Now before I dive into my recommendations, I'll preface by saying that I know that bombers, in the long run, are not as cost effective as buying 6-packs of beers. However, this is more focused on up-front cost for beer, which is why many of the options below are bombers. I'll save my rants about the price of big bottles for another post!
Lagunitas - Lagunitas bombers were, hands down, the people's choice when I asked Facebook and Twitter followers about their preferred budget craft beers. And I wholeheartedly agree. With a lineup of bombers that will only have you spending in the $3.50-$4 range, including special releases, it's hard not to put them at the top of the list when it comes to craft beer on a budget. Though there are plenty of options to choose from, Hop Stoopid is by far my preferred year-round beer they produce.
MacTarnahan's - There's actually just one beer from MacTarnahan's that makes it into the Kansas City area, but it's the beer that inspired this post. MacTarnahan's Spine Tingler is a Tripel, and while it may not be as impressive as something like Tripel Karmeliet, at less than half the price (I picked a bomber up on a whim for $3.99 at MDL) it's a solid Belgian-style beer. Spine Tingler can be found on the Kansas side, specifically at MDL, Metcalf Discount Liquor, Rimann, Lukas, Top Cellars and Kings Liquor. Also, if you happen to be in Lawrence, Cork & Barrel tweeted me the other day saying they have bottles of it for $1.99. You can't beat that!
Stone - With all the hype that surrounded Stone coming to Kansas City last year, I was pleasantly surprised to see how reasonably priced their year-round offerings were when they landed on shelves. IPA and Arrogant Bastard are my go-to Stone beers for something that won't break the bank, but will give you a great beer to sip on. Expect to pay around $4-$5 for these depending on where you are shopping.
Bear Republic - They're back! After a brief hiatus where they pulled out of the KC market (though with all the stock that remained, it hardly seemed like they were gone), Bear Republic is back and delivering fresh beer to Kansas City again. Racer 5 is one of my favorite IPAs, and along with their equally fantastic Hop Rod Rye, you've got a pair of bombers that should only put you out $4-5 depending on where you buy.
Trader Joe's - Trader Joe's may be the ultimate spot for bargain craft beer that people don't typically think of. For many of it's exclusive beer brands, Trader Joe's contracts their brewing to craft breweries like Firestone Walker, Goose Island or Unibroue. But by using alternate brewery names like Steinhaus, Black Toad Brewing Company, and Trader Joe's Brewing Company, they are able to cut costs and provide beer at sometimes absurdly low prices. There's a lot to choose from, but from the ones I've tried, I recommend checking out the Stockyard Oatmeal Stout, Black Toad Dark Ale (six packs of each of these should run around $6) and Mission Street IPA (bomber for around $3).
Deschutes - Along with Lagunitas, Deschutes was another brewery that was commonly mentioned online when I asked people about their preferred budget beers. And with bombers of Mirror Pond Pale Ale and Black Butte Porter, Deschutes' flagship brews, only costing around $3, it makes sense. Unfortunately, Deschutes is still only available on the Missouri side, but they supposedly will be making their way into Kansas at some point (it had been planned for March, but obviously got pushed back).
Crabtree - Crabtree Brewing Co. is a small, 5-year old brewery out of Greeley, Colorado that only distributes to Colorado, Kansas and Nebraska. While their beer probably won't change the world, and I wish there was a bit more consistency in their products, they offer some well-priced options for supporters of craft beer. 6-packs of their Twisted Creek Wheat and Boxcar Brown can be picked up for $5.99 at Lukas, and I spotted a bomber of their latest seasonal, Dearfield Ale (a golden ale brewed with strawberries) for $3.99.
Reader picksFacebook and Twitter followers echoed many of the sentiments above, and had some of their own preferred bargains to share, including:
• Boulevard 6-packs
• North Coast Old Rasputin
• J.W. Dundee 12-packs
• Shiner Bock or seasonals
• Ska bombers
• New Holland's Hatter series and The Poet
• Bridgeport bombers and mixed pack
Other tips• Keep an eye on liquor store social media pages to see when sales are happening on certain products. Sierra Nevada, New Belgium and Schlafly products seem to go on sale relatively often, so keep an eye out and you may spot a good deal.
• Visit a liquor store that offers individual 12 ounce bottles for sale. This is only currently possible on the Kansas side (MO requires a 3 bottle minimum purchase, whether that's statewide or just KC, I'm not entirely sure). Two stores that I know do this are Brown Bag Liquor (which has an excellent selection of single bottles, to boot) in Olathe and Gomer's in Lenexa.
• Have a Sam's Club or Costco membership? Check to see what's available there the next time you are shopping. Boulevard is sold at Costco and a reader mentioned that Sam Adams seasonal packs can be found at Sam's Club. You may be able to get some extra savings by buying a 12-pack or case there.
Do you have any other go-to brews for when money is tight but you need to make a beer run? Any other tips to share?