Serious Eats has yet another great “Ask a Cicerone” feature, this time on how to find the best brew for your buck.
There’s some fairly obvious familiar brands that keep coming up like Sam Adams and Sierra Nevada, but there’s also some advice that is more general:
Walk into a local grocery store, see if there are any dusty 750 mL bottles of Belgian beer stronger than 7% ABV, likely find it on sale, and—unless one sees evidence of mistreatment/yeast agitation—buy up the lot and walk out a very happy beer drinker.
The best value in beer is likely the best-made, locally-brewed beer you can find. It’s not a cop out, it’s good advice! If they are taking pains to make a high-quality beer, it won’t get any fresher.
I can attest to the value in both of those approaches, as well as several of the specific brands–Lagunitas in particular is still a crazy-good value even this far away from the source.