If you’re familiar with the Saratoga racetrack you’re probably familiar with their “no glass containers allowed” policy. And every year like clockwork the local beer and foodie scene engages in debate over what are the best canned beers to bring to Saratoga.
However, I’m kind of tired of having that particular argument and
would rather focus on what are the best canned beers, period. Though
that’s not even what this particular list is about since I’m limiting it
to only beers that are available here in Albany. “Available” meaning,
you can buy it in local stores, not “only a few hours’ drive away,”
which is why you won’t see Heady Topper on this list. If it’s not sold in the Capital District, it’s not eligible for this list.
Honorable mention: ciders galore
I thought it was worth at least mentioning that a lot of ciders are
available in cans these days, including Crispin, Angry Orchid, Sir
Perry, Blackthorn and Strongbow among many others. I’m not much of a
cider drinker, but for those who aren’t big into beer or are allergic to
gluten, it’s nice to have the alternative. In fact, the ratio of
available canned ciders to total ciders available is pretty staggering.
I’d say at least half of all ciders sold in Albany are available in
cans. I wish the craft beer industry had something close to that ratio.
10. Blanche de Bruxelles
The only Belgian beer to make this list and one of the select few canned
Belgian beers available in Albany. Mild up front with strong lemonpeel
and orange notes through the middle. Nothing juicy per se – closer to
watery lemonade minus the tartness. There’s a spiciness on the finish
that starts off extremely subtle and becomes a bit more prominent as the
beer warms. The comfortable mouthfeel and smooth finish make it easily
quaffable. At 4.5% ABV it’s also highly sessionable.
9. Long Trail Double Bag
The German “alt bier” style is not one you tend a see a lot of American
breweries making. It’s actually quite amazing that Long Trail is able to
make such a good version of it with their “Double Bag.” Flavors of
caramel, chocolate and toffee are immediately noticeable. You’ll also
notice light spices such as nutmeg and cinnamon. At 7.2% ABV its not
nearly as heavy as it should be. Bonus points for the 16oz can.
8. Brooklyn Lager
The Vienna-style lager is probably the ideal lager for drinkers of all
calibers. It’s got the genuine, all-malt flavor the craft beer
enthusiast likes, but the relatively mild palette and easy drinkability
the Joe Six Pack likes. Honestly, this was a three way tie between
Brooklyn, Blue Point Toasted Lager and Samuel Adams Boston Lager. I’d
give the advantage to Brooklyn because I find it to be the smoothest of
the three, plus the fact its can is available in 16oz and not just 12oz.
7. Bronx Pale Ale
There’s a lot of great pale ales being canned today, many by some of the
biggest names in the craft beer industry (e.g. Sierra Nevada Pale Ale,
Magic Hat #9). And while those beers are good, readily available, and
quite frankly less expensive, I still prefer Bronx Pale Ale out of the
three. The base malt flavor is quite European, reminiscent of a robust
British pale ale or a German altbier. A mélange of toast, nuts, and
biscuits lays the foundation for the palette. It’s not too strong, or
cloying – just a nice balance of mild sweetness and earthy character.
The hops come through quite prominently in the middle and impart a dry
bitterness, but it’s nothing too high on the IBU scale (I assume).
There’s a light confectionery sweetness on the finish and the aftertaste
is fairly clean. Overall, a rather complex and well-balanced brew.
6. New England Ghandi-Bot
The New England Brewing Company exploded on the local craft beer scene
in 2012. I’m glad they did, because I’ve enjoyed everything from them
I’ve tried. While their “Sea Hag” is a good single India Pale Ale, I’d
have to give a slight advantage to their “Ghandi-Bot” double IPA. It
begins with a slightly sweet taste of apricot and orange juice, but then
quickly gives way to intense dry bitterness. The backend continues the
trend with a swoosh of garlic and onion-like flavors, while at the same
time there is some grapefruit tartness. This is the beer to get when you
can’t get Heady Topper.
5. Young’s Double Chocolate Stout
If you look at the beer selection from the U.K. in local beverage
centers you’ll see a lot of canned beers. The problem is, most of them
are dull, bland, pasteurized brews with little flavor. Young’s Double
Chocolate Stout is the only canned British beer I can think of that’s
actually worth seeking out. It’s a great beer for people who don’t like
stouts as the core taste is similar to Guinness, but with a significant
milk chocolate component (it’s brewed with real confectioner’s
chocolate). And much like Guinness, the can contains a nitrogen widget
to give it a creamy texture. This beer is also available in bottles,
which I prefer because it’s noticeably more robust, though the can is a
great liquid dessert or just a nice change of pace beer.
4. Uinta Hop Notch IPA
Simply put, it’s a great canned double IPA from Utah (well, there’s a
sentence I never thought I’d write). This drinks like a strong East
Coast-style IPA with its resin and pine character. While there is some
citrus, it’s not the star of the show. There’s some malty sweetness as
well, giving the beer a dense palette rather than anything crisp or
juicy. I do get mild orange flavor on the finish, which changes things
up and keeps it consistently interesting. At 7.3% ABV it’s a pretty
weighty brew, and it certainly takes advantage of its size, yet one
serving is not overwhelming.
3. Blue Point White IPA
Every once in a while a beer comes out of nowhere and takes me by
complete surprise. Blue Point White IPA is a good example of what I
mean. I first tried it on tap at The Bier Abbey in Schenectady and was
amazed. Big juicy citrus taste, bitterness and sweetness all around.
Orange being the most predominant flavor with a subtle dryness of
coriander and some other spice rack seasonings in there. It’s crisp for
sure, but still easy to drink in big swigs. The aftertaste is a little
dry but never cloying.
2. Sixpoint Righteous Ale
This pick probably took every reader by surprise. If you’re familiar
with the Sixpoint lineup, you know they can all of their beers, so
trying to chose just one was tough. Since I already have enough IPAs on
this list I decided against “Resin” and “Bengali Tiger.” I considered
giving this spot to “3 Beans” – a Baltic Porter made with coffee and
chocolate, but that beer is very expensive. So I decided to go with
their “Righteous Ale” based on the fact I consider it to be a better
This beer is juicy, sweet, and resiny from tons of hops, but with a
distinct rye bite. The palate begins with mild biscuity malt. It quickly
transitions to a taste of rye bread with hints of caramel (I know that
sounds odd, but just go with it). The second half turns on a dime into a
sweet nectar or syrup-like sweetness. Overall, it’s a complex, but well
balanced palette of rye spice, hop bitterness and malty sweetness. It
crackles across the tongue, but goes down smooth. And as bitter as it
seems, it never wears me down.
1. Oskar Blues Ten Fidy
Oskar Blues is roundly regarded as the brewery that made canning beer
cool. Though they weren’t the first, they’ve probably been the most
successful at it. Everything they make tends to be high in quality, so
trying to chose just one was difficult. I almost gave the nod to Dale’s
Pale Ale because it’s such a great-tasting, easy-drinking beer and so
impressive for an “ordinary” pale ale. However, I have to say their
imperial stout, “Ten Fidy,” is their best beer by far and probably the
best brew of its type available in cans.
It’s a delicious taste of dark cherry, red grape, chocolate syrup,
and some milky/creamy flavors. A quick burst of grapefruit tartness
followed by deeply roasted malt and coffee flavor and accompanying
bitterness. There’s a very subtle vanilla and woody flavor right as it
finishes, along with some alcohol warmth which actually accentuates the
palate rather than distracting from it. The mouthfeel is extremely soft,
thick, and calm. It coats the entire mouth and is flat-out comfortable.
To call it smooth is an understatement. At 10.5% ABV it’s as beefy as
the numbers would indicate, though there’s nothing boozy about it at
all. Drink this as a liquid dessert and you’ll be happy that you did.