This month, we’re heading outdoors with the best drinks for the backyard, beach, and beyond. In Take It Outside, we’re exploring our favorite local spots and far-flung destinations that make summer the ultimate season for elevated drinking.
Summer is officially here, and with the season’s arrival comes spending time outside partaking in its many timeless pleasures, like camping.
Whether you’re a hardcore camper going deep in the backcountry with little more than a backpack, or your idea of roughing it is pitching a tent with premium sheets in your own backyard and unplugging for the night (OK, a few hours), there are some essentials to ensure a proper experience.
For us, nothing provides a true taste of the wild quite like having a beer when camping. After a short hike or swimming in a lake, close friends gathering around a crackling fire to share cold beers (and, of course, laughs) is nirvana. It’s that simple.
OK, you’ve bought the bug repellent and hamburger buns and you’re ready to sleep under the stars. Now the question is: What should you be drinking?
To find the best beers for camping, we spoke to 10 brewers, all of whom consider themselves to be outdoor enthusiasts, about their favorites. And, just as their shared experiences with Mother Nature varied, their drink recommendations covered a wide range stylistically. From roasty schwarzbiers to snappy, spelt-filled pilsners, here are the experts’ picks for drinking in the great outdoors.
The Best Camping Beers Recommended By Brewers:
- MERIT Brewing SVP
- New Glarus Wisconsin Belgian Red
- Enegren Brewing Co. Nighthawk
- Wet Coast Costa Húmeda Mexican Dark Lager
- Oxbow Luppolo
- Coors Light/Banquet
- Fifth Hammer Neighborbräu Pils
- North Coast Old Rasputin Barrel-Aged XXII
- Stillwater Artisanal Extra Dry
- Schilling Landbier Rustic Lager
Keep reading for details about all of the recommended beers!
“The best camping beer is SVP, a table beer from MERIT Brewing in Hamilton, Ontario. Brewed with wheat, and fermented with saison yeast, SVP is light but not lacking in substance. The low alcohol content, 3 percent ABV, allows you to enjoy all that camping has to offer without demanding your full attention. Whether you’re hiking, sitting by the fire, fishing, or eating, SVP quenches your thirst and leaves you craving another.” —Aidan Grummett, Brewer, Elora Brewing Co., Elora, Ontario, Canada
“When most people think of camping, they think of light, crisp lagers, campfires, and roasted marshmallows. But when I think of camping, I think of New Glarus’s Wisconsin Belgian Red. In the summer of 2011, my wife and I married and decided that rather than taking the quintessential trip to a Caribbean island, we wanted to experience the freedom of traveling up coastal Highway 1. As a wedding gift, a close family friend, who has since passed, gave us a bottle of Wisconsin Belgian Red. The directions that came with the bottle were, ‘Open when it feels right.’ The ‘right’ time ended up being thrown into a backpack to hike into a campground in the middle of Big Sur. This luscious, rich, and unique beer, lagered in oak tanks and designed with Hallertau hops, helped celebrate the beginning of our marriage.” —Zeb Zak, Packaging Manager, Firestone Walker Brewing Co., Paso Robles, Calif.
“For nights around the campfire in a hoodie, it’s got to be Nighthawk from Enegren Brewing in Moorpark, Calif., hands down. A German schwarzbier is the absolutely perfect beer for camping: light enough for a good session, while the chocolate and dehusked malts bring chocolate and coffee notes that pair great with fire-grilled foods, s’mores, and general campfire frolicking and revelry.” —Brian Herbertson, Brewer, Lucky Luke Brewing, Lancaster, Calif.
“When my buddy moved to Gig Harbor in the summer of 2018, he recommended this tiny little brewery called Wet Coast. It’s owned and operated by two volunteer firefighters and when they aren’t out fighting fires they’re crushing it in the brewery making amazing beer. Costa Húmeda is an awesome Vienna lager that’s perfect for camping. It’s crisp and crushable and full of flavor. There is a big chocolate note with just a hint of smoke. It’s such a versatile lager that can be drunk on a hot day and by the campfire at night.” —Nathan Whitney, Brewery Manager, McMenamins – Edgefield, Troutdale, Ore.
“As an avid backpacker, camper, and all-around outdoor enthusiast, I like to bring certain things with me on trips to bring a little comfort to the back country. One of those things is beer! While there are so many different brews that I would love to drink in the mountains, one that really stands out to me when I can get my hands on it is Luppolo by Oxbow. This is my ideal brew after a long day of hiking, as it hits all the different flavors I look for when I want something refreshing and easy-drinking. As a dry-hopped pilsner, you get your floral and hoppy fix, with a clean and crispy finish. The balance of hops and malt in this beer is perfect for me, and I would never hesitate to recommend this brew to anyone who doesn’t mind carrying some extra weight in their bag.” —Jon Fernandez, Co-founder and Brewmaster, Two Villains Brewing, Nyack, N.Y.
“As someone who spends most weekends sleeping at campsites, creeksides, and cabins, I’ve had my fair share of beers under the stars. But when I’m looking for the perfect potent potable for my outdoor adventures, there are only three things I need: drinkability, taste, and pure Rocky Mountain spring water. ‘It’s no downstream beer. It’s no city beer. It’s Coors.’ And, to clarify, it’s Coors Light in the desert and Banquet in the woods.” —Preston Thoeny, Head Brewer, Wren House Brewing Co., Phoenix
“It depends on the time of year, or the season. If camping or going on a hike in warmer months, I want a nice, crushable yet flavorful lager or saison. Neighborbräu Pils from Fifth Hammer is a favorite of mine. It has subtle noble hop character but really lets the pilsner malt shine through. Light enough to not hold you back on the trail, but also strong enough to make the carbs worth your while.” —Brian Kulbacki, Owner and Head Brewer, Departed Soles Brewing Co., Jersey City, N.J.
“Camping with the family is an adventure. We tend to pack light and explore the area that we are staying in as much as possible. With a 4-year-old, we need to stay light and nimble, at least until camp is set up and the fire lit. During setup, we’ll drink lagers, pale ales, and whatever might catch our eye. We are on an adventure, after all, and should always be ready to try something new. But once the junior explorer dozes off after her s’mores high, we’ll watch the stars and enjoy the glowing embers with a bottle of Old Rasputin Barrel-Aged XXII. A cool summer evening seems to be the perfect serving temperature for this delicious beer, and it pairs well with the leftover chocolate from the s’mores. I love the deep, dark complexity of the roast, coffee, and chocolate notes, and the barrel-aged versions just add another layer of flavor. Plus, the higher ABV helps to melt away the memories of pre-adventure stress. Inevitably, we will have a few stray cans left over in the cooler from various breweries along the way, but that just means we can relive the adventure for a few more days when we return home.” —Paul Liszewski, Head Brewer, East Brother Beer Co., Richmond, Calif.
“If I’m looking for a camping beer to cool me down during Virginia’s sweltering summer months, Stillwater Artisanal‘s Extra Dry is a go-to option. It’s light enough that you can kick back a few and it won’t slow you down on the trail but still has enough fruity saison character to keep it interesting.” —Joey Darragh, Co-founder and President, Väsen Brewing Co., Richmond, Va.
“One of my favorite things about beer is its huge diversity and how styles come and go with the changing seasons. That being said, it’s pretty hard to find a better time and place for drinking beer than camping in the summer. In my opinion, a crisp lager is your best bet for the occasion, and Schilling Beer Co.‘s Landbier is as good as it gets for me. Made with spelt and a nearly extinct strain of lager yeast recently revived from the cellars of Germany’s Weihenstephan, Landbier is super drinkable and finishes clean, but is surprisingly complex with interesting undertones of dried hay and a nice herbal hop character. While I have an affinity for mixed-fermentation sours and stouts, there’s an undeniable allure of a well-crafted lager, and Schilling really nailed it with this one.” — Dan Cramer, R&D Brewer, Brown’s Brewing Co., Troy, N.Y.