There are a few truths about camping that we hold self-evident: Lighter is better. Pack in it, pack it out. Avoid poison ivy. Bear bells are useless.
However, some things are more of a personal choice, such as how much beer to take on a camping trip. Several factors are involved in this decision, like how long of a trip is it going to be? What sort of weather and terrain will you encounter? Is it a car camping or backpacking trip? And are you physically able to carry the amount of beer that you’re likely to consume?
These are very good questions—questions that should be answered prior to any beverage choices being made. There is one rule that is almost universal, though: cans are the container of choice for camping. Not only is aluminum lighter than glass, but cans pack down easier for removal from campsites, have a lower carbon footprint than glass and, most of all, will not shatter and leave small shiny bits all over your campsite if, by some chance, a large animal comes along and forces you to flee, screaming like a toddler.
The good news is that canned beer has come a long way in the past few years. Responsible campers are not limited to lagers and “lites” when planning a trip. Craft beer is putting its best and brightest forward in cans, perfect for quenching your thirst after a multi-mile trek, a river rapid-running route or a dusty, massive, mountain biking mission.
The below list is perfect for sipping after any of the above scenarios. They’re also enjoyable if the most strenuous thing you did was unload your car and start a campfire. Whatever floats your boat.
Big Sky Brewing Moose Drool
Perhaps one of the most tasty and drinkable brown ales on the market, Moose Drool is the perfect accompaniment to any sort of outdoor activity. Smooth and well-balanced, popping a top on a Moose Drool might have you starting your campfire stories with, “When I was a boy…” because of its comforting flavor. But that’s okay, because campfires were made for stories.
Southern Prohibition Mississippi Fire Ant
There’s nothing that will shut down a campsite faster than fire ants—unless, of course, you’re referencing the Imperial Red Ale from Southern Prohibition Brewing. This high gravity offering from the Hattiesburg, MS brewery has all of the roasty, toasty goodness that you’d expect from a red with spicy, feisty notes from the hops. Be sure to check your campsite for anthills then commence enjoying this perfect pint.
Swamp Head Stump Knocker
What better way to become one with the wilderness than to drink something that tastes like the wilderness? Take a sniff of this dry-hopped pale ale and you’ll enjoy a piney bouquet before you sip the clean, citrusy goodness of this medium body beer. At 5.6% ABV, you won’t be knocking into any stumps.
Hopworks Totally Radler
If you’ve heard of a “shandy,” the combination of beer and lemon soda, meet its German cousin. Radler means “bicyclist” in German and was created as a refreshing option for thirsty cyclists as they wove their way through the mountains. Now, American beer makers have embraced the idea, creating ginger-lemon versions (like Boulevard’s Ratler) or this organic version from Portland’s Hopworks Urban Brewery. You’ll get the sweetness of the honey lager with the tartness of lemon juice, which makes watching life go by at a riverside campsite all the more bucolic.
Ballast Point Even Keel Session IPA
Ballast Point made a splash with its Sculpin IPA, but the smooth citrus profile and hop stylings of its Session IPA is a nice option for camping. A lower ABV means that you can enjoy a few of these bad boys and still be trusted with the ax when the firewood supply gets a bit low. Note: there’s also a mango version of the Even Keel for those who want to be able to shout, “You can’t-a have-a de Mango!” before slapping your own derrière.
Upslope Imperial IPA
Of course, if you have no desire to help with wood chopping or any other forms of manual labor, Upslope’s Imperial India Pale Ale is the perfect choice. This beer not only weighs in at 10%ABV, but it’s only available in a pint can, which means that you’ll be sipping it like a king while your minions are still preparing dinner for you. With a full flavor and medium body, this Imperial IPA will satisfy even the most discerning of campground monarchs.
Evil Twin Citra Sunshine Slacker
Though Evil Twin is based out of Brooklyn, this session IPA is actually a collaboration with 7venth Sun Brewery out of Florida. The resulting sunny, citrusy, low ABV beer is the perfect combination of flavor and refreshment. Perfect for enjoying after some decidedly un-slacker-like activity like climbing or paddling, this beer might actually cause the clouds to disappear if you happen to wander into inclement weather.
Lucette Brewing Company Hips Don’t Lie
Just like your favorite camping partner, this beer is full-flavored and refreshing. Though you’ll have to go to Wisconsin to pick up this beauty (or bribe friends to bring back a six-pack), this is an incredibly well-made hefeweizen, which is saying a lot for a style that doesn’t get canned that often. Fruity and floral yet crisp and dry on the finish, you might be inspired to lead the crew in a Shakira sing-along before the night is through.
Anderson Valley Blood Orange Gose
A tart, wheat ale that is soured but not sour, Anderson Valley’s Blood Orange Gose is the perfect choice for when your palate wants something a little different. Wonderful with grilled chicken or fish (fresh caught, if you brought your fishing pole), this salted ale will go down smoothly at only 4.2% ABV without causing a scene.
Denver Beer Co Graham Cracker Porter
It would be a shame to forget a beer that’s described “like a campfire in a glass,” so we won’t. The Graham Cracker Porter brings to mind one of the most iconic camping experiences ever: s’mores. With notes of vanilla and a not-too-sweet chocolate flavor finishing with a hint of graham cracker, this is a satisfying ender for an evening in the woods.
Of course, the true enjoyment of camping is hanging with friends, no matter what you’re imbibing. Like when your friends show up to a campfire in Fruita, CO with Pliny the Elder, you thank your lucky starts and sit back to enjoy the spoils of (their) labor, basking in the knowledge that life is very, very good—bottle and all.