How to Pick the Right Beer for Camping
If there’s one lesson virtually every Canadian beer commercial, ever, has taught me, it’s that beer is an inherent and un-substitutable part of the camping experience. Okay, maybe that’s a bit of an overstatement. But there is something special about having a brew with your friends around a campfire, beneath a starry canopy silhouetted by jack pines. Convinced yet?
Sure you’re trading in a perfectly pulled pint for something lukewarm at best and, more often than not, full of mosquitoes and black flies; but you’re also leaving behind the hustle and bustle, the noisy bar, full of distractions, for something much simpler.
There is no right or wrong answer when it comes to choosing the right beer for camping. If you’re having trouble finding inspiration here are some tips that might help you make a decision.
Bottles or Cans?
This is an absolute no brainer – when it comes to camping, cans are where it’s at. Regardless of whether or not you’re worried about the amount of space beer takes up in your pack, or the weight of your gear, cans are the simplest choice. They’re easy to transport, fairly tough to break, they universally don’t require bottle openers (as the name suggests) and when you’re finished with them, they’re even lighter and easier to deal with. Sure it’s tougher to tether a line of cans offshore for cooling, but it’s not impossible.
Not to mention there are more excellent canned beers available in Ontario today, than ever before!
Let’s make one thing perfectly clear, if you have access to any form of motorized cooling unit, you are not really camping. Best case scenario you’ll have a cooler or an exceptionally cold lake at your disposal, but even then you’re liable to run into some ‘different than usual’ serving temperatures.
Traditionally, the beer styles that come across best when served warmer tend to be maltier. There’s also a positive correlation between increased serving temperatures and higher alcohol content (often darker colour as well); take Imperial Stouts, Barleywines or Dopplebocks, for example. Admittedly, these aren’t the first things that come to mind on a balmy May evening under the stars.
Serving a beer warmer will bring out more flavours, malt in particular, while also decreasing the intensity of hop bitterness and carbonation. That’s not necessarily a bad thing, but it can make certain beers taste less refreshing.
When in doubt, Pale Ales, especially English-style, are a great all-purpose solution. Even if you take them out of the water a little early, a good pale ale will still taste great.
After a long day paddling, hiking, swimming or whatever else one does while camping, the majority of people will be looking forward to something that goes down easy and, in some cases, often. If a night around the campfire is your plan, don’t reach for boozier beers – portaging hungover isn’t fun. Dry-hopped Session IPAs immediately come to mind as a flavourful and easy drinking option, at almost any temperature.
Does it pair well with hot dogs?
Ah hot dogs; the most versatile camping food out there. Truly, you haven’t lived unless you’ve experienced a day where breakfast, lunch and dinner all consisted of hot dogs.
When I think emulsified meats, I think Germany. In a perfect world, a nice, crisp, European-style lager would work really well with these camping delights. More malt driven lager styles such as Helles or Vienna will fare better at warmer temperatures than a Czech Pilsner or North American Pale Lagers. If you’re cooking your dogs over the fire, the smoked flavours would work nicely with an Altbier or a Dunkel (dark lager), or if ABV isn’t a consideration, feel free to go for a Weizenbock.
Try: Sawdust City Ol’ Woody Alt
Will it attract bears?