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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.

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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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