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Backpacker Magazine – Online Exclusive

Backcountry Bartender: Craft Canned Beer Test

After testing 23 canned craft beers from across the country, we narrowed it down to our top choices--simply the best craft canned beers for backpacking.

by: Crystal Sagan Craft canned beers for your pack. (Crystal Sagan) Craft canned beers for your pack. (Crystal Sagan)

Beer has been available in a can since the 1930s, and just about everyone and their grandpa has drank something along the lines of PBR or Milwaukee’s Best in a can at some point. Over time everything evolves, and luckily, canned beer included! At the moment there are almost 80 craft breweries with at least one beer being produced in a can, a number that is set to reach 100 by 2011. Many of these breweries are very small and don’t distribute beyond their neighborhood, so to speak, so if you don’t see your favorite brew from back home listed here (like Upslope Brewing and Half Acre Beer Company), its not because we don’t love it too, but searched for canned craft beers available to a minimum of three states.

Avery Brewing Joe’s American Pilsner
Appealing nose of floral hops and grass with a refreshing balance of German hops and bready malt, just a touch of bitterness. A great session beer. 4.7%ABV; 12fl. oz.;

Buckbean Brewing Black Noddy
Sweet, malty nose, on this traditional Schwarzbier. 3 different types of roasted malt give the Noddy a dark, rich color, and a nice depth on the palate. Relatively light body is sweet with a subtle balance of earthiness from the grains. 5.2%ABV; 16fl. oz.;

New Belgium Brewing Sunshine Wheat
Lemon zest and coriander on the nose followed by a palate initiated by lemon zest and orange peel, with cloves and coriander to follow. Light bodied and easy drinking. 4.8%ABV; 12fl. oz.;

Stevens Point Pale Ale
Aromas of citrus and a light maltiness lead into a slight nutty malt flavor with hints of citrus and hops. Nice crisp hop finish. 5.4%ABV; 12fl. oz.;

Sly Fox Dunkel Lager
A very light nose in general, just a hint of sweet maltiness and floral hops. Pours a rich copper color, malty and sweet up front, mild hops at the crisp finish. Medium bodied. 5.3%ABV; 12fl. oz.;

Uncommon Brewers Siamese Twin Ale
An unfiltered and unpasteurized organic Belgian-style Double that incorporates a fun mix of spices. Citrus, coriander, and wheat grass on the nose. Medium body, floral up front followed by touch of coriander, sweet malt, and a mild bitterness (likely from the kaffir lime leaves its brewed with). You’d never guess its strength based on taste alone. 8.5%ABV; 16fl. oz.;

Oskar Blues Gubna Imperial IPA
The strongest of the canned beers we tested (10%ABV), the Gubna is in a class all its own. A nose of citrus and grassy hops, leads into a palate reflecting the same. Rich hop flavor and bitterness with a hint of malt; finish lingers leaving you yearning for more. 10%ABV; 12fl. oz.;

Oskar Blues Gordon Imperial Red
Gordon beat out 22 other craft canned beers to be our overall favorite. Intense floral hop nose is slightly deceiving, as the palate is not quite as hopped. Medium bodied and well balanced, hints of caramel, herbs, and yeast. An easy to drink red for hop lovers, especially considering strength (8.7%ABV). A great match for a meal made with Oskar Blues beer infused Gordon hot sauce. 8.7%ABV; 12fl. oz.;

Not hiking too far? Try an aluminum mini-keg of Winter White Wheat or Hopslam Double IPA by Bell’s Beer. The 5 liter mini-keg has a self contained tap, holds 14 beers, and weighs little more than a gallon of milk.

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Sep 10, 2012

The Moab brewery ( is now offering a Lager and an IPA in cans. If you're traveling always try the local stuff!

eddie rico
Apr 26, 2012

point the way ipa and torpedo ipa

Oct 08, 2011

Gandhi-Bot. double-ipa. twice the beer, half the weight, and a great beer!

Jan 24, 2011

Nothing beats a Pabst

Kory D.
Jan 01, 2011

What the...?Where's the Pabst Blue Ribbon?

Dec 11, 2010

I've backpacked the GUBNA. Nothing like drinking that 10% badboy at 10,000ft up! bang for the poundage you carry!

Dec 10, 2010

UPSLOPE!!! Pale ale, IPA, and now Brown Ale! The best!!!

Gretchen King
Dec 07, 2010

You all should consider a review of Paonia Colorado's Revolution Brewing ( Canning a golden ale and red ale consistently, as well as seasonals weekly, this brewery is located near some of the best river-running, cross-country skiing, camping and backpacking in the country.

Coreylynn Fuzi
Dec 06, 2010

Sly Fox goes everywhere with me...On the AT, canoeing on French name it and Sly Fox is there. I am so impressed to see it on the list. I do however, prefer their Phoenix Pale Ale. Cheers!

Dec 03, 2010

I'm guessing not many Montanans have read this, since I see neither Kettlehouse's Double Haul IPA, nor Big Sky Brewing's Moose Drool, Scapegoat, etc. On the list. We like the K-Hole's full pint cans for long trips, and Big Sky's smaller cans for shorter ones.

Dec 02, 2010

Avery IPA is a must. Just recently out in cans but I've been drinking it for years in bottles!

Dec 01, 2010

Ditto on the Keweenau Brewing Co. (KBC); yet, while backpacking, weight is the issue, and my cronies take whisky/brandy along in flasks. We save the beer for after the hikes, long or short; we honor the local brewhouses.

Nov 30, 2010

Modus has been with me on about every camping trip this year. YUM! Also recently discovered Happy Camper IPA from Santa Fe Brewing. Hard to find outside of NM so far, so I've made a few special trips across the border.

Nov 30, 2010

FAT TIRE?!?! Are you kidding... shouldn't even be mentioned on such a board. I will try some of the OTHER recommended canned brews

Nov 30, 2010

Modus has been with me on about every camping trip this year. YUM! Also recently discovered Happy Camper IPA from Santa Fe Brewing. Hard to find outside of NM so far, so I've made a few special trips across the border.

Nov 29, 2010

I live 3 blocks away from where Oscar Blue's brews are crafted. I bet you know where my allegiance to major brands lay. Although for summer times, a cold PBR is worth it's weight in gold. Come winter time I'm happy with a couple of Dale's Pale Ale's in my backpack as I cruise the backcountry snowboarding.

Ron Marsh
Nov 29, 2010

Anything less than 7% ABV is a waste of weight, so Oskar Blues remains the best brewery for both flavor, and selection. I've only seen Old Chub here in Portland, but very much hope to find Gubna or Gordon to round out my experience. 21st (not 22nd!) Amendment's Brew Free or Die IPA is a worthy companion to Old Chub, to span the flavor spectrum especially.

Nov 29, 2010

Oskar Blues rules! While Gubna, Gordon and Ten Fidy are luscious, they only come in 4-packs and are a bit pricey. Dale's and Old Chub are also very high on my list, albeit at opposite ends of the spectrum flavor-wise! Also nothing wrong with Sunshine Wheat for a tasty & refreshing summer beer.

Modus? It's great if you don't want to taste anything else for the rest of the night!

As long as it isn't opened, beer won't get flat just from carrying it in a pack and CO2 is not part of a beer's flavor anyway; it affects aroma and mouthfeel more than anything, and yer drinking it out of a CAN anyway!

Blackstone Valley Outfitters
Nov 29, 2010

Although we don't carry beer during our hike, after one of our first guided trips for the store the clients asked to stop for a beer. Since then we look for a local micro brew pub near our trip area as part of the trek. We've found some great brews that way and made many friends from our clients.

Nov 28, 2010

I don't know about beer on the trail. I still enjoy finishing a long hot day hike and going for a pint of draft golden ale afterward. On a colder day, I'll choose a porter or a stout. After a five day backpack, I choose the beer based on the experience and enjoy it much more AFTER the trip. Local beer tends to match the trip best.

Nov 28, 2010

Black Butte Porter is the only way to go...

Rob R.- Seaford, NY
Nov 27, 2010

in addition, butternut brewery-
slap happy pale ale!
good people, great brew!

Nov 27, 2010

Simper Times from Trader Joes - $0.50 per can and 6% alcohol, and tastes good enough to drink at home.

Nov 27, 2010

Hmmmmm.... I would definitly go with Fat Tire over Sunshine Wheat.....we even took it with us kayaking in Glacier Bay Alaska a couple of years ago! AND I always take it b-packing with me!

Mark W.
Nov 27, 2010

There's always Half Acre's Daisy Cutter pale ale out of Chicago. Not widely available, it's a great brew in a can.

Rob Burg
Nov 27, 2010

If you are backpacking anywhere in Michigan's Upper Peninsula and especially Isle Royale, then the Keweenaw Brewing Company needs to be on a backpacker's brew list. Their Portage Lift Bridge Pale is a great way to wind down a day on the trail. Stick a few cans in Lake Superior to cool, wait an hour while you set up camp and you've got a nice crisp beer or two to enjoy.

Nov 26, 2010

And another vote for Surly!

Nov 26, 2010

We like Surly Furious, out of Mn.

Nov 26, 2010

Caldera IPA, Ft. George Vortex IPA (available 2011) in Oregon; Simpler Times Lager (available at Trader Joe's) and Oskar Blues' Ten Fidy are all top-notch.

Nov 26, 2010

Hmmmmm.... I would definitly go with Fat Tire over Sunshine Wheat.....we even took it with us kayaking in Glacier Bay Alaska a couple of years ago! AND I always take it b-packing with me!

Nov 26, 2010


Earl, Atlanta, IL
Nov 26, 2010

Haven't tried all the beers on your list but would still like to add Modus Hoperandi, one of my fav IPAs brewed by Ska Brewing, Durango Co. assertive hop presence, floral, fresh & delicious. So lip up fatty!

Mikie Willis
Nov 26, 2010

Big Sky's Moose Drool, worth more than its weight in Clif Bars.

David C. - San Jose, CA
Nov 26, 2010

If it is available, I'd add any of the canned beers from 22nd Amendment, Dale's Pale Ale, and some of the canned English beers like Kent mentioned. Boddington's is a fave of mine. Lots of *good* beer in cans these days, finally. Also Platypus has a bag so I can bring my homebrew. Funny how I have all this lightweight gear when what I really need is for someone to make lightweight beer! :D

Nov 26, 2010

Call me a killjoy, but doesn't it get too shaken up in a pack? Even if you give it time to settle, I'd expect it to affect the flavour.

Nov 26, 2010

Hmmmmm.... I would definitly go with Fat Tire over Sunshine Wheat.....we even took it with us kayaking in Glacier Bay Alaska a couple of years ago! AND I always take it b-packing with me!

Nov 26, 2010

You messed up not having Big Sky's Moose Drool on the list. They've been canning their celebrated brown ale for years for that very purpose.

Rob R.- Seaford, NY
Nov 25, 2010

Saranac Pale Ale, the best camp canned beer.

Kent Kunze
Nov 25, 2010

Good to see other craft beer lovers who find it worth while to haul the extra weight. There are also numerous quality English brews readily available in pint sized cans.


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