What’s Your “Stretch” Beer?

A stretch beer is an important weapon in any beer nerd’s arsenal.  It’s the brew you buy to make the good stuff “stretch” a little bit further, saving you money and preserving your fancier beers for when you can really enjoy them.  

Stretch Beer Defined

Stretch beers usually have the following attributes:

  • They are delicious, but not too challenging on the palate, like a pale ale, a lager, a nut brown or even a mild stout.
  • They are fairly affordable, coming in at or under $1.50 for 12 ounces. Many are even less expensive.  Some are even homebrewed.
  • They usually have a lower ABV, but not necessarily as low as a “session beer.” Most of mine are in the 7% range.
  • They are plentiful at your local beer store, so you don’t the feel pressure that comes with rare or seasonal beers.

I mix it up a bit with my stretch beers, but more often than not I have some cans of Dale’s Pale Ale hanging around the beer fridge, ready to fill in the gaps between the big boys.  I’ll also mix in some Victory Prima Pils and the occasional Victory Lager, especially in the warmer months.

Perfect Uses for a Stretch Beer

Stretch beers are perfect for several occasions, especially when you want a beer, but aren’t in the mood for anything in particular.  Why waste expensive beers on your uninspired palate?

They are also great for buying time.  For instance, maybe I’m watching the early football game on Sunday waiting for the later game to start (the one I really want to see).  I’m saving the big guns for later, but I want a beer now.  What do I reach for?  A stretch beer.

Or I’ve had a bomber of something awesome and still want more beer, but don’t want to be batting cleanup with something special – that’d be a waste.  Or maybe I don’t want another 22 ounces of beer, but 12 would be just right.  In both cases, the stretch beer is the answer.

Stretch beers can also keep company out of the truly good stuff if they’re not really into craft beers, but want to try something “new” from your fridge.

As you can see, the stretch beer is the unsung hero of beer geekdom, the spackle that holds a beer collection together.  Without them, many fine beers (and dollars) would be wasted on times that call for something serviceable, but not special.

A special thanks to Daniel S on Facebook for making me realize how important stretch beers are.  His is Moosehead, by the way, which I think is a fine choice!

What about you? What’s your stretch beer?

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Craft beer nerd, frequent beer blogger and occasional home brewer.

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73 Comments on “What’s Your “Stretch” Beer?”

  1. Angela Arp
    October 7, 2010 at 11:08 am #

    Beers available for retail sales at my local grocery store…. I like Ska True Blonde & Avery’s Ellie’s Brown.

    • October 7, 2010 at 11:28 am #

      Nice. Beers available at my grocery store = None. Welcome to NJ!

      • Jason
        October 18, 2010 at 9:44 pm #

        From PA, I feel your pain.

    • June 14, 2012 at 8:51 am #

      I’m right there with you on the True Blonde, but for an Avery stretch beer I usually go with a Joe’s. We had dinner one night in Grand Junction when we were over on the Western Slope last week and the True Blonde was the best they had that paired well with the meal. Of course later in the week we had a number of beers at Ska’s brewery, then it was Modus all the way!

      • June 14, 2012 at 11:05 am #

        Local brews are always great stretch choices, as they are usually cheaper the closer you get to the brewery. In onterh words, I’m totally jealous you live in Colorado. It might be on fire, but the beer out there is nuts!

  2. Matt
    October 7, 2010 at 11:13 am #

    Session Red/Black
    Victory Prima Pils
    Great Divide Hoss

    • October 7, 2010 at 11:28 am #

      I’ve only had the Prima Pils, which is reasonably priced around here. Not sure if I’ve seen the other two. Hmm…

      • Don
        October 7, 2010 at 11:29 am #

        You had the Great Divide Hoss when we went to the brewery…I can tell it left an impression…

      • October 7, 2010 at 11:57 am #

        That was the Rumble, Don. And I enjoyed it immensely.

        • Don
          October 7, 2010 at 11:58 am #

          No, I had the Hoss, and you tried it…remember?

        • October 7, 2010 at 12:13 pm #

          Obviously not, except that I liked mine better!! It was boozier and I was in the mood for a big beer.

        • Don
          October 7, 2010 at 12:24 pm #

          Of course the best beer was the yeti I got for everyone!

        • October 7, 2010 at 12:39 pm #

          You’re right about that!

    • June 14, 2012 at 8:36 am #

      I’m with you on the GD Hoss (Jim, it’s a rye lager … does that help jog a memory?). The rye is just right to add that “little something.”

      And speaking of “little something” … Lagunitas Little Sumptin’ Sumptin’ is a favorite “stretch” of mine as is 21st Amendment Bitter American. Both have big flavors without being big beers.

      And one I know Don will like when it goes full time … Bourbon Barney Flats Oatmeal Stout from Anderson Valley (known as Featherleggy Bulrusher … I’ll leave it to the reader to translate the Boontling). It’s a special release now but I’ve heard it might go full-time in the next year or so. A 5.7% bourbon barrel aged oatmeal stout? Who wouldn’t want one? I had it recently and am counting the days until I can get another.

      • June 14, 2012 at 11:04 am #

        I’d be down with that Barney Flats stuff – It’s like everything I love about beer crammed into a session brew.

      • June 14, 2012 at 3:24 pm #

        Oh please tell me that its gonna be sold in MD.

  3. October 7, 2010 at 11:15 am #

    I don’t have one set stretch beer. In the winter I’ll usually have some Warsteiner dunkel on hand, though I’ll often grab a mixed 12 from Flying Dog, Harpoon, Magic Hat, Goose Island, or locals like Saratoga Brewing or Brown’s Brewing.

    • October 7, 2010 at 11:25 am #

      Mixed 12’s are a great way to go with stretch beers. I had the leftovers of a Smuttynose 12 pack from a holiday party last years, and they all were perfect for filling in the gaps – good beers with gentler flavors. Good call!

      • June 14, 2012 at 12:34 pm #

        Unearthing an old post? 🙂

        Following up to my original comment above, most often these days my “stretch beer” is my own homebrew. When you can brew 2 cases for $20 and have it turn out better than pretty much everything 2x-3x that price point, why not?

        • June 14, 2012 at 12:54 pm #

          Yeah, it’s part of the whole today Show website thing – too much to explain, so I just recycled it and figured folks would figure it out!

          Homebrew is a great stretch beer – nothing tastes better than pride in your own craftsmanship.

  4. October 7, 2010 at 11:33 am #

    Mine is always Saint Arnold Fancy Lawnmower. As a Kolsch, it’s very drinkable and at $7.99 a six, I have no problem tossing them back at will.

    • October 7, 2010 at 11:58 am #

      I think “Fancy Lawnmower” is the perfect name for a stretch beer – it covers all the bases.

  5. October 7, 2010 at 11:35 am #

    Never heard of a stretch beer before but I like the idea. I would say that my current stretch beer is Sly Fox Pheonix Pale Ale (in a can). Its the least expensive of the beers that I buy at the grocery store, plus I can take it tailgating (no glass bottles allowed). Also, it never fails to satisfy.

    • October 7, 2010 at 11:59 am #

      The “no bottles” thing is what got me on to Dale’s as well. It went from my go-to lake beer (no bottles) to my every day beer. I still think it’s fun to crack open a can of good craft beer. Guess I’m easily amused.

  6. mattfreshcraft
    October 7, 2010 at 11:39 am #

    Jim you have never had Full Sail Session Lager? Whats wrong with you!

    • Don
      October 7, 2010 at 11:49 am #

      I’ve had it. I can think of better things to do with a dollar.

    • October 7, 2010 at 12:00 pm #

      There are many things wrong with me Matt. And one of them is when I see the words “Session” and “Lager” put together, I generally head the other direction. 🙂

    • Evan
      October 7, 2010 at 3:08 pm #

      This is the exact beer I was going to suggest. Best bang-for-buck beer out there if you enjoy a nice, simple lager.

      • October 7, 2010 at 3:13 pm #

        Sure, gang up on us dopes! I’ll have to look for it.

        • Don
          October 7, 2010 at 3:30 pm #

          Look below the regular beers. They are in a squat bottle like Red Stripe.

  7. October 7, 2010 at 11:52 am #

    Great concept. I always keep some Sweetwater 420, Yuengling, and Fat Tire (even though I have to drive to Georgia for it) on hand to function like this. I call them “Football Beers.”

    • Don
      October 7, 2010 at 11:57 am #

      Nice Amie. I like to keep Teton Sweetgrass IPA and Laughing Dog Cream ale on had for just such occasions. Can’t get into the Fat tire. Just was never my thing.

    • October 7, 2010 at 12:01 pm #

      “Football Beers” is a good term, but I drink more beer than I watch football, so I don’t know if it’d cover all the occasions!

    • October 7, 2010 at 12:02 pm #

      Oh, and I really enjoy the Sweetwater 420 – tasty and light and just plain good.

  8. Dan
    October 7, 2010 at 12:46 pm #

    Ha! No sweat. Moosehead was my choice for a good chunk of the summer because a local grocery store was selling $7 twelve packs. I bought 6 cases! I’m switching it up to the GOOSE ISLAND Honker’s Ale that is in my keg fridge. Tastes great, a nice session beer at 4.2%, and a 1/6 barrel is fairly priced.

    • October 7, 2010 at 12:50 pm #

      You had me at Keg Fridge, Dan. 🙂

      Goose Island makes good stuff. Their Bourbon County Coffee Stout blew my mind at GABF – it was one of the best I had that weekend.

  9. October 7, 2010 at 12:58 pm #

    I’m totally with you on the Dale’s Pale Ale! I finally tried it on tap in early September and really loved it. And the can thing makes it that much more desirable since it’s pool and beach friendly. Not cheap at $8 to $10 / six-pack, but when Yuengling Lager goes for $6 to $8, I think the extra couple dollars are well worth it. Damn good beer!

    • October 7, 2010 at 1:05 pm #

      Yo! G-LO!!

      Great minds, thinking alike! Plus I find the cans fit into nooks and crannies that bottles do not.

      • October 7, 2010 at 4:31 pm #

        Yo-Jimbo (need to see that film some day)!

        Yes yes… cans are much easier to store for sure. That’s how I wound up grabbing a 6 of Dale’s and a 6 of Sly Fox Phoenix Pale Ale. Had a birthday party for my son and needed some brews for the adults. The fridge was full cause of the cake and stuff, but stacking two 6 packs was a breeze. Bottles are great, but tough to store one you go beyond a 6 pack.

  10. October 7, 2010 at 1:41 pm #

    Newcastle Brown ale. Course I don’t mind a few PBR every now and then and for some reason I can’t explain it’s Miller High Life in the 7oz pony bottle. Has to be the Pony Bottle.

    • October 7, 2010 at 1:45 pm #

      Novelty counts for some weird reason, John. I wouldn’t like Dale’s as much in bottles, but the cans are “fun” for some reason and make me love the stuff.

      I know, I’m an Idiot, but at least I’m an honest one.

  11. Trevor B
    October 7, 2010 at 2:22 pm #

    5.99 six packs of madison river brewing company, I think it is a locals discount or something

    • October 7, 2010 at 2:30 pm #

      I wish I had good local stuff cheap, but there are few inexpensive beers brewed in NJ these days.

      • Don
        October 7, 2010 at 2:49 pm #

        What about that one that is just a couple miles from your house? They gotta have less expensive brews…then of course you always have your favorite garage brew…Manor House.

  12. David
    October 7, 2010 at 3:56 pm #

    I also like Full Sail Session Lager. It’s under $10 for a 12er and is tasty. Others I go for are Sierran Nevada PA, Green Flash West Coast IPA or Firestone Double Barrel.

    • Don
      October 7, 2010 at 4:07 pm #

      I guess I’m the odd man out here, but I thought the Full Sail stuff was nothing special. I’d rather buy a Sam Adams or a SN for almost the same price.

      • October 7, 2010 at 5:22 pm #

        Odd? yes.

        Man? Well, technically, I guess…

  13. October 8, 2010 at 9:26 am #

    Great concept! Lately its been the Sam Adams Octoberfest, but other times of the year its been Sierra Nevada Kellerweis or their Pale Ale.

    • October 8, 2010 at 9:35 am #

      All solid choices for sure. I really loved the Kellerweis this summer.

  14. October 8, 2010 at 10:40 am #

    Samuel Adams – hard to go wrong at $6.99 for six bottles. Depending on the time of year and my mood it could be cream stout, coastal wheat, or something seasonal.

  15. October 8, 2010 at 11:58 am #

    Never heard of it referred to as a stretch beer, but it makes sense. If I have to buy a commercial stretcher then mine is either Sierra Nevada Pale Ale or Sierra Nevada Torpedo. More Torpedo than PA. For the most part my homebrew is my stretch beer to get me between my cravings for a monster double IPA or Russian Imperial Stout.

    • October 8, 2010 at 12:10 pm #

      Well, I made up the term “stretch” but not the concept – it’s something we all do I think, I just gave it a name.

      I don’t have much room between my cravings for DIPA’s and RIS’s myself, but I try. I try.

  16. Jason
    October 18, 2010 at 9:58 pm #

    “Stretch beer”, love the name for it!

    Mine usually ranges from Lion’s Head in the summer, to Yuengling or some variety of Sam Adams in the winter. But I finally got a chance to try Sly Fox Phoenix Pale Ale as well as their Oktoberfest and they were both really good, so my usual suspects may be having some competition 🙂

    • October 19, 2010 at 12:58 pm #

      I keep hearing good stuff about Sly Fox but have yet to have that “a-ha” beer from them. I’ll keep trying.

  17. Dude
    November 6, 2010 at 12:16 am #

    Stretch beer is great. I also have “Lawnmowing” beer. That’s the really cheap watery crap you chug 32 oz. of in no time! As far as the “stretch” aspect is concerned, I actually have a system. I use this for both wine and beer. I get little round garage sale price stickers and put them on the tops of the bottles. This is to help my wife navigate the cellar and fridge. Green = Let ‘er rip, drink away, honey. Red = wait for me to get home or ask first. This also helps me to stop myself from drinking all the awesome beer or wine all at once and reminds me to use the stretch.

    • November 6, 2010 at 9:43 am #

      Awesome idea, Jeff! I’ll have to “red tag” some selections myself.

      Instead I hide them in boxes and tell my wife to stay out. Everything in the fridge is fair game.

      But your system is so much better.

  18. Matt
    December 9, 2010 at 7:53 pm #

    BTW. Nice site. Just stumbled across it and enjoying the banter. Saw the write-up about Dallas. Yes it can be very frustrating to read about all these great craft brews only to be disappointed by state laws (i.e. Bitch’s Brew), distribution issues, etc…

    Strech brews though we have. We are lucky enough to have Shiner (Spoetzl Brewery)and Real Ale. Nice selections to change up your stretch. Shiner Bohemian Black Lager and Czech-style Pilsner are a couple of my favorites. As for Real Ale, Brewhouse Brown Ale
    and Rio Blanco Pale Ale.

    I’d also give a shout out to a local Brewery in McKinney, TX, Franconia. Here’s to the start of a craft brew wave across Texas. The Dunkel goes done smooth at the annual Ocotberfest.

    • December 9, 2010 at 8:30 pm #

      Thanks, Matt.

      It’s a bummer to not be able to get the “hyped” beers, but it’s great to have a regional brewery like Shiner there to cry your tears into. I’ve never had their stuff, but you make it sound really, really good!

  19. Beau
    June 14, 2012 at 7:16 am #

    Sierra Nevada Pale Ale…. classic stretch beer. Hell, any of their year-round line-up is a stretch beer for me. Such fantastic (and underrated) stuff.

    • June 14, 2012 at 11:03 am #

      Lotta value there, and they even make interesting “big” beers that aren’t super pricey as well.

  20. June 14, 2012 at 12:03 pm #

    In Vermont. I can switch it up constantly. Fiddlehead, Switchback, Zero-G, Vermont Pub and Brewery, Trout River, Alchemist, Long Trail. No joke, you could spend your entire life here and not drink a macro and it is FANTASTIC

    • June 14, 2012 at 12:23 pm #

      That’s EXACTLY how I plan to spend my life, Kenny!

      • Bill
        June 14, 2012 at 12:43 pm #

        I’ll give any beer a try, macro or no. Some of them are putting out decent product now. Dislike a beer, not its maker, especially for its size. Should one of your fav craft breweries make it big one day, you’ll have a lot of soul searching to do.

        • June 14, 2012 at 12:55 pm #

          I imagine it’ll take many long walks on the beach, lots of gazing at clouds, etc, to sort it all out…

        • June 14, 2012 at 3:28 pm #

          Amen bro!

  21. Troy LaBair
    June 14, 2012 at 2:29 pm #

    leinenkugel’s creamy dark

    summer or winter seasonal from anderson valley

  22. June 14, 2012 at 3:33 pm #

    For me its Dales, Breckenridge’s Vanilla Porter and Oatmeal Stout, SN’s Porter, and any one of a number of relatively inexpensive Mid-Atlantic-brewed Lagers.

  23. Kid Carboy Jr.
    June 14, 2012 at 4:59 pm #

    Given the fact that each batch of homebrew makes 50 or so bottles, homebrew is basically my unofficial “stretch beer” between more expensive purchases.

  24. Johnny
    June 14, 2012 at 9:07 pm #

    Mine is typically Yuengling Black and Tan. It’s not the best beer in the world, but I really liked the roasted malt flavor and it’s pretty cheap haha.

  25. Ken
    June 15, 2012 at 4:38 pm #

    FFF Zombie Dust

  26. June 21, 2012 at 11:20 am #

    My stretch beers tend to be: Sierra Nevada Pale Ale, Franziskaner Hefe, Bitburger PIls, Mad River Extra Pale, and oddly…Ovila Dubbel.


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