The cheap beer challenge

Editors down affordable brews to pick a winner

There’s nothing scientific about this tasting. Three editors set out to find cheap beer at two Calgary liquor stores (Co-op on 11th Avenue S.W. and Liquor Depot on 17th Avenue S.W.). We found cheap beer. We drank cheap beer. We harshly judged cheap beer.


Tagline: It’s the water.

5 per cent

Brewed in Saskatoon

$7.99 for a six-pack from Liquor Depot

The can looks like grandpa’s war tattoo or the logo from the United Brotherhood of Cheap Beer Drinkers — union chic that’s sure to appeal to the hipster crowd. It was one of the better tasting beers. Slightly crisp and inoffensive. It’s not good per se but it’s not going to give you nightmares.

If I were to drink this again I’d prefer it to be at a Legion hall a union hall or a hardcore show.


In my opinion this is quite possibly the best design of any beer can ever. The crest is perfect and definitely the first choice for any beer-related tattoo you may get. The fonts look so good and timeless and I want to go hang out by that waterfall. The taste is also absolutely delicious. Granted I had it after I was many beers deep so anything would’ve tasted good but this one stood apart from the rest because it was so smooth and crisp. This is a great cheap beer for relaxing at home or going out with friends. I’d definitely drink it again… in fact it’s already my top choice for lowbrow brewskies. Sipping on this little guy felt like going home.


Olympia has an ancient Greek/modern frat-boy styling. It’s kind of classic but something about it doesn’t feel too classy. Plus it loses marks for gold colouring. I just don’t like gold colouring.

I don’t really know how it tastes. Was watching the train. I’m just having a great time.



Tagline: Too laid-back for a tagline

5 per cent

Brewed in Kelowna

$7.49 for a six-pack from Liquor Depot

This can is Hawaii done wrong some kind of cheap-Kahuna wanna-be Sailor Jerry thing. Terrible graphic design.

The outside appearance however is nothing compared to what’s inside. The pissy aftertaste was hard to handle. The overall flavour was just plain bad. I could write more but I don’t want to think about it ever again.

Needless to say I would not drink this again and wouldn’t recommend it to anyone. Did someone get paid to make this?

— DA

The design on the can makes this look like no-name diet grapefruit soda. It also kind of tasted like that: while it strived for a vaguely fruity vibe it mostly tasted like pissy perfume. I’ve never had a beer that reminded me of aspartame before. I wouldn’t go out of my way to drink this again although if someone handed me one at a house show I wouldn’t throw it out. If they’re going for a beach vibe it’s definitely a very shitty man-made beach. I can almost taste the sand in the beer. In fact I tried to imagine myself at the beach while I was drinking this and I could only picture the bird shit the crying children and the sand creeping into my nether regions on the uncomfortable car ride home. The can brags that these are “craft-brewed in small batches.” Maybe they should try some large batches because this beer tastes like expired Mountain Dew.

— JH

Like the beer this can’s design is laid-back on the effort. It’s bright fun and beachy — but like a tourist. It tries hard and fails.

The beer tastes a bit like orange juice that’s a day away from fermenting in the back of the fridge. Absolutely disgusting.

I wouldn’t drink this again. Nobody should drink this beer anywhere.

— JN


Tagline: Um… Product of Mexico

4.5 per cent

Brewed in Monterrey Mexico

$9.89 for a tall-can four-pack from Co-op

The design of this newcomer to the Calgary market is Third Reich-meets-’80s hair metal logo design.

Although that sounds exciting the contents aren’t. This beer was plain watery and unobtrusive. It tastes like it was designed by a committee that was seeking approval from folks at Budweiser. Take water add the minimum amount of flavour with a pinch of alcohol and voila! This is spring break douche beer for people that are scared of Mexico and Mexicans.

That said I’d drink it again if I didn’t have another option as long as it was hot outside.

— DA

Tecate cans look amazing. The bird logo and font choice gives it the feel of a ’90s superhero cartoon. I want to fight crime with the Tecate League. Like Olympia Tecate is an inoffensive beer that goes down smooth. It has a bit of a bite about it but in a good way. There’s really nothing bothersome about it. It also reminds me of the first time I tried it in Tijuana so it’s a nice little vacation for my taste buds. This beer belongs in the sun for sure and it goes from good to fantastic if it’s really cold. A four-pack of tall cans is an affordable amount of delicious beer to get you through the night. I will definitely revisit Tecate.

— JH

Tecate has a kind of American Gladiators/Thundercats thing going on. It feels foreign yet strangely familiar. Tough but welcoming. And it actually tastes pretty good (in comparison of course). There’s a bit of spice to it but otherwise bland and easy. It’s smooth throughout.

I would drink this again for sure. Probably while riding my bike.

— JN


Tagline: Enjoy a refreshing change of taste

5 per cent

Brewed in Calgary

$5.50 for a six-pack from Co-op

The graphics on this can are just plain bad but if you’re trying to save a buck or two…. It gives the impression of Wisconsin suburbs or something produced by a fictional design firm named the Omaha Design Bureau. To bring it local it reminds me of what Calgary must have been like in 1977.

This was by far the cheapest beer so it gets bonus points. Naturally it wasn’t a great beer but it wasn’t gross. It tasted like copper and wheat maybe not the best flavour but it grows on you by the end of your first can.

Although I probably wouldn’t drink this one again I might have to pick up a flat if I ever go to the Big Valley Jamboree (I won’t). For the price you can’t really complain.

— DA

The can looks like those Canadian “a part of our heritage” commercials making me bored before I even cracked one open. The fonts are atrocious and the out-of-focus cowboys belong in some bad hotel room art. The look of this beer was a terrible first impression and the actual taste of it was even worse. It was wheaty in a really bad way and while it got more bearable as I made my way down the can it was far from a good drink. Even though the price is right if you’re scrounging through the couch for change I would go out of my way to avoid this beer in the future. This is some sad failure-living-in-a-trailer beer.

— JH

It seems this can is designed to make you feel more drunk and confused than you may actually be. It’s also kind of scary with a blurry stampede of cowboys storming towards you. It also reminds me of an old hockey card which isn’t scary. So in the end I don’t really know.

It tastes like water out of old copper pipes: drinkable but worrisome. It might be poisonous but hey if it’s all you’ve got…. And although I wouldn’t want to drink it again I might. It seems appropriate for stuffing your bag on a really cheap golf course.

— JN


Tagline: A dynamite lager

6 per cent

Brewed in Prince George B.C.

$6.99 for a six-pack from Liquor Depot

It looks like the folks from Jack Daniels designed this can geared towards a rodeo crowd. This could easily be a barbecue sauce design.

I won’t lie I was scared to put this brew in my mouth so when I did it wasn’t as bad as I was anticipating (still not good). It tasted like the beer dad used to have in the fridge when I was a kid. It’s malty with strong barley flavour and a pretty gross wheaty aftertaste. I imagine this is what it would taste like if you licked hay.

I wouldn’t recommend this one but if you were stuck in prison without any booze and someone offered you a can you should take it.

— DA

I was skeptical of this one going in… I think we all were. The can reminds me of a banner that would be at a terrible Stampede afterparty with a little bit of a Jack Daniel’s twist. The slightly higher alcohol content mixed with the design had me expecting a challenge to my gag reflex. Instead I was pleasantly surprised by the taste. Sure it’s not very good and it has a bitter aftertaste but it’s your classic cheap beer with a low price and just-bearable quality. If you’re looking for a good beer to crack in a dark alley this would do the trick.

— JH

This can has a classic cowboy styling like an old Calgary Stampede poster. It’s decorative but tough. Actually when I saw it on the shelf I took a step back.

However this is the most surprising beer. I’ll admit it: I was scared of the TNT. But it’s actually not that bad. Not good but nowhere near what I was expecting. It has an easy start and a tougher finish.

I would drink it again especially at slo-pitch. Or in a parking lot after hockey.

— JN