Stop Drinking Beer Out of Plastic Solo Cups
Any brew worth drinking deserves more than crappy single-use plastic, so we stuck to reusable vessels
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With the Fourth of July just around the corner, we’re approaching peak barbecue and backyard-party season. I’m a fan of BYOC (bring your own cup). Having your own reusable vessel cuts down on plastic, and your buddy who’s hosting will thank you for not forcing him to buy red Solo Cups. Plus, drinking an ice-cold beer from a properly insulated cup is considerably more enjoyable than sipping lukewarm brew out of hot plastic. With that in mind, I put five of my favorite reusable beer cups to the test to help you pick the right one.
To gauge the user-friendliness of these cups, and to avoid pickling my liver too much, I spent two days using each to drink water while I worked at my desk. Then, over the course of the past month, I drank one IPA, one hard cider, and one LaCroix from each, while taking notes on how nicely they played with the variety of carbonated beverages. I also conducted an insulation test using leftover keg beer from a friend of a friend’s wedding (long story). After leaving the brew in my fridge overnight, I filled the vessels to their limits (12, 16, 20, or 24 ounces), took the temperature of the beer in each with my fancy Maverick Pro-Temp Thermometer, placed lids on the cups that came with them, and let everything sit out for three hours before taking all the temperatures again.
Winner: Yeti Rambler 16-Ounce Stackable Pint ($50 for two)
Insulation: 5/5 (1.4-degree rise)
Ease of Drinking: 4/5
While the Stackable Pint wasn’t the most enjoyable to drink from (putting lips on cold stainless steel can be unpleasantly chilly), it was smartly designed and had the best insulation of the bunch. The combo of the hearty plastic lid and ample dead space between the double walls kept my water, alcohol, and seltzer frosty. And the slight taper on the Rambler’s lip resulted in a nice, smooth pour and no spillage. When I drank with the lid on, I found the opening perfectly sized for relaxedly sipping beer, cider, and LaCroix—I wasn’t having to chug or tip it very far to get enough liquid out. I also appreciate the capacity: the Rambler could accommodate a nice head from a 12-ounce pour. Finally, the base fits nicely in a cupholder. I’m not advocating for road sodas here, but I’ll never complain about a beer mug that can pull double duty for coffee in the mornings.
2. Stanley Go Stein with Ceramivac ($35)
Insulation: 4/5 (3.1-degree rise)
Ease of Drinking: 5/5
I consider the Go Stein the connoisseur’s vessel. For one, the stein shape is classic. But mostly, drinking from this was so pleasant that I let out a contented “mmm” between sips. Credit the ceramic coating over the vacuum-sealed steel, which meant I didn’t feel or taste metal. The handle is comfortable, thanks to a smooth rubbery compound, and I could grasp it with all four fingers. Stanley tapered the Go Stein from bottom to top, so its wide base was stable when I set it down but I didn’t feel like my face was going to be swallowed when I went in for a gulp. My only beef was the sheer size of the thing. I’m not in college anymore and am rarely down to commit to 24 ounces of beer at one time. My current favorite IPA has a 6.8-percent ABV; if I were to consume two full Go Steins of the stuff, I would start bickering with strangers. That size also makes it onerous to transport to a barbecue or even a car-camping site.
3. Hydro Flask 12-Ounce Cooler Cup ($25)
Insulation: 3/5 (5-degree rise)
Ease of Drinking: 4/5
This was my favorite when I first looked at it, because of its brilliant design. The hardy powder-coated stainless steel made a perfect little cup on its own, but the included silicone ring lets the Cooler Cup morph into a koozie for a can or bottle. And you can swap the position of the ring: when attached to the bottom of the cup, it lent excellent extra grip that helped this Hydro Flask from getting knocked over. Then when I placed the ring over the lip, it kept the bottle or can I’d put in the Cooler Cup cold for an hour longer. Now, the insulation was second to last in the test, but the beer was still 52.3 degrees after three hours, which I found plenty drinkable. Whereas the Stanley was too large, the Cooler Cup took the biggest hit because it was too small. At 12 ounces, it couldn’t fit a can’s worth of beer if there was any head, and even the ciders had to be consumed in two pours.
4. Klean Kanteen Insulated 20-Ounce Tumbler ($24)
Insulation: 4/5 (4-degree rise)
Ease of Drinking: 3.5/5
At 20 ounces, Klean Kanteen’s Insulated tumbler let me keep plenty of water at my desk and could fit a venti coffee from Starbucks. The lid also made it a great insulator. But 20 ounces is an awkward size if you’re decanting canned beer or cider into your cup. Though to be fair, Klean Kanteen also offers this in a 16-ounce version, which is friendlier for single pours. Also, the tumbler’s mouth was extremely round, and I had to be careful when drinking to avoid spilling. That previous sentence may make me sound like an insufferable snob, but this was a tough competition, and I had to be nitpicky.
5. EcoVessel Double Barrel ($22)
Insulation: 1/5 (13.9-degree rise)
Ease of Drinking: 4/5
The thin metal handle and keg-like silhouette made me fall in love with the Double Barrel’s aesthetics. And the cup was a pleasure to drink from, second only to the masterfully designed Go Stein. Its lid was the only one of the mix that fully closed, which meant I didn’t worry at all about leaving it on my desk next to my computer. But in the end, it took last place because it got its butt kicked in the insulation test. Even the lidless Hydro Flask and Stanley options kept their contents colder. Only the beer in the EcoVessel warmed up more than ten degrees, which put the beer in room-temperature territory.