Finding Sunshine In A Beer

Beer, PAcific Northwest, Aslan, Fremont, Pale Ale
BY : NEAL TOGNAZZINI

In order to get the full sensory experience from any beer, there’s no question that you need to pour it into a glass.

This is especially true of intensely aromatic beers (like American IPAs and most Belgian beers), but drinking from a glass will enhance the experience of any beer you drink, since so much of what we call “flavor” is a matter of what goes into our nose. (This is why I tell my daughter to plug her nose as she tries to choke down a piece of asparagus.) Still, only the most radical (and misguided) beer snob would insist on a glass for every beer-drinking occasion. Smart drinking requires an appreciation of context, and there’s no denying that some contexts call for drinking straight from a can.

Outdoor drinking during the glorious Pacific Northwest clear days is one of those contexts: BBQs, hiking, camping, boating, picnicking, or just sitting on your front porch desperately trying to secret away some of that vitamin D. This winter, don’t be ashamed to drink straight from the can (koozie recommended). Not only are cans more lightweight (and so easier to take on outdoor adventures), but they also do a great job of keeping your beer protected from two of its worst enemies: light and oxygen. (Heat is the other enemy of good beer, so be smart and buy your cans from somewhere that keeps them refrigerated.)

Canned craft beer is incredibly easy to find — in fact, so many places are canning their beers now that I’m having a hard time filling up the bottle-cap maps hanging on my wall. Here are the cans I plan to have on hand all summer long, and I heartily recommend you do the same.

ASLAN CLASSIC LAGER

Light lagers were once anathema to craft breweries because they smacked of the mass-produced yellow fizz that the craft beer movement was reacting against. But as the movement has matured, craft brewers have come to realize that light lagers have a place, too. Summer sunshine is that place, and Aslan has done a very nice job with this low-octane example.

BOUNDARY BAY CEDAR DUST IPA

It was Boundary Bay Scotch Ale (now also available in cans) that really got the Bellingham beer scene going back in the 90s, but it’s Cedar Dust IPA that has helped the pioneering brewery stay relevant in an increasingly competitive market filled with IPA-thirsty consumers. This one won’t punch you in the face with juiciness or bitterness (that’s a good thing).

FREMONT SUMMER ALE

When you want refreshing simplicity without sacrificing intensity of flavor, Fremont Summer Ale is the can to crack. In beer lingo, this is a SMaSH beer (Single Malt and Single Hop), which means that the list of ingredients is as pared down as much as possible for a beer. They’ve wisely chosen Amarillo hops, which add notes of tangerine and apricot to this American Pale Ale.

SIERRA NEVADA PALE ALE

Although the Sierra Nevada brewery is outside the Pacific Northwest (they have one facility in Chico, Calif., and another in Mills River, N.C.), I can’t resist adding their classic Pale Ale, which is now available in 12-oz. and 16-oz. cans, to the list. This is one of my desert island beers for sure, and hundreds of craft brewers working today would say the same. Born in 1980, this beer is the same age as Harry Potter, and just as magical.

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