempered by a slight hop bitterness. And at a surprisingly low 4.2 percent ABV, the velvety beverage served from a nitro tap goes down incredibly smoothly for a beer-drinking experience like no other.