Craft beer and outdoor living are natural companions, except for one inconvenient truth: cold beer rarely stays that way after it leaves the bar or the fridge. So if you’re venturing outdoors, there’s a pretty good chance you’ll be sipping brew at or above room temperature.
We did the hard work of taste testing the following beers—and a bunch that didn’t make the cut—so you’ll know what to pack before a day on the trail or the river.
1. Shower Beer
Perhaps the most refreshing beer on this list, Champion’s Shower Beer, a Czech-style Pilsner, boasts a light, subtle flavor with a smooth mouthfeel. With gentle notes of malts and citrus, it’s all too drinkable. Fortunately, at just 4.5% ABV, it’s also very session-friendly. And that bodes well for long nights around the campfire. Where many similarly-styled offerings lost their personality at higher temperatures, the Shower Beer kept its cool.
Red Brick Brewing Co.
Red Brick’s 5% ABV Belgian-style wheat ale is brewed with hibiscus, orange peel and cinnamon, and that subtle spice helped the beer hold a refreshing, toasty flavor. The subtle spices gave the beer a satisfying complexity, but didn’t overwhelm. Warm, Hibiscuwit proved to be an easy-drinking and very refreshing choice.
3. Grateful Pale Ale
Starr Hill Brewery
Warm, Starr Hill’s Grateful Pale Ale holds its flavor well. A rich aroma yields a smooth, surprisingly light taste without losing character. There’s enough flavor to appeal to fans of dank brews, but even our hops-averse camp buddy enjoyed the beer’s balanced taste and smooth finish. Where other pale ales and IPAs started to sour, Grateful stayed smooth and even picked up a richness that blander styles couldn’t offer, all at a perfectly sessionable 4.7% ABV.
4. Laughing Skull Amber Ale
Red Brick Brewing Co.
Red Brick’s American-style amber ale is sweet, clean and malty at warmer temperatures. Neither too light nor too heavy, the Laughing Skull was a satisfying sip on a low-key afternoon. It kept a rich, but balanced flavor. The beer held its carbonation, but didn’t foam over or run bitter; instead, it mellowed into a delightful and easy drinking (5.3% ABV) winner.
Fortnight Brewing Company
A favorite in or out of the cooler, Fortnight’s ESB held a rich, malty flavor with a clean sweetness and smooth finish that almost suggested a barleywine. Other ESBs in our test turned antiseptic, losing their flavor and finishing with a harsh burn, but Fortnight’s brew offered an impressive counterpoint. Its bold taste suggests an Imperial, but at a more manageable 5.5% ABV Fortnight’s ESB kept a balanced profile without sacrificing flavor.
6. Kaldi Imperial Coffee Stout
Quest Brewing Company
At 8% ABV, the Kaldi bucks our trend for easily sessionable beers, but from the strong mocha aroma upon opening to its pleasantly bitter (and very noticeable) coffee taste and rich caramel after-taste, the imperial coffee stout felt like a drinkable dessert. Brewed with beans and cocoa nibs from Quest’s neighbors at West End Coffee Company, Kaldi boasted delicious flavor and an exquisitely smooth mouthfeel.