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  • Photo: becon/iStock

    The stigma is gone. For years, canned beers were derided for their metallic taste. Worse, the options were limited—few breweries canned beer that you’d want to sample, let alone drink 12 ounces of. Then, Oskar Blues started canning its flagship Dale’s Pale Ale in 2002. And everything changed. Today, more than 500 craft breweries in more than 40 states have fomented the canned revolution.

    And that’s a great thing. Cans save on space and are better for the environment because they’re lighter to ship. But they’re indispensable for the outdoors in other ways: their shatterproof packability and fresh taste, preserved from the depredations of sunlight.

    The surge in canned-beer offerings—made possible by mobile canning services and consumer demand—has been excellent for beer aficionados. But the options can be daunting. Our solution? A taste test. After drinking hundreds of canned beers, we’ve put together the ultimate activity-based sampler list. No matter what your weekend plans are, there’s a beer for you.

  • Photo: Pizza Port

    Swami's India Pale Ale

    Pizza Port Brewing Company

    Best for: Hiking and Camping

    Crack open this quintessential West Coast IPA and you’ll be hit with a strong citrus and pine aroma that blends well with the flavor. Things start sweet, then transition to hoppy bitterness. With a nice light body and a dry finish with lingering hops, it’s crisp and refreshing while still being bold enough to complement spicy food.

  • Photo: Golden Road Brewing

    Heal the Bay IPA

    Golden Road Brewing

    Best for: Hiking and Camping

    As the first and still one of the only breweries canning in Los Angeles, Golden Road gets it right. Of their three canned IPAs, Heal the Bay is the most straightforward, with a bright and citrus-forward taste. Be prepared for the malt to be followed by a brisk blast of fruit. And enjoy the dry finish.

  • Photo: Joseph James Brewing

    Hop Box Imperial IPA

    Joseph James Brewing Company

    Best for: Hiking and Camping

    This rugged IPA with a long and strong (9.3% alcohol) finish will keep you sipping. You’ll be forgiven for drinking it like you would stiff cocktail. The brew has a strong hop aroma, and the caramel malts are exceptionally dark and sweet. Expect little carbonation, a dry finish, and some spiciness.

  • Photo: Fiddlehead Brewing

    Second Fiddle Double IPA

    Fiddlehead Brewing Company

    Best for: Hiking and Camping

    Just as certain scents can transport you back to a special place, a swig of this medium-bodied beer will have you pining for a campsite hammock, unless you’re already in one. The brew is dry hopped for over a month with nearly three pounds of Citra and Simcoe hops per barrel, so expect plenty of bitterness. But it remains surprisingly drinkable, with strong summer fruit throughout.

  • Photo: Payette Brewing

    Outlaw India Pale Ale

    Payette Brewing Company

    Best for: Hiking and Camping

    One of the most well rounded IPAs we tested, the Outlaw hits everything you’d expect in a quality IPA. It’s crisp, refreshing, and full of a citrus, pine, and hop aroma and taste. Hop bitterness and notes of caramel from the malts combine for an unexpected fruit profile in Payette Brewing Company’s first foray into the world of cans.

  • Photo: Saint Oskar

    Saint Oskar Indica Black Lager

    Oskar Blues/Saint Archer Brewery

    Best for: Hiking and Camping

    Canned collaborations are all the rage. Oskar Blues partnered with Saint Archer to create this Indica Black Lager and even sent it our way in a 32 oz. “crowler”—like a growler, but in a can. Using experimental hops to meld a strong beer with dark color and a slightly crisp mouthfeel, they’ve smoothly balanced the caramel malts with light bitterness and a few sweet notes.

  • Photo: Narragansett Brewing

    Del’s Shandy

    Narragansett Brewing Company

    Best for: Rafting and Fishing

    We didn’t expect to like this lemonade-beer fusion, which, surprisingly, proved very difficult to put down. It’s a winner. The pairing of Narragansett Brewing’s lager with Del’s (a Rhode Island favorite) lemon concentrate is the ultimate refresher, with a balance of malty sweetness and lemonade tartness. When nice and cold, it tastes just like sweet lemon-water ice and gives you an easy buzz, without the sugar crash.

  • Photo: Lucette Brewing

    Hips Don’t Lie Bavarian-Style Weissbier

    Lucette Brewing Company

    Best for: Rafting and Fishing

    Brewed with ample quantities of rose hips and honey, this unfiltered medium-body German-style wheat beer is refreshing. The rose hips—with a background of yeastiness—help it hit herbal notes, but the honey creates a dry finish.

  • Photo: Hilliard's

    Blonde

    Hilliard’s

    Best for: Rafting and Fishing

    Just about every beer this Seattle-based brewery sent in was top-notch. But their Blonde brew—rich in flavor with a dry bite and a sweet finish—was a favorite. Because it’s single malt and hop, it’s not overly bitter and an easy drink. Perfect for a day in the sun.


  • Photo: Crazy Mountain Brewing

    Boohai Red Ale

    Crazy Mountain Brewing Company

    Best for: Rafting and Fishing

    It’s all about the New Zealand–sourced hops. The beer has a deep blackberry flavor with a touch of pine. Combined with the Belgian malts, the hops yield a complex but drinkable flavor. You won’t want to down six of these in a sitting, but it’s a perfect brew to savor as you unwind.

  • Photo: Upslope Brewing

    Thai Style White IPA

    Upslope Brewing Company

    Best for: Rafting and Fishing

    Probably the smoothest IPA derivative you’ll find, this is definitely one of the most interesting beers we tried. The ginger taste is undeniable—standing out among the seven Asian-inspired spices Upslope Brewing infuses in the brew—and is followed by hoppy citrus. As expected, it pairs well with sweeter dishes.

  • Photo: Sierra Nevada

    Summerfest Lager

    Sierra Nevada

    Best for: Rafting and Fishing

    It’s not the first time they’ve made our short list, and it probably won’t be the last. Sierra Nevada beers are simply more balanced than the majority of canned offerings. This lager is crisp, dry, and, above all else, incredibly drinkable. With a floral note and complex malt flavor, it’s the perfect warm-weather beer.

  • Photo: Santa Fe Brewing

    Imperial Java Stout

    Santa Fe Brewing Company

    Best for: Skiing and Snowboarding

    A warning on the can reads, “Not for use with donuts,” which seems silly, until you taste just how similar this beer is to coffee. Deeply aromatic, with a full body, it tastes of chocolate and hop bitterness; it’s hard to imagine drinking this beer at any time other than before noon or on a skiing trip.

  • Photo: 21st Amendment Brewery

    Back in Black IPA

    21st Amendment Brewery

    Best for: Skiing and Snowboarding

    At first, you’ll notice the hops—piney and grassy notes with some chocolate and vanilla in the background. Then you’ll be hit by the sweetness from the malts, only to finish with a mild hop bitterness. But the brew’s true standout quality is its creamy but dry mouthfeel.

  • Photo: Maui Brewing

    Coconut Porter

    Maui Brewing Co.

    Best for: Skiing and Snowboarding

    This gold medal winner from Lahaina, a former whaling port on Hawaii’s second-largest island, is a light brew for a porter. It starts semisweet—a hint of caramel and syrup flavor. Soon enough, the dark chocolate and coffee comes through, followed by coconut, almond, and some vanilla. The subtle combination of spices earned Maui Brewing Co. a World Beer Cup award in 2006.

  • Photo: Big Sky Brewing

    Moose Drool Brown Ale

    Big Sky Brewing Co.

    Best for: Skiing and Snowboarding

    A staple on mountain-town draft lists throughout the northern Rockies, Moose Drool gives you dark and sweet malts with some nutty flavor and a relatively light body. It’s a beer with just enough hops to keep it from being cloying. It pours into a glass with a very light head. Follow the instructions on the can and “always drink upstream from the herd.”

  • Photo: Kalona Brewing Company

    The Lewbricator Wheat Dopplebock

    Kalona Brewing Company

    Best for: Skiing and Snowboarding

    Here’s a brew that brings some attention to a little town 30 minutes south of Iowa City. It starts off sweet, then the dark, roasted malts just keep coming for a pleasant finish that beckons the next sip. There’s a light spice to go with the rich, mahogany color, crafted by the head brewer and quasi-namesake, Lew Brewer.

  • Photo: Brewery Vivant

    Zaison Imperial Saison

    Brewery Vivant

    Best for: Skiing and Snowboarding

    Saison-style beers are typically low ABV. But Brewery Vivant ups this limited-release saison to 9%. And yes, it’s strong. Be prepared for sweet, citrusy, and tart notes, with hints of pepper, too.

  • Photo: Crow Peak Brewing

    Mjöllnir

    Crow Peak Brewing Company

    Best for: Skiing and Snowboarding

    Though certainly not the first to experiment with spruce tips in beer, this South Dakota brewery utilizes the centuries-old anti-scurvy treatment to enact even greater good. This beer is so sprucey, it tastes like you’re drinking it straight out of a Christmas tree. Searching for snow? Bring this beer along for the hunt.

  • Photo: Hardywood Park Craft Brewing

    Capital Trail Pale Ale

    Hardywood Park Craft Brewery

    Best for: Mountain Biking

    This is an aggressive beer. It’s sweet up front before notes of citrus and pine take over and are in turn overpowered by a bittersweet conclusion. Its flavors can be hard to nail down; it just keeps unfolding into endless woodsy layers. Beer sales support the Virginia Capital Trail Foundation’s efforts to maintain 50-plus miles of running and cycling trails in Virginia’s Old Dominion cities of Richmond and Jamestown.

  • Photo: Karbach Brewing

    Weekend Warrior Pale Ale

    Karbach Brewing Co.

    Best for: Mountain Biking

    Bikes and beer go together (postride, of course). Lighter may be better after a full day of sun and trail, but this beer will make you think otherwise. It begins with a wave of caramel malts followed by citrus (notes of grapefruit and orange), pine, and herbal hops to finish dry, with a bit of lasting bitterness. This is a drinkable beer that also packs flavor.

  • Photo: Southern Prohibition Brewing

    Devil's Harvest Extra Pale Ale

    Southern Prohibition Brewing

    Best for: Mountain Biking

    Steady layers of pine and hops make it quite clear you should be drinking this beer outside—whether you’re winding down in an outdoor hot tub or plopped on a deck chair after a long ride. While 5.8% is relatively low-octane, it’s worth making space for this pint-size option on your backpacking trip.

  • Photo: Martin House Brewing

    Day Break 4-Grain Breakfast Brew

    Martin House Brewing Company

    Best for: Mountain Biking

    4-Grain Breakfast Brew” is a not-so-subtle way for this Texas brewery to say “Hey, this beer tastes like a bowl of cereal, so try drinking it at breakfast.” It’s not the worst idea, considering the barley, wheat, oats, and rye it’s made with, along with a uniquely smooth, milky honey taste. Pick a well-lit, ventilated drinking location for this rather sweet and creamy ale.

  • Photo: Terrapin Beer Company

    RecreationAle

    Terrapin Beer Company

    Best for: Mountain Biking

    This session ale is exceptionally crisp and refreshing, with plenty of depth and no overbearing flavors. Using five types of hops and three malts, the Georgia brewery imbues the beer with a pine taste and subdued citrus. Ideal for hot months, this light beer has a thin mouthfeel and is exceptionally refreshing.

  • Photo: Destihl Brewery

    Abbey's Single

    Destihl Brewery

    Best for: Mountain Biking

    This is not a traditional beer by any means. It’s very zesty up front, then finishes dry and tart with Belgian yeast. Along the way, you’ll encounter notes of cherries, nectarines, peaches, and, yes, even bubblegum. Just don’t expect to taste much malt or hops.

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Filed To: Culture, Water Activities, Biking, Caving and Canyoneering, Climbing, Wine, Beer, and Spirits, Running, Skateboarding, Multisport, Hiking and Backpacking, Food and Drink

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