By Joe Labriola

Options…all the options…

America’s now decade-long craft beer boom has granted us fervent beer lovers with seemingly endless options when it comes to cracking a cold one. With so many choices readily available though, how does a fan sort through them all to decide what brew — and brewery — is right for them based on their present drinking situation?

Enter the Six Tiers of Beers system developed over here by the Thunkers at Thunk Tank Podcast. While apps like Untappd and Beer Advocate are fantastic at categorizing and sharing recommendations with friends — as well as with the larger beer drinking community — our system here functions as a further convenient way to chronicle — and discuss — what drinks are worth drinking, or perhaps not, depending on what vibe you’re going for.

Tier 0 – Barely Beers:

These beers, quite frankly, might not even be considered as “beer” by many hardcore craft drinkers — and for legitimate reasons. Ironically, some of these drinks may taste ‘better’ than some of those in the next tier, but there’s little about them that tastes like actual ‘beer’. Rather than just snootily bash this corner of the market, however, we will give them a tier — albeit the lowliest one. Culprits include:

  • Smirnoff Ice (Good for Icing)

  • Bud Light Lime (Good for accidentally buying)

  • Mike’s Hard Lemonade (Good for…well, it is sweet)

Tier 1 – The Lights:

Light beer isn’t necessarily a bad thing — it certainly has its place in beer pong and flip cup games, but that’s about where their usefulness ends. Lacking in flavor and body, there’s little that sets these apart from one another — although that’s a debate for another blog post. Standards include:

  • Coors Light (As cold as…well, cold)

  • Bud Light (At least nobody pissed fake lime flavor into it)

  • Heineken Light (Mmmm tastes like hangover)


Tier 2 – The Party Beers:

Tier 2 beers are a bit more serviceable than the lights. In terms of drinkability, they sport fuller bodies and at least some semblance of a flavor profile. Like light beers, many of these work well for party times/games too, but are also acceptable candidates for backyard barbeques. Some regulars include:

  • Budweiser (Mmmm…rice malt…)

  • Corona (Probably belongs in Tier 0, but at least they let you add your own lime)

  • Pabst Blue Ribbon (Time to get your flip on)

Tier 3 – Solid Standards:

Tier 3 beers are those you might either find in your fridge or grab at 711 on the run to a party with no shame to be had. They won’t win any flavor competitions, but they’re actually nice in their own situational ways — especially if you need a break from the rampant high percentage craft kings currently flooding the craft brew scene. Candidates include:

  • Yuengling (America’s oldest brewery — yeyh)

  • Sam Adams Boston Lager (Well, it does taste like a lager)

  • Blue Moon (Mmmm…calories…)  

Tier 4 – Crafts Gone Big Brand:

Alas, all good beers must come to an end — at least those who sell out to InBev. They can claim whatever they want about ‘not sacrificing quality’ in the face of massive corporate sellout and scale up of production, but taste is taste — and we know when that changes. Note that tier 4 beers are generally pretty good (note how we switch the examples here from individual beers to the breweries themselves). Production numbers are merely a correlative element of our assessment (in fact, some of Goose Island’s brews, for example, belong in Tier 6, despite being owned by Anheuser-Busch). In general, however, tier 4 drinks simply lack the extra crispness of our friends in tier 5. The lineup includes:

  • Blue Point Brewery (Oh, you were so local for so long…)

  • Victory Brewing Company (Taste the monkey)

  • Magic Hat (The caps alone are worth it)

Tier 5 – Solid Crafts:

Now we’re talking (and drinking). Simply put, tier 5 is where we start to get into snooty beer talk territory — and for good reason. Many of these beers have relatively wide distributions, which is great for accessibility and sharing. No surprise that you’ll see these type of craft breweries have a few staples but often try new brews and collaborations with other breweries. Some solid crafts:

  • Lagunitas Brewing Company (Beware of drinkability, aka hangovers)

  • Barrier Brewing Co. (Juice, juice, juice, juice)

  • Southern Tier (#pumkingiscoming)

We came, we bought, oh we drank.

Tier 6 – The Golden Crafts:

So here we are: the highest strata of beer out there: the Golden Crafts. These include the top breweries in the country. If you’re a user of apps like Untappd, you’ll consistently see these beers ranked among the best available (often 4.5/5 or higher for some drinks). If and when you can get your hands on these, get ready to be blown away. Our favs include:

    • Tree House Brewing Company  (All the IPAs ever, but the best in America)

    • The Veil Brewing Co. (Some of the best of everything from sours to stouts)

    • Monkish Brewing Co. (Eclectic lineup whether you want a top tier hazy IPA, saison, or barrel aged brew)

So what are your favorite beers/breweries? Do you have any additions to these tiers? Let us know what you think, and drink!