Trail Mix: Not Your Dad's Canned Beer

I still remember, in my junior year of college (I swear I was legal), drinking my first beer from a bottle. It was a Dutch lager, Grolsch, and the weight of its green, flip-top glass in my hand made it seem somehow better, the way a heavy oak door signals you've reached the corner office. I had reached the executive level of beer drinking, and there'd be no more dirt-cheap, water-thin, metallic-tasting canned beer. Cans were for the "dad beers"—Busch, Labatt, Genny Cream Ale and their mass-produced ilk.[slideshow:503]

My, how times have changed. Today, craft brewers are packaging great-tasting beers in oh-so-portable/rugged/lightweight aluminum cans that are easy to pack down the trail, on the water or up the mountain. In 2002, Colorado's Oskar Blues brewpub (maker of Dale's Pale Ale, the river rat's beer of preference) was the first craft brewery to can its own suds—by hand, in a barn.

Thank god they did. Consider that roughly 35 percent of the weight of a bottled beer is the glass itself. Cans are über-rugged, so you can toss 'em wherever they fit with the rest of your gear without too much worry of a break or spill. They also block beer-damaging UV rays, and cool faster when you set them in a cold mountain stream. And once you've had your fill of trail and beer and you're hauling out empties, it takes about 14 cans to equal the weight of a single bottle. Are you sold yet?

Today, at least 175 craft breweries are canning more than 500 beers. Here's a dozen of the tops, broken down by beer style (and with ratings from and