The Best Canned Beers to Drink This Spring

From hoppy lagers to mouth-puckering sours, here are 13 of our favorite craft cans to enjoy this patio season.

canned beer

Photo by Claudia Mak

Canned beer is officially an octogenarian this year, a milestone that shouldn’t be taken lightly. Not only has the 80-year-old innovation aided with issues of durability, distribution, and freshness (UV light is the enemy of beer), but helped propel the entire brewing industry past Prohibition’s residual quagmire in the 1930s. Lightweight aluminum cans have alternately been one of beer’s greatest achievements (helping it to become America’s drink of choice) and its most daunting adversary (paving the way for macro-brew conglomerates that snuffed out hundreds of storied local breweries). But after decades of shielding anemic, adjunct-riddled lagers, craft brewers have wisely appropriated the aluminum can to enhance stadium bars, music festivals, and beach coolers everywhere.

Today, more than 500 craft breweries have joined the canned beer revolution, jettisoning decades of unfair associations. Since Oskar Blues started canning its flagship pale ale in the early aughts, aluminum’s swill-based stigma has largely disappeared, as a surge of converts have flooded the market with crisp pilsners, sessionable IPAs, and even mouth-puckering sours. To help sift through this torrent of canned offerings, and equip you for the sunny days ahead, we’ve taken it upon ourselves to taste-test dozens of examples. Here are our picks to further enhance all of your best patio drinking this spring.

21st Amendment Down to Earth
Style: India Pale Ale
Alcohol by Volume: 4.4%

A permanent replacement for their Bitter American, itself a solid entry in the crowded session beer landscape, Down to Earth has a robust, malty backbone to help balance out several late additions of Mosaic and Centennial hops. With notes of orange and mango, as well as a dense, creamy mouthfeel, it’s almost like kicking back with a Creamsicle.

Anchor California Lager
Style: Lager
Alcohol by Volume: 4.9%

Anchor’s re-creation of Boca’s historic American lager, California’s first thanks to the brewery’s geography high in the frigid Sierra Nevada mountains, was almost ahead of its time when it was first introduced back in 2012. Now the idea of a mellow, easy-drinking lager almost seems de rigueur as more and more craft breweries are trying to appeal to the general populace with beers that wouldn’t feel out of place at a ballgame or some craft-centric pub. Slightly bready and herbal, Anchor’s lager also has a citric undercurrent that wakes up your palate and leaves you wanting more.

Anderson Valley Blood Orange Gose
Style: Gose
Alcohol by Volume: 4.2%

Opaque, sour, and briny, thanks to a defining addition of salt, the unfiltered wheat ale, Gose, was once relegated to outsider status in America. Now the lactobacillus-injected brew is becoming as familiar to beer geeks and the ubiquitous pale ale.  Anderson Valley’s fruited-style is one of the better examples with its dosage of real blood orange imparting refreshing notes of Key lime, starfruit, and tart lemonade.

Ballast Point Longfin Lager
Style: Lager
Alcohol by Volume: 4.5%

Inspired by the grassy, light-hued Helles style from Germany, this San Diego brewery’s crisp, malt-forward lager has notes of freshly baked bread, pear, and spicy noble hops. With its clean, dry finish, this nuanced quaffer begs to be paired with fish tacos, fried clams, and anything else best consumed dockside on a warm summer day.

Cambridge Brewing Company Flower Child
Style: India Pale Ale
Alcohol by Volume: 6.5%

If brewmaster Will Meyers is known for anything, it’s balance. So even with a roster of big-gun hops at his disposal—Simcoe, Centennial, Cascade, Ahtanum, Chinook, and Amarillo—Flower child never feels too boozy, bitter, or cloyingly sweet. That being said, this bright, floral IPA is certainly not short on flavor with notes of grapefruit rind and resiny pine, which can temper all manner of spicy foods.

Evil Twin Nomader Weisse
Style: Berliner Weisse
Alcohol by Volume: 4%

Nomadic Danish brewer Jeppe Jarnit-Bjergsø has built a cult-like following for his globe-trotting collaborations and his inspired flights of fancy (think beers fermented with jalapeños, peanut butter, and doughnuts). Now, the Brooklyn-based brewer has turned his attention to crafting a thirst-quenching Berliner weisse that bursts with aromas of pineapple, stone fruit, and lactic funk. And unlike most domestic examples of this now-fashionable Germanic style, Nomader Weisse has a restrained sourness that won’t strip the enamel from your teeth.

Night Shift Whirlpool
Style: Pale Ale
Alcohol by Volume: 4.5%

Despite a predilection for everything experimental, woody, and brett-spiked, the guys over at Everett’s Night Shift Brewery also make one hell of a straight-forward American pale ale. Brewed with wheat and Mosaic hops, Whirlpool has a soft, effervescent mouthfeel that complements its tropical West Coast profile. Starting in June, Whirlpool will be available for the first time in 16-ounce tallboy cans for even more peachy, lemongrass-laden goodness.

Notch Saison
Style: Saison
Alcohol by Volume: 3.8%

For far too long, Chris Lohring sat alone on his low-ABV soapbox, advocating for beers that wouldn’t leave you punchy after one pint. Oh, how the world has changed since 2010! His latest concept is a riff on an old standby, his “workers-strength” saison, now with locally sourced wheat from Valley Malt in Hadley and a new Belgian yeast strain, which according to Lohring, is “slightly fruitier and less sharp” than its predecessor. Be prepared for floral, peppery notes, along with hints of clove and bubblegum.

Oskar Blues Pinner
Style: India Pale Ale
Alcohol by Volume: 4.9%

Redolent of grapefruit, cayenne-dusted mango, and yes, marijuana, Oskar Blues’ entree into the session beer category is a not-so-subtle nod to the hop flower’s cannabaceae cousin. For those not well-versed in 420-friendly terms, a “pinner” is a skinny joint low on marijuana content, hence its association with the Colorado brewery’s lightest (though no less pungent) concoction.

Peak Organic Summer Session
Style: Pale Wheat Ale
Alcohol by Volume: 5%

The perfect choice for the indecisive: Summer Session incorporates the best characteristics of a traditional hefeweizen and a tropical, Amarillo-hopped IPA. Brewed with wheat from Aroostock County, Maine, this citrusy, single-malt amalgam has gentle notes of tangerine and grapefruit, as well as long, lasting finish. Say hello to your new favorite lawnmower beer.

Troegs Cultivator
Style: Helles Bock
Alcohol by Volume: 6.9%

Helles bocks, or Maibocks, are the surest sign that spring has arrived, and almost nobody in the country does it better than Troegs. Another standout in their “Hop Cycle” series (which also includes Sunshine Pils and Hop Knife), Cultivator is brewed with floral Hersbrucker hops that are complemented by hints of white grape, honey, lemon meringue, and toasty Wasa-like notes.

Two Roads No Limits
Style: Hefeweizen
Alcohol by Volume: 5%

Phil Markowski’s graceful Bavarian-style hefeweizen has alluring notes of coriander, Granny Smith apple, and not-yet-ripe banana, all in an chuggable 16-ounce frame. Two Roads’ No Limits might be stylistically correct, but it also possesses a refreshing, dangerous drinkability, that distinguishes it from its more austere Euro prototypes.

Wormtown Be Hoppy
Style: India Pale Ale
Alcohol by Volume: 6.5%

After a brief hiatus at the beginning of the year, Wormtown is back with a shiny new 10,000 square foot facility, and new head brewer (Megan Parisi) who is already nudging Ben Roesch’s Worcester brewery past some of New England’s elites. Definitely don’t miss out the aggressively hopped, Birthday Brew #5, a jammy, pleasantly bitter new triple IPA, or their “Cure” series of sessionable blondes. But for our money, you can’t go wrong with “Be Hoppy,” their chewy, mouth-watering IPA which first put them on the map, and is still one of the most sought-after beers in the state.