’ll admit this post is well past the point of being relevant since the Saratoga racing season is almost halfway over. I had intended to compile this last week, but I realized there were a lot of canned summer beers that I hadn’t tried yet. So, I went to Oliver’s and Westmere Beverage and spent over $20 on beers to taste test specifically for this list (only a few of them made the cut).
You’ll notice this list is completely different from last week’s, and
for good reason. This time I took into account the beer’s price,
alcohol by volume, and its drinkability in hot weather. By and large,
the beers on this list aren’t especially complex and robust, though they
all have genuine flavor without a heavy body. That’s not to say
drinkability trumps flavor altogether, just that I placed more emphasis
on it than usual. And once again, the beers must be sold in the Capital
District to be eligible for this list. The “comparable alternatives”
aren’t necessarily of equal quality or of the same style, but what I’d
recommend if you can’t get the listed beer and want something in same
NOTE: In case you didn’t know, Saratoga Race Course allows patrons to bring in their own beverages, including alcohol, just as long as it’s not in a glass container. That’s why this list is limited to canned beers.
10. Yuengling + Yuengling Light
Something I’ve discovered over the last year or two is that I’m building
up a tolerance to adjunct lagers. They used to repulse me, now I’m
mostly indifferent to them. In fact, there’s a select few I genuinely
enjoy (we’ll do a separate post on this another time). I’d have to say
Yuengling and Yuengling Light are two of the best macro adjunct lagers
on the market. They have a beautiful color, they’re low in alcohol (4.4%
and 3.8% ABV, respectively), easy to drink, and have more taste than
just corn water or rice. They’re comparably priced to the big boys, and
also make a great compromise beer since non-craft beer drinkers tend to
Comparable alternatives: Genesee Bock, Tecate
9. Narragansett Summer Ale
What the…? I’m putting a Narragansett beer on a “Best Of” list?
Hey, I’m just as surprised as you, though I have to admit that
Narragansett Summer Ale isn’t half bad. This is actually a light
American pale ale without any added spices or other flavors. It has the
genuine characteristics you look for in the style, though the hops are
reserved so it’s not overly bitter, and is quite refreshing . At only
4.2% ABV it’s highly sessionable and the price is appealing, too.
8. Butternuts Heinnieweisse
This is supposed to be a Bavarian-style hefeweizen, and it does have the
basic banana and clove components to the aroma and taste. But the thing
about this beer is that it’s almost like a banana candy flavor with a
sugary sweetness. Heinnieweisse goes down with the smoothness of water
and the clean finish and mild palette certainly help make it a good
refresher on a hot day. At 4.9% ABV it’s not too heavy, it’s
competitively priced, and you’re supporting a somewhat local brewery.
Comparable alternative: Harpoon UFO White
7. Sierra Nevada Summerfest Lager
The only craft lager to make this list, though I agree there are better
ones available. The reason I went with Sierra Nevada Summerfest Lager
instead of staples like Brooklyn, Samuel Adams, or Blue Point,
is because it has the deliberately milder, more refreshing palette you
want in warm weather. This is a by-the-book pale lager and it works
because of that approach. At only 5% ABV it blurs the line between what
is and isn’t sessionable, though I don’t think anyone would have any
trouble with at least two of these.
Comparable alternatives: Trader Joe’s Name Tag Lager, Sixpoint The Crisp
6. Brooklyn Summer Ale
Usually, beers with the word “Summer Ale” in the name bore me. They tend
to be overtly bland or have an excessive, almost arbitrary use of
spices in them (I’m looking at you, Samuel Adams Summer Ale).
Brooklyn’s is different, thankfully. Kind of a cross between an
English-style pale ale and a blonde ale. There’s a decent malty
backbone, coupled with citrusy hops, but all are restrained. I also get a
fruity sweetness, which is quite pleasant and makes it really
refreshing. Easily sessionable at 4.5% ABV, plus you can buy it at most
5. Caldera Pale Ale
There are a lot of great canned pale ales out there, so trying to narrow
this choice down to just one was tough. The thing about these beers is
that while they tend to be plenty flavorful, they also tend to be a
little too hoppy and heavier in body than you’d prefer in a summer
refresher. I decided to go with Caldera Pale Ale because it’s got the
hop presence of a pale ale, but nothing too bitter and is still
well-balanced overall. It’s refreshing while in the mouth, though there
is some residual bitterness. I probably should have ranked this a bit
lower (i.e. less good) on the list, but it has way more flavor than the
beers before it. This would be better enjoyed with a meal, but I
wouldn’t recommend sessioning it, as it’s the heaviest beer on the list
at 5.5% ABV.
Comparable alternatives: Dale’s Pale Ale, Sierra Nevada Pale Ale, Bronx Pale Ale
4. Magic Hat #9
Probably the most controversial pick on this list, but I stand by this
choice. Magic Hat #9 almost single-handedly got me into craft beer and
I’ve been grateful for that. And while I may not enjoy this brewery as
much as I used to, #9 still holds up whenever I drink it these days.
Most people consider this a fruit beer even though it’s a pale ale with
apricot flavoring. Unlike other quasi fruit beers, it doesn’t taste fake
or sickly sweet to me. It’s refreshing, crisp, and easy to drink in
large quantities since it’s 5.1% ABV. You can buy Magic Hat #9 pretty
much anywhere these days including supermarkets and gas stations.
Perhaps you can taste the sell out, but I can’t.
3. Blanche de Bruxelles
Authentic Belgian witbiers are among my favorite styles when it comes to
summer beer choices. The problem is, so few of them are canned that
Blanche de Bruxelles earns its spot on this list practically by default
(if only Blanche de Namur was canned!). Still, it’s a good beer and it represents the style well.
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 subtle and
becomes a bit more prominent as the beer warms. It’s as refreshing as
water to a marathon runner. The comfortable mouthfeel and smooth finish
make it quaffable. At 4.5% ABV it’s an ideal beer for picnics, camping,
and other warm weather activities.
2. Anderson Valley Summer Solstice
Let it never be said that I don’t heed the comments section. Last week,
my friend Alex lamented that this beer was missing from my “best canned
beers, period” post, so I went out and bought it just to see if it was
as good as he said. While I wouldn’t consider it one of the best canned
beers ever, I do think it’s indeed one of the best canned beers for the
The palette reminds me a bit of an Oktoberfest as there’s distinct
caramel, toffee and nutty flavors. The can indicates there’s “natural
flavor” added, which might account for the vanilla and cinnamon that
appear on the back end (they do seem a little artificial, though).
There’s no cloying aftertaste, which makes it refreshing and
drinker-friendly. There’s a lot of taste considering it’s only 5% ABV,
and you could definitely session this in hot weather.
1. Sixpoint Apollo
There are only a few Belgian canned witbiers for sale in this area, but
there are exactly zero German canned wheat beers around here (that I’m
aware of, anyway). In fact, there aren’t even that many American canned
wheat beers. I think New York’s Sixpoint brewery realized this and
sought to fill a hole in the market with Apollo. This is an American
take on the niche kristallweizen style (a filtered hefeweizen) that
could pass for the real thing, in my opinion.
It begins with a light zesty flavor. A hint of lemonpeel and dry
spice. It turns on a dime into a rich, sweet, authentic banana taste.
It’s a combination of fruity sweetness, with a subtle cinnamon bread
spice. The back end has a touch of apple juice. Perhaps Apollo is a tad
heavy for a sessionable summer beer at 5.2% ABV, but you’d never know
because it’s so drinkable. The mouthfeel is soft and comfortable and the
finish is super smooth. Refreshing as can be and it makes for a great
beer to drink on a hot summer’s day.
Comparable alternative: Sly Fox Royal Weisse