Boat Beers: Going with the Flow

Update: To hear our 2016 picks for Minnesota’s best boat beers tune into 89.3 The Current’s Oake & Riley in the Morning on Wednesday, May 11th.


Casting a fly calls for smoothness and precise timing. Casting a fly from a drift boat moving downriver adds coordination (don’t stand on your slack line, bro) and teamwork (row me closer to that timber pile, bro) to the list of requirements. Beer is not a requirement per se for fly-fishing, but in our experience it sure is nice—especially if the sun is shining and fish are biting.

And if it rains and the fish refuse to bite, beer still helps.

The problem for the fly-fishing beer geek is that many of our favorite and most popular styles tend to compromise all of those physical requirements—smoothness, timing, coordination, etc., to say nothing of steering the boat—when enjoyed over the course of a long day on the water. Your authors speak from some empirical knowledge on this, having experienced dehydration, fumbled casts, accusations of indecent exposure, and more than a few lost fish on a summer float awash with 7% ABV craft IPAs (watch out for that rock, bro!). More than one summer float, actually, if we’re being honest.

Thus was born the mandate of Boat Beer—tasty but not incapacitating, flavorful but not obtrusive. This might sound to you like just another take on “session beer,” but trust us, citizens, it’s totally different. For one, it’s in a boat. Secondly, the environment and overall milieu dictate some narrower, specialized parameters: It’s usually hot out so lighter, paler styles of low- to moderate-ABV ales and lagers are the rule; And we like cans. Pry-off caps mean having to keep track of an opener amidst fly boxes and tippet spools. Bottles can shatter, and broken glass is hell on fly lines, anchor rope, and bare feet. And, in the spirit of efficient use of space, cans stack perfectly into the cooler and pack out nicely at the end of the day.

Because we float local rivers for native fish species in their home range, we like to drink local too—with a couple out-of-staters that have been grandfathered into the roster. Here then is a highly arbitrary, incomplete, and subjective survey of some of our favorite Boat Beers, presented in no particular order, with tasting notes and comments included.

Please note: If we have neglected your favorite, we are happy to reconsider our list. It is a work-in-progress. To have a beer considered for inclusion in the Boat Beer Program, please send at least a dozen cans to 1095 7th St. West, Saint Paul, MN, care of The Growler and we will subject them to rigorous, on-the-river testing.

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