As fancy microbrews slowly make the transition to 16oz "pounder" cans, let us take pause and celebrate the macro forefathers that pioneered the God-given right to slug back a watery beer, then slam their containers over your head. They are the beers that guided you through college, the beers that make tailgates possible. They are the "ice", "lite", "high-gravity", and "heavy" beers that get no love from the brewing world... except behind closed doors. We salute you, oh pioneers, by ranking your 20 greatest hits. And then doing the head-crushing thing.
Dranking and ranking 20 of America's favorite tallboys
20. Steel Reserve
How did this "high-gravity lager" that tastes like somebody dropped a dried apricot in a bucket of antifreeze and nail polish-remover become a favorite of college freshmen and park-bench dwellers alike? Oh, it's 8.1% alcohol. And costs about that many pennies.
Though brewed in Rochester, NY, there's a sneaking suspicion that Genesee's brewers ship water up from the Hudson River... the stuff tastes like super-stale Mickey's that somehow didn't go skunky, just funky. Let's not even imagine where the ingredients for the cream ale come from.
A favorite of tailgate parties and domestic violence-based episodes of Cops, Icehouse utilizes a method of fractionally freezing the beer in the brewing process. The result tastes like somebody dropped ice in a Bud Lite, then forgot about it for a couple hours. But hey! Booze!
17. Iron City
Pittsburgh Brewing Company's also responsible for American, Old Frothingslosh, and Old German. Drink those instead of this beer that pays tribute to the city's industrial roots by tasting a bit like a smelting plant.
16. Natural Ice
Natty Ice brings back a lot of college memories... memories of some dude bringing it over to your house, only to be shoved to the back of the fridge. Months later, broke, you'd remember it was in the fridge... then it tasted skunky. You thought it was because it had been there for a long time. It would have tasted like that anyway.
15. Keystone Light
This proudly white trash-baiting beer is perfectly drinkable, so long as you don't mind a little mustiness on your tongue. It's kind of like Keith Stone himself emerged from the woods to pour you a glass... then accidentally stuck his thumb in it.
People have been going Hamm since 1865, so Jay-Z really owes a debt of gratitude to the stalwart Midwesterners who created this serviceable lawnmower beer that's pretty bland despite a little bit of bite when you burp... Come to think of it, it may have inspired Magna Carta... Holy Grail, too.
13. Milwaukee's Best Ice
The name's got a little hubris behind it, considering the Beast is one of the lowest-level beers to come out of a city known for middling brews, but it gets points for pushing 6% alcohol without being nearly as gross as Steel Reserve... and for its weird ability to taste the same whether it's warm or cold.
Named for Washington State's capital, Olympia tastes a lot like an off-brand PBR... which isn't too odd, considering Pabst owns it. They own everything the Pacific Northwest considers ironic.
11. Miller Genuine Draft
The cold-filtered, unpasteurized MGD is pretty much the same as High Life but somehow has a heavier taste and a slight bitterness. It represented a new generation of Miller beers when it was originally released in the '80s, meaning you can go ahead and blame it for those Miller 64 commercials you hate.
10. Old German
OG's worth buying just so people can ask you about zee little German in zee little lederhosen on zee can. It's typically sold as the latter part of $5 shot-and-tallboy deals, which helps mask zee slightly musty aftertaste of what's basically a heavier-tasting version of Bud, sans the clean palate.
9. Bud Light
Sure, you can throw a lime in it, but Bud Light pretty much already masks the taste of beer by tasting like water. It is, though, the beer that somehow managed the task of making drinking light beer totally not emasculating, though its 2-8 record in the Bud Bowl tells a different story.
Another Washington classic ganked by Pabst (see?!), Rainier has long been considered PBR's more rustic cousin in image, flavor, and ironic consumption by hipsters... especially ones who consider the ironic consumption of Pabst not nearly ironic enough.
7. Coors Light
The Silver Bullet manages the not-difficult task of being a light beer that actually kind of tastes like, uh, heavy beer. It also gets points for the amazing task of tasting better when consumed by a lake or with a mitt on your hand.
Any beer sold in 30-packs of tallboys for under $12 knows its target, and Busch's is people who want to drink 30 beers, probably in one afternoon. It's kinda flavorless, but super-refreshing... especially after number 30.
5. Rolling Rock
Wanna have a fun night? Drink Rolling Rock with a Pennsylvanian and start up a convo about what the "33" on the label means... then sit back, listen to wild conspiracy theories, and sip this super-refreshing session lager that tastes even more crisp when you're having that debate on a hot patio.
4. Miller High Life
The unmistakably classy Champagne of beers -- if by "unmistakably classy", you mean "I'm a cheapskate and am going to drink this whole six-pack" -- High Life's crispness and corn-ish flavor actually taste like Summer. Unless you're boiling brats in it. Which you should.
3. Pabst Blue Ribbon
PBR made the strongest comeback possibly ever (Sorry, L.L., but it's been here for way more years): It's tasty, and it's friggin' everywhere. It unites red states and blue states. Hipsters and blue-collar workers. Nevermind the blue ribbon. Let's get a Pabst Nobel Prize edition.
The King of Beers gets a lot of flack from purists for its non-traditional brewing process (they use rice?!), but there's really no easier-drinking beer out there. The mellow taste, the slight bitterness, the ability to make frogs talk... it's good to drink the king.
Coors Heavy. The Banquet. Sam Elliot Blood. Stache-juice. When most people think of Coors, they think of the Silver Bullet. But Coors Original is the most full-bodied, yeasty, Rocky Mountain-y, satisfying, and bold of all the tallboys on the list. Dude... abide.