Thursday, May 16, 2013

Craft beer and Camping

Despite Minnesota's the late Spring, snowing in April, and still having ice cover on some of the northern lakes for fishing opener, the weather is starting to get nice and the beginning of the camping season is upon us!!! Spring and fall are my favorite times of year to go camping. The weather is perfect; cool nights and warm days without excessive heat or bugs. Every Memorial Day weekend a group of good friends go on a week long canoe/camping trip. This is one of the most relaxing and enjoyable time of the year for me; as we float down the Big Fork River and sit around the fire drinking craft beers, sharing memories with my best friends.

As the trip approaches, anticipation and stress levels build with finalizing arrangements and the last minute packing. Pack your gear and check it twice; sleeping bag, tent, clothes, dry bag, etc. BUT WHAT ABOUT THE BEER!!! Every year, choosing which beer to bring on the trip is by far the hard decision to make!!! There are three stipulations that factor into the decision.

  1. No Glass.  It's here to enjoy not destroy!!!
  2. No BMC.  Might as well just drink the river water!!!
  3. Available for purchase locally

When we first started our annual canoeing trip back in 2009, craft beer was difficult to find in cans. It was not a popular packaging option at the time. Luckily the trend has changed and now more and more craft breweries are taking to the can! Below is a list of craft beers with explanations of why I will be taking with me on this year's camping adventure! Disclaimer: I am a hop head and my choices in beer will reflect that.

Sierra Nevada Pale Ale

Sierra Nevada Pale Ale holds a special place in my heart. For the first 2 years the Fluke Brew Crew home brewed, SNPA was the first and only beer we brewed. It is a classic. It is refreshing on hot days. Bittered with Magnum and Perle hops and then finished off with cascades, this beer has awesome aroma and flavor but not too hoppy. Even the artwork displayed on the can portrays a beautiful, majestic, meandering river traversing through the lush, breathtaking, rugged landscape. I like to reminisce that its the Big Fork river depicted on the front of the can. Sierra Nevada Pale Ale is one of the only beers that is truly sentimental to me. It makes me yearn to be outdoors camping with friends or brewing beer. SNPA weighs in at 5.6% ABV so you can drink a few on those hot summer days and not be hammered drunk. The only thing I condemn is that SNPA is package in a 12oz. can instead of a 16 oz. tallboy. At $14 for a 12 pack, how could you go camping and not take SNPA with you?  The answers is you can't!

Fun Fact: Sierra Nevada is having a photo contest at The winners get Sierra Nevada gear. Show them how SNPA in the can enhances your outdoor experience this year. Contest ends May 31, 2013, 11:59 PM PST. Make sure to submit your picture in time!

Surly Furious

Drinking a Surly Furious IPA up in Northern Minnesota while camping and canoeing.After a long day of paddling, nothing is better than sitting down around the campfire and cracking open a Furious. The resinous, hoppy, golden nectar fit for the gods, has the extra boost in ABV need to soothe those sore muscles and clear the mind from a long day of paddling. The American blend of Warrior, Ahtanum, Simcoe, and Amarillo hops give it that punch that awakens those taste buds before dinner. It helps that Surly is local to me and that I'm a huge hop head. Sold at $10 for 4x pints cans, this one is too spendy to drink more than 1 or 2 a day while canoeing (as much as I would like to drink more). Let me tell you, after a day on the river, there is nothing you look forward to more than cracking open your daily allotment of Furious! It is that nice luxury from home that ascends the trip to the next level of nirvana. I believe it is the combination of the citrus and pine hop aromas mixed with the scenery, wilderness, and sharing the experience with your best friends that heightens the enjoyment.

Helpful Tip: Surly doesn't have a contest, but a nice tip while camping is bring a koozie. The insulative layer will keep your beer colder for longer. When you are out paddling down a river, rarely do you have the luxury of just sitting there drinking the whole time.

21st Amendment Back in Black IPA

Considered to be one of the best of the style, this black IPA finds a place in my cooler on camping trips quite regularly. I like to reach for one in the evening after dinner. Back in Black has a little roastiness that you get from a cup of coffee without sacrificing any of that hop flavor desired by a hop head like me. I will crack one open when I'm looking for a "dessert beer" or something to compliment my campfire roasted s'more. Although 21st Amendment Brew Pub is not local, they contract brew some of their production beers in Cold Springs, MN. I consider that local enough. It is available at my local liquor store for $8.50 a 6 pack and I will be certain to pick some up for this year's canoe trip. I like the convenience of the 6 pack for the annual canoe trip because it results in having a ration of one Back in Black a day! Coincidence? I think so.

Gear Guide:  You might be wondering, "Where do you put your open beer while canoeing on the river so it doesn't spill?" Well that is a great question. We all use the Can-Panion Cup Holder from Austin Canoe and Kayak. It is a cheap, effective, and a versatile way to secure your beer! It clips to the gunwales of the canoe, the seat frame, and even thwarts. Making your beer safe and accessible!


Honorable Mentions

I have to include Tallgrass Brewing Company. Their 8-Bit pale ale, Tallgrass IPA, and Buffalo Sweat stout will definitely find some cooler space throughout the year on weekend trips. I really like the 8-Bit pale ale or as I like to called it "Pacman Pale Ale." Tallgrass uses Australian grown Galaxy hops and a Hop-Rocket* to get that awesome, unique tropical, almost melon aroma.  Hoppy Camping!!!



*A Hop-Rocket is the stainless steel vessel that is used to cycle the beer through hops for a duration of time before packaging the beer. This adds extra hop oils, tastes and aroma, not gained in the normal brewing process.