Beer Geek

5 refreshing canned beers to beat the summer heat

June 8, 2012 at 8:50 AM ET

Oskar Blues /
Cans may look low-rent, but sometimes there's some pretty good beer inside.

I used to go to great lengths to bring good beer to my community lake, where adult beverages are welcome, but bottles are not allowed. So I would squeeze a couple of Arrogant Bastards into a sports bottle, or pour a bomber of Chimay Red into the stainless steel thermos I purchased exclusively for transporting my precious cargo past the cooler checkers who manned the entrance to the lake. 

This went on until I discovered Dale’s Pale Ale, an honest-to-goodness craft beer brewed by Oskar Blues that comes exclusively in cans. I knew the moment I tasted the stuff that this wasn’t a gimmick – good beer in cans is the future.

Fast-forward to today, and the rest of the craft beer world has begun to catch up with Oskar Blues. These beers have no “canned” aftertaste, and no discernable downside except for the fact that they look lower-rent than their more shapely glass counterparts (if such things matter to you).  As of this moment, CraftCans.com, a website that obsesses over good beer in metal containers, lists 561 canned beers in their ever-growing database

Here are five of my favorite canned beers, selected because A) they’re awesome, and B) most are widely available around the country. I’m not saying this is THE definitive list of canned craft beers (with 561+ options out there, how could it be?); rather, this is a starting point for exploring the wonders of good beer in crushable containers.

Oskar Blues Dale’s Pale Ale

With its rich amber color, heady aroma and spot-on balance between malts and hops, Dale’s is my benchmark for pale ales and India pale ales, whether they come in cans or bottles. 

Story: Oskar Blues Deviant Dale’s: The 'Phantom Menace' of beers

Avery Joe’s Pilsner

If you’re looking for something crisp, refreshing and wrapped in aluminum, then Joe’s Pilsner from Avery Brewing is a great place to start. This pilsner packs quite a bit of flavor for a brew that’s so light on its feet, featuring a floral nose, a bready middle and a lovely little hop bite on the back end.  It’s the perfect reward after a long bike ride, mowing the lawn, or walking all the way to the fridge. Grab some chips from the pantry, and you’re practically a decathlete! 

21st Amendment Monk’s Blood

The first time I had a Monk’s Blood, I marveled that 21st Amendment had had the wisdom to put such an interesting beer in a vessel that I can take to the lake. With its tasty gush of plum, figs, vanilla and a hint of spice, this oak-aged Belgian Strong Dark Ale is a wonderful change of pace from all the canned “summer” pilsners and IPAs out there. Monk’s Blood is also best served just slightly chilled, which takes some of the pressure off of your Igloo temperature-management skills.

Story: Can 'Entourage' star's 'hipster' canned beer appeal to the masses?

Oskar Blues Old Chub

I know I’m double dipping into the Oskar Blues well here, but I’m a certified malt man, and this Scotch ale never fails to satisfy.  Old Chub will spoil your palate with rich threads of chocolate and caramel and an earthiness that will make you feel a little more connected to whatever patch of nature you’ve taken it to. Always satisfying but never too heavy, this is one of my favorite beers, period. Like Monk’s Blood, it’s also better once it’s warmed up a bit.

Leinenkugels Summer Shandy

I’m strapping on my helmet right now, because beer geeks gets rather intense whenever I bring up my love for this beer. Let me just say this – you had to be there. It was a hot summer’s day in the Wisconsin Dells, I was parched, and one of these half-lemonade, half-wheat beer delights was put in my hand.  Ahhhhh… utter refreshment. I know that Leinie’s is barely holding on to the bottom rung on the craft beer world, but this brew quenches my thirst like few others can. 

These are but a few of the wonderful options out there for a beer geek who’s looking to enjoy a good brew in a place where bottles don’t belong.  Just make sure that you bring a plastic cup to pour that brew into. Being out in the wild doesn’t mean you drink from the container – there are standards to keep!  

Jim Galligan is co-founder of the Beer and Whiskey Brothers blog, where he and his brother Don cover the ever-evolving world of craft beer and distilled spirits. Follow him on Twitter. 

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