Editor’s note: A version of this story originally appeared in the Star Tribune’s “THE BIG LIST: CAMPING” on March 31, 2017.
The key to any successful camping trip is preparation. You should understand what you’re in for and equip yourself accordingly. Tent? Obviously. Sleeping bag? Check. Knife? Sharp AF.
Pack only the essentials. More room for beer that way.
Your camping beer selections may be afterthought. But with a myriad of great local breweries all over the state, it’s easier than ever to find your perfect camping companion in the land of 10,000 beers. Whether you’re a lager drinker who likes the convenience of a KOA, or a practiced paddler with an affinity for ales, there’s something for everyone on this list of the Best Minnesota Camping Beers.
NorthGate Canoe Country Cream Ale
Let’s start with a beer that was created to celebrate and protect one of Minnesota’s greatest natural resources. NorthGate’s Canoe Country Cream Ale was brewed in collaboration with Save The Boundary Waters, whose mission it is to ensure permanent protection for the Boundary Waters Canoe Area.
This easy-drinking cream ale is brewed is with English malt, flaked corn, and American Cascade hops. Moderate body and balance make this one a campfire crowd pleaser. The beer is a summer seasonal, available again in May, with a portion of proceeds benefitting Save The Boundary Waters.
Camp-friendly packaging: 16oz Tallboy
Castle Danger Ode IPA
This Two Harbors taproom has gained a reputation as not only one of Minnesota’s best beer destinations—mere miles from the Superior Hiking Trail and a handful state parks—but also as one at the top of their craft. Castle Danger makes this beer for the hopheads out there.
Ode is Castle Danger’s love letter to hops. Featuring Citra, Azacca, Amarillo and Centennial hops–it’s a sonnet to the style of India Pale Ale. Pine and citrus aroma lead to a moderately bitter orange and tropical fruit flavor IPA drinkers will love.
Camp-friendly packaging: Growler, 12oz Cans
Bent Paddle 14° ESB
Another “up north” brewery with a reputation for environmental action, Bent Paddle is quietly making some of the best beer in the country in Duluth’s Lincoln Park neighborhood.
The owners chose Duluth because of its growing craft beer culture and the great brewing water supplied by the world’s largest freshwater lake. Duluth has become the unofficial beer capital of the north and a great jumping-off point for any northwoods adventure. Stop by Bent Paddle on your way north for a growler of their indelibly drinkable 14° ESB. This well balanced beer showcases malt and hops in proper harmony, and the pros agree—it’s won multiple medals at the Great American Beer Festival.
Camp-friendly packaging: Growlers, 12oz cans
Utepils is a Norwegian word that literally means “outdoors lager.” From romantic roots in Scandinavian culture, the word has been given new meaning by one of Minneapolis’ newest craft breweries. According to the owners of Utepils, to them the word embodies “the elation and satisfaction of enjoying the season’s first beer with those closest to you under the springtime sun.”
Can you think of anything more Minnesotan than German lagers brewed with natural spring water inspired by a romantic Norwegian word for drinking outdoors? Didn’t think so.
Utepils’ signature Pilsner is brewed with Czech-grown barley and hops. It’s an impressive early offering from the new kids on the block. Available now in growlers, they will be releasing a more camp-friendly 16 oz. tallboy format come May or June.
Camp-friendly packaging:: Draft, Growlers, 16 oz. can
Schell’s Deer Brand
This here is the granddaddy of Minnesota camping beer. August Schell Brewing Company developed Deer Brand prior to Prohibition and the beer has been flagship of theirs ever since. This straw-colored classic American lager features a mild malt flavor and hop bitterness, with their signature “Schell” yeast. No wonder it’s a perennial favorite on the lakes and trails of The North.
Camp-friendly packaging:: Draft, 16 oz. can
Forager Sherpa’s Survival Kit
Camping takes a certain level of astuteness, which is why you’ll notice most of the beers on this list land on the lower ABV side of the craft beer spectrum. Reading a map, tying intricate fishing knots, portages—these things call for a certain level of clarity. That said, here’s one to open up once your camp is all set for the night.
Sherpa’s Survival Kit is a huge American Double Stout from Rochester’s Forager Brewery. Known for the multitude of different beers they brew, Forager sells their ‘to-go’ beer in a 32 oz., camp-friendly Crowler. Crack yours when dinner’s done. This smooth, complex stout with its notes of cocoa, coffee, and a rich array of specialty malts will pair especially well with a woodland campfire.
Availability (and Camp-friendly): Crowlers
Hoops Brewing Pale Ale 15 (Crowler)
I don’t usually hype breweries before they’ve ever made a commercial beer, but Dave Hoops, former master brewer at Fitgers, and his new brewery in Duluth’s Canal Park, will not disappoint.
Though you won’t be able to get this beer until Hoops Brewing opens their door officially sometime in May or June, Dave swears they’ll debut with a flagship pale ale (named after the number on his son Finn’s hockey sweater). What can we expect from Pale Ale 15? Hoops promises an aggressively dry-hopped, fruity pale ale perfect for a day on the lake.
Camp-friendly packaging: Crowlers
Modist Brewing First Call
It wouldn’t be camping without coffee–and breakfast beer. Lucky for you, one Minneapolis brewery has combined both into a delicious pre-lunchtime lager.
Described by the sometimes modest men and women at Modist Brewing as “a mystery, wrapped in an enigma, inside a coffee bean, inside a lager,” this beer is as weird as the guys that make it. This mind bender of a beer–light in body and appearance–packs a serious coffee punch. Pairs well nicely with eggs, pork belly, and lumberjacking.
Camp-friendly packaging: 16oz can, Crowler
Steel Toe Provider Ale
You’ll notice most of the beers on this list have a few things in common. Camping beers should be easy-drinking, lower in alcohol, and available in a non-glass format. This beer provides across the board.
Brewed by the perpetually unsung Steel Toe Brewing in St. Louis Park, Provider is a beer with wide appeal. It’s a light and refreshing golden ale with a floral hop aroma, bready malt character, slight citrus notes, and some fruity yeast flavors. This beer deserves a permanent place in your camp cooler.
Camp-friendly packaging: 12oz can
Fair State Roselle
This beer should encourage wine drinkers to try a beer the next time they go camping, but it’s also here to encourage you to try one of these “sour beers” all the whippersnappers are crawin’ about.
Fair State’s Roselle is a great introduction to the wild world of sour beer. It is a light- to medium-bodied ale brewed with hibiscus flowers, which gives the beer a distinct red color and imparts unique floral aromas and flavors to a tart and lively sip. This beer is for those longer trips when you’ll want a little more variety in the cooler. It also happens to pair nicely with fresh caught fish.
Camp-friendly packaging: 12oz cans
To browse a full collection of favorite camping practices, tips, and ideas, visit the Star Tribune’s Camping Big List.