How to select beer for the river

Imagine a river trip with no beer. Such horrors must never be committed.

If you are tasked with stocking up on beer for a big river trip, you have your work cut out for you. Your job is of the utmost importance, and success in this department sets the tone for the entire trip. Your polished reputation is on the line. Don’t blow it.

Never fear. I will help you through this process. I have conducted countless (countless!) hours of empirical beer research on rivers, so you can say I am more than qualified to serve as your guide.

Now, on to the good stuff. Let’s get started, shall we?

Not all beers are created equal on the river. Keep in mind that everything on a river has to be “river ready.” In other words, pretty much everything in your boat will come in contact with the river at some point.

So when it comes to “river ready” beer, absolutely no glass is allowed. If I catch you slamming a glass bottle of Newcastle on the river, and I happen to cut my bare foot on said glass bottle later, there will be hell to pay, buddy.

Considering most beer comes in bottles, we have eliminated basically 75% of your options. Your job is getting easier. We now move on to the selection process. This is important. Pay attention.

Right away, we can eliminate most, if not all, domestic piss beer for taste purposes. Apologies to PBR, MGD, Coors Light, Bud Light, etc. You’re just not cool enough for the river.

You are now left with a few options. The following beers are all tested and approved “river ready.” Your life is becoming more and more simple by the second.

The beers:

Dale’s Pale Ale, meet the river rats. River rats, meet Dale’s Pale Ale, a worthy candidate. It’s tasty, and it comes in cans. Bingo!

Here’s the thing though. Your first pale ale is delicious. Your second pale ale has you feeling a little hopped out. Your third pale ale has you taking a nap on the river. Unacceptable.

Longevity is the name of the game on the river. Beer on the river must be capable of being consumed in mass quantities. I’m not promoting alcoholism. This is simply a fact of life, folks.

With that said, Dale’s Pale is a no-go for the long haul.

Moving along, we have Fat Tire in cans. Everyone freaks out about Fat Tire. Maybe it’s the biscuit flavor. Maybe it’s the cool bike on the can.

Whatever the case, you will be a hero if you show up with Fat Tire in cans. The can even conveniently reminds you to “Pack It In Pack It Out” giving your idiot friends no excuse to litter.

Much like Dale’s Pale, though, Fat Tire is only good for a round or two. Again, unacceptable. Feel free to pick up a sixer of Fat Tire and a sixer of Dale’s in preparation for obnoxious campfire sing-alongs.

But you must aim for longevity!  Without it, you have failed.

Where does this leave us? Stay focused. We are left with one extremely suitable candidate.

Ladies and gentlemen, I now present to you the champion of all river beers, Tecate.

Eww, Tecate?! You got that right, mister.  Let’s do a quick rundown, shall we?

River ready cans? Check. Low alcohol content? Check. Halfway decent taste? Check. We have a winner.

Load up on this stuff. Your river rat buddies will plow through tons of Tecate before they even know it.

Plus, these babes love Tecate, so you got that going for you, which is nice.

You drink Tecate on the river? Me too! You're awesome. Let's hang out.

I’ve seen people drinking cans of pineapple Hawaiian beer on the river, but I seriously doubt you want to go there.

Bottom line: stick with Tecate, and you’ll be fine.



    1. 4 to 5%ish? This is an extremely scientific estimate, mind you.

      Shiner Bock is pretty damn tasty, I will agree. And it’s fairly low in alcohol content, from what I remember. I haven’t seen it in cans, but we’ll add it to the list.

      Does “Shiner Bock” roll off the tongue like “Tecate” though?

  1. Shiner Bock definitely falls in that range. I haven’t seen it in cans either, but it is….I googled. (I wouldn’t want to throw faulty data into your scientific testing.) And no, its not really as tongue-rollable as Tecate or Rolling Rock, but yeah, same number of syllables.

    I’m not sure about Shiner Bock babes though….

    1. No faulty data allowed around here, that’s for sure. Shiner needs babes. How else do they plan on selling beer?

    1. Damn, no beer for you? Hum, we have quite the dilemma on our hands then. What would be a suitable “longevity” drink of choice on the river for you? Are you able to function after 10 hours of floating down the river in the sun while drinking scotch and tequila? If so, party on Wayne.

      1. Wine is doable. Hey, whatever floats your boat. Yes, that was a cleverly crafted pun, by the way.

  2. Say what?

    I happen to be highly disappointed to see regional discrepancies limiting the numerous, value rich, canned-beer options that did not make the list. This is, after all, the WORLD WIDE web and should be considered to be nothing less.

    Without producing here an unabridged canned-beer reference guide, I do declare at least one quality six-er should be added to the list: Shiner Bock is a highly enjoyable brew, nearly on par with (but of course different than) Flat Tire flavor-wise, yet not as oppressive when consumed in quantity. Shiner also seems to be mirroring the rapid territorial growth, witnessed by Flat Tire lovers some years ago, and continuing to this day. Whether splitting a six-er or going whole hog (depending on who’s loading the craft & driving your Shinery @#! home) rarely is a lazy river ruined by a flavorful yet refreshing, easy drinking yet packing-a-punch-type of brew like Shiner Bock. Plus – it comes in a can. I say skip the six-er and go straight for the 12 pack – just in case.

    This is however the world wide web, and the wide world happens to include the Midwest – and you bet your boat there are an abundance of lazy rivers in the Midwest; We are experts in this field. Or stream. In the Midwest you are of course free to choose your quality beer but you can always fall back on Old Style. Lest you scoff – HOLD YOUR BOWLINE: Old Style is new and improved by reverting to their old, traditional style of brewing. That’s right. You guessed it. Old Style is once again Krausened! (Old Style has recently been purchased by Pabst Blue Ribbon. A wise investment. PBR is, by the way, an almost perfectly half-way suitable substitute for Old Style, despite that to which this list of so-called manly wants and needs alludes).

    Brewed in Milwaukee. Loved by Chicago. Many a wonderful river trip can be nearly half-forgotten under the blissful influence of the one and only Cubby Brew. Again, lest you scoff, try for yourself a little experiment: Bring your lovely yet little six-er of premium brew on a float-down with some good ol’ boys and see what happens. Soon enough, seemingly without fail, you’ll be asking for a hard-won sacrifice from the same case of beer you thumbed your now muddy nose at from the very beginning of the trip.

    I shall propose a plan of action. Bring the good stuff. A six pack works well but a couple tall cans of Foster’s or Heineken will do (Some mid-westerners refer to these tall can wonders of the world as “silos.” ((Heineken also comes in “keg cans.” Great for 12-packing))). But have a back-up plan. A case of your most tolerable, full flavor, cheapy-brew can be an empty-handed river-rat’s dream come true – and, for this river-rat, Old Style tops that list.

    Lest you forget.

    1. My plan of action is to load up the coolers with a few 30 packs of Tecate, and we should be good to go. Old Style is acceptable, and I certainly wouldn’t decline a PBR if offered. I’m afraid neither option passes the “rolls off the tongue well” test referred to in my conversation with Alex above.

      Say it with me, dude. “Tecate.” Tecate loosely translates as “the best river beer on the market” in Spanish. Maybe. I’m a little rusty.

      As we have both noted, the “good stuff” is not a viable long-term option. An adventurous all-day river fest could easily turn into a napping flotilla. This would expose the crew to numerous dangers, such as pirates.

      I know my way around rivers and beer. I cut my teeth on those same Midwestern waterways, lest you forget.

      One of these days we’ll have to float an entire river for the hell of it. See you out there, captain!

  3. True story,and I wasn’t with him on this trip. A buddy of mine has more money than brains. About 20 years ago, he and some friends decided to canoe the Churchill River system in Northern Saskatchewan. Nothing unusual, lots of people do it. You fly in and canoe out, He took it to a new level. He needed beer, but is to heavy to carry a couple of weeks worth of beer on all the portages, so, he pays the pilot to land on several lakes on the way to the starting point, so they could cache the beer and retrieve it when they got there. Absolutely brilliant.

  4. Eric, Love the piece! My wife and I enjoy a cold Leinie’s Summer Shandy on our canoe trips down the Wisconsin River. It’s in a can and now I hear starting next week Leinenkugel’s will offer the lemonade beer in a 16oz silo can! Look for it on a river near you!

    1. Hey Nick! Great to see you here! It’s been a while since I’ve had a Leinie’s, but I do recall Summer Shandy being quite tasty. The lemonade beer sounds pretty damn good, too! It’d probably be perfect for the river.

      How often do you guys get out on the Wisconsin? I’ve been meaning to check it out.

      1. Sorry so late reply.. My wife and I go out quite a bit. We start in Sauk City (where we live) and we like to go to Spring Green. A real nice trip! Bring the tents, free camping on the islands, and good hiking trails on Ferry’s Bluff.

  5. I might have to take your word on the Tecate! I’ve never heard of it, but will be sure to check it out if I come across it. And the pale ale you mentioned first, too – I’m a big pale ale fan!

    1. Tecate isn’t the greatest beer in situations when you’re not on the river. But it’s perfect on the river! I could go on and on about pale ale! Do you have any favorites?

Say what?

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s