9 Best Old School Beers, According To Craft Beer Experts

With new breweries sprouting up everywhere seemingly every week, it’s easy to forget that it wasn’t always like this. The US is tipping the scales at more than 9,000 breweries and counting in 2022, but as recently as 2010, there were less than 2,000. And all the way back in 2000, there were fewer than 400. Even with the beer boom of the last two decades, there are a few beers that have been around since the beginning that are still popular today. These are the old-school, OG beers. We’re talking about beers from the 80s, 90s, and well before.

Jeff Smith, co-founder at LUKI Brewery in Arvada, Colorado has fond memories of drinking beer in a time when craft beer was something special. He knows how important it is to hold onto classic beers because they aren’t guaranteed to be brewed forever. His go-to beer was Raspberry Wheat from the now-defunct Heavenly Daze Brewery in Colorado.

“For me in mid-90s Boulder, there were only a few places around town that had this on tap. It certainly wasn’t available in bottles, so if not on tap you were heading to the source in Steamboat Springs before they opened a brewery in Denver in the late 90s. It was the first time I had a fruited wheat craft beer – and it was a fabulous balance of wheat body and tart fruit without it being a mouthful of yeast. It had a very clean finish that allowed multiple pins. In an age of fruited sours and ready-to-explode cans of ‘slushy’ beers, I long for the delicacy of this beer.”

While beers like Smith’s favorite fruit beer are long gone, there are myriad beers that were launched way before the craft beer boom that are still available today. In a world of endless options, can any of the old boys still compete? To find out, we seek out experts who would know, asking handful of notable craft beer experts, brewers, and brewing professionals to tell us which “old school” beers are still worth drinking today.

Odell 90 Shilling (Brewed since 1989)

Odell

Derek Gold, director of brewing operations at WeldWerks Brewing Co. in Greeley, Colorado

ABV: 5.3%
Average Price: $15.99 for a six-pack

Why This Beer?

My pick is 90 Shilling from Odell Brewing Company. Thirty-plus years later, this amber-hued Scottish ale has stood the test of time, thanks to its balance and approachability. Smooth, bright, and medium-bodied, its rich biscuit, toffee, and caramel malt sweetness combines perfectly with a light herbal and citrus bitterness on the back end, creating a beer that can be enjoyed anytime and anywhere. 90 Shilling was one of the first craft beers I ever tasted, and I’ll be drinking it for years to come.

Samuel Adams Boston Lager (Brewed since 1985)

Samuel Adams Boston Lager
Samuel Adams

Kevin Smolar, production and quality lab manager at Sun King Brewery in Indianapolis

ABV: 5%

Average Price: $9.99 for a six-pack

Why This Beer?

Sam Adam’s Boston Lager. Boston Lager is one of those beers that’s never let me down. It’s full of sweet malt and toasted biscuit flavors that are complemented by a bright, spicy hop finish. It’s a great beer year-round, but there’s something special to me about a Boston Lager and a hot dog outside at a baseball game.

Allagash White (Brewed since 1995)

Allagash White
Allagash

Jeremy Anders, quality control and safety manager at New Holland Brewing in Holland, Michigan

ABV: 5%

Average Price: $12.50 for a six-pack

Why This Beer?

Allagash White was first brewed in 1995 when most American beer drinkers had no interest in drinking a hazy, citrus-forward, spiced wheat beer. Since then, it has come to define the witbier style. Its approachability to the casual beer drinker has likely been a factor in its success. It has introduced many to the world of fruity, expressive Belgian beer styles, including myself. The citrus notes, from both the orange peel and the coriander, are complemented by just the right amount of spice. The effervescent body and creamy white head really make the aromas burst out of the glass. The incredible consistency from batch to batch is an indicator of a world-class quality assurance program as well. We can’t get it here in Michigan (yet), but it is definitely worth the three-hour drive to Chicago to bring back a keg.

Sierra Nevada Pale Ale (Brewed since 1980)

Sierra Nevada Pale Ale
Sierra Nevada

Dennis O’Harrow, head brewer at Lone Tree Brewing Company in Lone Tree, Colorado

ABV: 5.6%
Average Price: $10.99 for a six-pack

Why This Beer?

Sierra Nevada Pale Ale is the king of old school. Pale Ales have fallen out of the spotlight and given way to trendier styles that are hazy. This one remains a forever classic. Plus, it’s the beer that paved the way for the hoppy, crisp pale ales and IPAs of today.

North Coast Old Rasputin (Brewed since 1995)

North Coast Old Rasputin
North Coast

Chris Elliott, chief brewing officer at Wild Leap Brew Co. in LaGrange, Georgia

ABV: 9%

Average Price: $9.99 for a six-pack

Why This Beer?

My favorite old-school beer is Old Rasputin by North Coast Brewing Company. This was one of the only imperial stouts that was regularly available around Georgia in my early beer-drinking days, and I always loved that style. It’s fairly dry and bitter for a stout by today’s standards, but it’s nice to have a true Russian Imperial Stout every once in a while.

Anchor Steam Beer (Brewed since 1971)

Anchor Steam Beer
Anchor

Douglas Hasker, head brewer at Puesto Cerveceria in San Diego

ABV: 4.9%

Average Price: $9.99 for a six-pack

Why This Beer?

Steam Beer, Anchor Brewing Co. It’s not only a world-class beer, but Anchor Steam is the originator of a whole beer category known as California Common. What makes Anchor Steam unique are the ingredients and brewing techniques once used by necessity in the cool maritime climate of late 1800s San Francisco Bay. Light and refreshing like a traditional German lager but with the added character of a special yeast fermented at higher temperatures and distinctive aromas from Pacific Northwest grown Northern Brewer hops. A unique beer that helped kick off the craft beer revolution.

Miller High Life (Brewed since 1903)

Miller High Life
Miller

Chris Wittemann, area sales at Sprecher Brewing Company in Glendale, Wisconsin

ABV: 4.6%

Average Price: $6.50 for a six-pack

Why This Beer?

Miller High Life is my pick. While this has been around for a lot longer than the 80s or 90s, it’s another easy-drinking light lager that has stood the test of time. Smoother than Pabst but with a little more flavor. My dad worked in the beer industry for over 35 years, so you could say I “grew up” on High Life.

Sierra Nevada Celebration (Brewed since 1981)

Sierra Nevada Celebration
Sierra Nevada

Kyle Park, director of marketing at Neshaminy Creek Brewing Co. in Croydon, Pennsylvania

ABV: 6.8%

Average Price: $11.50 for a six-pack

Why This Beer?

Sierra Nevada Celebration is a beer that I’ll always buy a case of when it comes out annually and it’s a rarity for me to buy a full case of anything these days. Somehow, every sip is always a revelation even though I’ve had it countless times. I feel the same way about that beer that people feel about their grandma’s Christmas cookies.

Writer’s Pick:

Deschutes Mirror Pond (Brewed since 1988)

Deschutes Mirror Pond
Deschutes

ABV: 5%

Average Price: $7.99 for a six-pack

Why This Beer?

You might not realize it, but Deschutes Mirror Pond has been around since the 80s (1988 to be exact). This classic pale ale is known for its complex, well-balanced flavor with notes of grassy, ​​resinous pine, floral hops, sweet grains, and a subtle biscuit-like malt backbone that holds everything together nicely. There’s a reason this classic, crisp beer has stood the test of time.

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