From the Palisades to the Catskills, the Hudson Valley offers countless challenging hikes and rewarding vistas for nature-lovers. Its peaks have inspired entire schools of painting. Its towns and trails offer a haven to urbanites seeking an escape the city. And until now, the popular hiking destinations of the Hudson Valley have been lacking only one thing: good local beer in a can for a refreshing summit reward.
But that’s about to change, as Newburgh Brewing Company marks a Hudson Valley first: local craft beer canned locally. Newburgh’s popular Cream Ale — itself a re-introduction of a nearly-extinct regional style — will bring new cans of craft beer to store shelves from the Hudson Valley to northern Jersey. And Chris Basso, Newburgh’s brewmaster, can’t wait to enjoy a few on the trail himself.
Editor’s note: While Kingston favorite Keegan Ales also offers canned beer, Newburgh Brewing Company is the first to brew and fill its cans in its own brewery. Keegan’s cans are contract-brewed in Connecticut.
“My girlfriend and I really enjoy hiking, but bringing a growler was too cumbersome,” Basso says. “It’s very exciting to know that cream ale will be waiting for me at the top of the next hike.”
For years, the humble can was maligned as an inferior package, fit only for cheap, mass-produced beer. Thanks to trend-setting breweries like Oskar Blues, 21st Amendment, and The Alchemist, that misconception began to change in the last decade. Brewers and consumers alike realized that canned beer wasn’t just acceptable — in many ways, the can provides the ideal vessel for certain beer styles.
“Cans are just an overall better package for beer,” Basso says. In terms of portability, cans are lighter than bottles, and aren’t prone to shattering, making them perfect for the outdoors. But the quality of the beer is also better preserved, Basso notes: no light can reach the beer to skunk it, while the seal against oxygen is improved over a bottle cap. And cans offer a long-term benefit: responsibly recycled, they’re better for the environment.
Newburgh is not the first to offer canned beer in the region, as a handful of NYC-based breweries have packaged their beer in cans for a few years. But it will be the first Hudson Valley brewery to take advantage of a new business model allowing beer to flow right from a brewery’s tanks into cans without a prohibitively expensive investment in a full in-house canning line, or use of outside contract brewing. Basso teamed up with MobileCanMan, one of the many mobile canning companies that have popped up around the country in recent years. Exactly what they sound like, these companies take the equipment and process with them wherever it’s required, allowing Newburgh Brewery to package its Cream Ale in 16 ounce “tallboy” cans with all-new wrap-around artwork (see above).
Newburgh released its first run of cans in early November, sold in four-packs or 24-can cases exclusively in the brewery’s taproom for the month. In December, cans of Cream Ale will get distribution and start popping up in beer stores. The brewery is working on label design and approval to begin canning its popular brown ale as well, and according to Basso, eventually hopes to tackle the other year-round beers in its portfolio.
Derek Dellinger is the creator of the brewing blog Bear-Flavored.com, brewmaster at Kent Falls Brewing Co., and author of The Fermented Man, out 2016. He leads homebrewing workshops and classes in the Hudson Valley with Beacon Homebrew.