Tuesday, June 22, 2010

Pack It In

It's summer in the upper-Midwest, and for those of you like me, you want to seize this precious 6 weeks and cram in as much outdoors time as possible.

When it comes to "drive-in" camping, one doesn't have to put much thought into what beer to bring: if it fits in the cooler, it works. When it comes to day-hikes, backpacking, or boating, however, one has to plan a little better.

With hiking, beyond the obvious concern of weight going in (glass is heavier than cans), you have to consider the weight coming out. With hiking or boating, you certainly don't want to leave your trash behind (or toss it in the lake), so whatever you "pack in" you'll have to "pack out." This again, suggests that canned beers are the preferable hiking beers. Finally, bottles break. You don't want broken glass in your pack or in your boat. Bottom line: start looking for cans.

Unfortunately, many, if not most craft beers fail to offer their wares in cans. Fortunately, there are some craft offerings that are both delicious and canned.


1. Dale's Pale Ale - Oskar Blues (Colorado)

Oskar Blues was the pioneer in canning craft beer. Since 2002, Dale's Pale Ale, Oskar's signature ale, has been offered only in cans.

This American Pale Ale has a nice citrus/grapefruit hops nose and a slightly sweet bready malt body. It's bitter, with a clean hop finish that's perfect on a hot sunny day. Lots of flavor, but not too heavy.

2. Surly Cynic - Surly Brewing (Minnesota)

Surly is a staunch advocate of canned beer, choosing to release their entire line of award-winning craft brews in cans.

The Cynic is a Saison/Farmhouse style ale and pours a rich vibrant gold. You can smell some Belgian-style yeast notes as well as some coriander and spice. The beer has a medium body, smooth, with the perfect level of carbonation. Being Surly, there are a bit more hops in this one then you'll find in others of the same style. Great for a hot day. If you can find a better Saison in a can, well, if can find another Saison in a can, you'll be lucky.

3. Brew Free or Die IPA - 21st Amendment Brewery (California)

Although founded in 2000, 21st Amendment has only recently found its way out the Midwest. We're happy it made it out here. With a six hop punch in the nose, and a nice balanced malt back, their IPA is another solid offering from the Left Coast. Bonus for us flyover-land hikers and boaters? It comes in a can and is generally cheaper than the aforementioned beers.

Honorable Mentions:

Fat Tire - New Belgium Brewing (Colorado)

New Belgium's flagship is also available in a can. Surprisingly, should you take the time to pour one out, it tastes better out of the can, then out of the bottle! This is no coincidence. As Bon Appetit puts it, "New Belgium adds a slurry of active live yeast to its Fat Tire cans just before sealing to take up oxygen and prevent stale off-flavors. The result is a fresher, more complex beer. Think of it as a mini keg."

Hamm's Lager - Hamm's (Wisconsin)

It might be owned my MillerCoors now, but those of us in the "Land of Sky Blue Waters" still know that a Hamm's tastes great out on the canoe. Lest you think I'm succumbing to nostalgia and clever marketing, Hamm's won the gold for best American Lager at the Great American Beer Festival in 2007.

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1 comment:

Jodi said...

Half Acre Beer Co. (less than a mile from us here in Chicago) just started a canning line recently! We bought some 16 oz cans of their Gossamer last weekend. Fantabulous.