More Buzz For Your Buck: Cheap vs. Nice Beers

We’ve all been there, particularly if you cared enough to start reading this post. We’ve all wondered whether or not cheap beer is a cheaper, more efficient way of getting buzzed.

There’s really no way to mince words with this one, so let’s just get down to the brass tacks. Here’s my formula: I’ll be taking three cheap beers (Coors Light, PBR and Bud Light) and three nicer beers (Elysian Space Dust, 21st Amendment Brew Free Or Die and, why not, Henry Weinhard’s Private Reserve).

Next, I’ll include what their ABV is – because, if you were not aware, the alcoholic content of the beer is the part that gets you buzzed.

After getting the ABV out in the open, I’ll determine some arbitrary price for the beers. These prices are arbitrary because prices change around the nation, but Total Wine’s prices will work well enough.

Here’s the thing: I understand that buying in bulk saves money. However, to keep things consistent with themselves, I’m going to be using the price for a 6-pack. I’ll then skinny it down to price per volume based on that info.

Next, I’m going to add in their calorie count. Calories don’t really play any type of roll in this, but a lot of people care about calories, so I’ll add it in to make them feel happy.

Finally, I’ll combine the ABV with the price per volume of the beer, and voila! We’ll have our answer. Let’s get started.

Which Beer Is Most Alcohol Efficient?

I’ve pulled all my information from Total Wine, so prices may vary. If nothing else, this should give you a better idea of which beer is most ABV efficient.

To determine efficiency, I took the ABV of a beer and multiplied it by the price per 12 ounces. This is what I call the ABV-Efficiency Ratio, or AER. The higher the number is, the more efficient the alcohol per price.

Here’s the efficiency of the six beer, ranked first to last:

  1. Space Dust IPA: .137
  2. Brew Free Or Die IPA: .105
  3. Henry Wienhard’s Private Reserve: .065
  4. PBR: .047
  5. Bud Light: .042
  6. Coors Light: .039

The results show that pricier-yet-more-alcoholic IPAs are a better buzz-for-buck than your cheap beers. Light beers were, unsurprisingly, the least efficient – however, they do have fewer calories, and I know some people drink these beers because they’re counting calories, or…whatever.

Another fun thing: the worse the beer is, the worse the AER!

This isn’t just my opinion, either – Space Dust IPA has a 96 overall on with 3.69 stars out of 5.

Coors Light carries an impressive 0 overall with 1.36 stars out of 5.

Here’s a chart with all the information you could ever need, including the calories of each beer (because I know that matters).


Cost for 6-12 oz cans

Price Per Volume

ABV-Efficiency Ratio


Coors Light 4.20%  $5.49  $0.92 0.039 126
PBR 4.74%


 $1.00 0.047 144
Bud Light 4.20%  $5.99  $1.00 0.042 110
Space Dust 8.20%  $9.99  $1.67 0.137 247
Brew Free or Die 7.00%  $8.99  $1.50 0.105 190
PR 4.80%  $6.99  $1.17 0.056 150


Over time I’ll be gradually adding to this list, and someday we will find out what the most efficient buzz-for-buck beer is.

Thomas Short
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