Life

Craft Beer Experts Reveal The World’s Best Boat Beers

Summer’s hot days aren’t going to last forever (*sob*). It’s going to come to an end — so you’d better get the most out of it. Finish off that summer activities list. Did you already go to the beach? Good. How about eating more ice cream than you ever should in any given sitting? Great. Did you sit around a campfire while you toasted marshmallows? Outstanding. Did you spend a day on a boat, slowly drifting on a lake or the ocean?

No? Well, time is almost up.

Before the weather turns, spend some time in a pontoon boat, dingy, kayak, or yacht. And do it with a beer in your hand. That’s right — the only thing more fun than a summer day spent on the water is doing it with a cooler filled with frosty, delicious brews. To help you figure out which brews, we spoke to well-known craft beer experts and brewers and asked them to reveal the best boat beers available now.

Before we get going, this is obligatory:

Maui Bikini Blonde Lager

Maui Bikini Blonde Lager
Maui

Jeremy Marshall, brew master at Lagunitas Brewing in Petaluma, California

ABV: 5.1%

Average Price: $12.50 for a six-pack

Why This Beer?

The key to the perfect boat beer is to play the song “I’m on a Boat” extremely loud. That will make any beer a boat beer. It’s been a long time since I’ve had it, but Maui Bikini Blonde Lager is a boat beer, even though I look pretty rough in a bikini. Technically a Munich Helles, so not exactly tied to an island or boat kind of place. It’s just that the sweetness and classic lager combo of this beer makes it a true refreshing combo of uplifting granny smith apples (fermentation esters), and the grain and yeast give lots of bread and freshly opened hipster crackers. Because you’re not eating on that boat; you’re having liquid bread. And you need to be able to have lots of them, so lagers do serve a purpose.

Not just your dad’s beer.

Hinterland Space Breakfast

Hinterland Space Breakfast
Hinterland

Garth E. Beyer, certified Cicerone® and owner and founder of Garth’s Brew Bar in Madison, Wisconsin

ABV: 6.6%

Average Price: Limited Availability

Why This Beer?

Alright, hands down I’m drinking Space Breakfast (nitro in cans) by Hinterland Brewing on a boat. The sun is beating down and you want something light, refreshing, and that won’t put you overboard after two. That’s Space Breakfast. It’s a wheat ale at its base but they dose it with tangerine, apricot, and lactose for a creamier experience.

It’s like a childhood popsicle in beer format.

Bierstadt Lagerhaus Helles

Bierstadt Lagerhaus Helles
Bierstadt Lagerhaus

Karlton Graham, head brewer at Kansas City Bier Company in Kansas City

ABV: 5.5%

Average Price: $10.99 for a four-pack of 16-ounce cans

Why This Beer?

My best boat beer is Bierstadt Lagerhaus Helles. It’s so crisp, and yet, has such a solid delicate malt character. It’s right up there with the very best Bavarian versions. Bierstadt takes absolutely zero shortcuts in their pursuit of perfection, and in every glass, I can taste every shortcut they did not take. Relaxing on a boat, you’d want a balanced, flavorful beer that you’d never get tired of and that’s Bierstadt Helles.

Stella Artois

Stella Artois
Stella Artois

Parker Penley, lead innovation brewer of Widmer Brothers Brewery in Portland, Oregon

ABV: 5%

Average Price: $8.50 for a six-pack

Why This Beer?

I must confess Stella Artois is a great boat beer because it’s not fussy, balanced, and refreshing. Perfect for all those summer jaunts on the water. This classic European pilsner is light, thirst-quenching, but surprisingly complex. Yet, you can still throw a few back because of the reasonably low alcohol content.

Great Lakes Edmund Fitzgerald

Great Lakes Edmund Fitzgerald
Great Lakes

Kevin McGee, president and CEO of Anderson Valley Brewing Company in Boonville, California

ABV: 5.8%

Average Price: $10.99 for a six-pack

Why This Beer?

Great Lakes Edmund Fitzgerald is my less-than-conventional pick. First off, I’d drink the Edmund Fitzgerald anywhere and everywhere (even in the summer). It’s that good. A well-made porter is as complex and nuanced as any well-made Cabernet and Great Lakes’ Edmund Fitzgerald is one of the very best. It’s a robust and complex interplay of roast, coffee, and chocolate but supremely balanced and never cloying.

A great fit for any boating adventure, particularly if the weather comes up, that is also a tribute to the crew of the Edmund Fitzgerald and a reminder of how precious life really is.

Local Brewing Local Lite

Local Brewing Local Lite
Local Brewing

Rob Lightner, co-founder of East Brother Beer Company in Richmond, California

ABV: 4%

Average Price: $3.99 for a 16-ounce can

Why This Beer?

Good ol’ American Light Lager: Not much to think about here…who wants to do that on a boat? Look for Faction Brewing’s 1970s Lager or Local Brewing’s Local Lite to scratch that itch. If I had to narrow it down to one of the two, it would be Local Lite. This award-winning light lager is crisp, light, low in alcohol, and really easy to drink on a boat on a warm summer day.

Miller High Life

Miller High Life
Miller

Ian Brown, head brewer at Biggerstaff Brewing in Atlanta

ABV: 4.6%

Average Price: $6.50 for a six-pack

Why This Beer?

Miller High life. Period. The flavor is happiness. There are few beers as iconic as Miller High Life and for good reason. It’s low in alcohol, crisp, clean, and effortlessly refreshing, and full of flavor. Plus, it comes in that classic clear bottle. What’s not to love?

Foster’s

Foster’s
Foster’s

Ben Saller, founder and brewer at Burnt City Brewing in Chicago

ABV: 5%

Average Price: $2.50 for a 25-ounce can

Why This Beer?

Whenever I’m on a boat, I like to take a Foster’s oil can, empty it, and fill it with rum. This classic Australian lager is cheap, crisp, and thirst-quenching if that’s what you’re looking for. The rum afterward definitely adds to the experience.

Pacifico

Pacifico
Pacifico

Josh Radigan, director of food and beverage at Viceroy in Washington DC

ABV: 4.4%

Average Price: $9.50 for a six-pack

Why This Beer?

Pacífico is my pick hands down. That’s one beer that blends its refreshing style to the salt air and goes down easy. Also known as Cerveza Pacífico Clara, this Mexican lager is surprisingly complex with cereal sweetness, caramel malts, and a nice crisp, easy-drinking flavor.

Writer’s Pick:

Narragansett Lager

Narragansett Lager
Narragansett

ABV: 5%

Average Price: $6.99 for a six-pack of 16-ounce cans

Why This Beer?

There are few beers more perfect for a boat ride than Narragansett Lager. Bonus points if you grab some of the 1975 throwback cans featured in Jaws. While we wouldn’t suggest taking a similar boat ride Quint and his companions took, you should still bring this crisp, easy-drinking, full-flavored lager aboard for summertime adventures.

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