You’ve peaked. That grueling hike to the top of the mountain is behind you, whether you’re hoofing it in hiking boots or skinning on skis. After all the high-fiving is done and before the descent begins, it’s time to sit back, catch your breath, take in the view—and toast the triumph. Let us introduce you to the wonder that is summit beers. You’re not just stashing the mismatched brews knocking around in your fridge into your pack, no sir.
“A great summit beer is [hopefully] cold and [definitely] sessionable, since you still have to get down safely,” advises Chelsea Coe, New Castle, CO-based certified beer server, “so low ABV is the way to go,”
Echoing Coe, Gabe Toth, a brewer, distiller, journalist, and author of Fermentation Kitchen: Recipes for the Craft Beer Lover’s Pantry, stresses the importance of easy-drinking, rejuvenating beers.
“Heavy, malty beers or massive, hop-blasted IPAs have their place, but it’s not on the trail,” says Toth. “Good hiking beers are the ones that leave you feeling refreshed—session beers, pilsners, kettle sours. Remember you’re celebrating at the summit, but it’s not that kind of celebration. You still need to keep your head on straight.”
Here are our 17 favorite brews to savor at the summit before a safe, stumble-free descent.
17 Best Summit Beers to Drink After Crushing Steep Vert
1. AleSmith Brewing Co. Kickbackrelax
This 4.2 percent ABV IPA is a natural go-to on the trails. “We were really excited to roll out Kickbackrelax because it’s the perfect option for someone looking for a lighter, more crushable IPA,” says head brewer Ryan Crisp, of the recent release from the San Diego brewery. “Since it’s only 120 calories and super easy to drink, it’s ideal for active people who still want a solid IPA and the ability to make it back down the mountain after a tough climb.” Expect notes of juicy grapefruit, mango, and coconut—and a refreshingly smooth finish.
[$12, 6-pack; alesmith.com]Get it
2. Allagash Brewing Co. River Trip
Portland, Maine’s craft brewing giant offers this Belgian-style table beer with a 4.8 percent ABV and delightful hop-forward grapefruit and stone fruit tasting notes. If you sip conscientiously, you may detect the coriander, too. Bonus: It’s an equally solid pick for post-hike afternoon barbecues.
[Price varies; allagash.com]Get it
3. Roadhouse Brewing Co. Highwayman Pilsner
This Jackson Hole, Wyoming, brewery churns out a selection of top-notch beers. For a hiking accompaniment, we’re partial to this 4.0 percent ABV pilsner that’s light and crisp with strong floral notes. It’s an optimal choice at normal altitudes too.
[$4.99, 12-oz can; craftshack.com]Get it
4. Founders Brewing Co. All Day IPA
There’s no better time to drink this beer from famed Grand Rapids, MI, brewing company Founders than while sweaty and celebratory about a tall achievement—like scaling a big hill. “All Day IPA is crafted for outdoor adventures like hiking and is the ideal brew for any activity,” says Founders head, Jeremy Kosmicki. “It’s incredibly refreshing, with tropical and citrus hops aroma, moderate bitterness and a perfect balance of flavors.” And at 4.7 percent ABV, it shouldn’t hamper your pace.
[$12, 6-pack; drizly.com]Get it
5. Halyard Brewing Co. Hard Ginger Beer
The trio of hard ginger beers from this Burlington, Vermont, craft brewery reflects the company’s solid efforts to revive the long lost art of alcoholic ginger beer production (liquidated during the Prohibition era). Volcano Juice (4.1 percent ABV) is the least “hard” of the three—brewed with organic lemons and slightly sweet with a forward ginger-citrus tang.
[$13, 6-pack; halyardbrewing.us]Get it
6. CERIA Brewing Co. Indiewave IPA
Looking for a solid non-alcoholic choice with good hops? This tasty, vegan, dairy-free find offers real pale ale tastiness without all the aftershocks. “Where a classic IPA would be too much, Indiewave packs plenty of hoppy-but-not-too hoppy flavor into a beer that can still keep your mind clear for the hike down,” says Toth. For a medium-bodied follow-up back at the trailhead, try their non-alcoholic Belgian-Style White Ale, made with blood orange peel and coriander.
[$13.99, 6-pack; ceriabrewing.com]Get it
7. Heineken—Non-Alcoholic 0.0
The beer giant’s signature alcohol-free brew offers a reliably malty body with some hints of fresh fruit—with zero hangover. Heineken 0.0 represents over 20 percent market share in non-alcoholic beverages. In other words, lots of folks agree it’s the best of the bunch.
[$10, 6-pack; drizly.com]Get it
8. Schlafly IPA
This sessionable IPA is dry-hopped with eight different varietals, offering plenty of interesting tropical and citrus notes. At a moderate 5 percent ABV it’s daypack friendly, non-filling, and accessible enough for “normal beer” enthusiasts to comfortably savor at the summit too.
[Price varies; schlafly.com]Get it
9. SLO Brew Holidaze IPA Spruce Tip IPA
For some extra evergreen with your climb, the piney-est IPA from this San Luis Obispo, CA, brewery is made with actual fresh spruce tree tips—plus Citra hops and a tinge of orange peel. The contents alone make it a must for this list, but at 7 percent ABV we strongly suggest saving this one for your return to ground level—or for vicarious couch-hiking sessions on your next outdoor documentary binge.
[Price varies; slobrew.com]Get it
10. Greenbrier Valley Brewing Co. Wild Trail Pale Ale
This medium-bodied pale ale from West Virginia-fan favorite Greenbrier Valley Brewing Company pairs beautifully with carbs, sweat, and total exhaustion. Superb hops from the Pacific Northwest gives this brewski a swirl of mango, tangerine, and piney flavor. The 5.7 percent ABV is a befitting nod to your sylvan ascent. Save the second round for your post-trek picnic back at the base.
[Price varies; drizly.com]Get it
11. Elevation Beer Co. 8 Second Kolsch
Salida, CO’s Elevation Beer has something for all outdoor adventures. “I almost always have an 8 Second Kolsch in my hydration pack,” says Coe. “It’s light and crushable without sacrificing flavor, crisp like a lager, subtly fruity like an ale, and super-bright and refreshing once you reach the summit.”
[$10.29, 6-pack; wine-searcher.com]Get it
12. Athletic Brewing Co.—Upside Dawn Golden Ale (Non-Alcoholic)
Outdoorsmen are sure to dig this nuanced non-alcoholic brew made with organic Vienna malt, hops, and other fine ingredients. It’s only 50 calories and the perfect way to take a breather at the end of that grueling 14-miler without worrying about your energy crashing or worse—a mid-descent hangover.
[$12.99, 6-pack; athleticbrewing.com]Get it
13. Dry Dock Brewing Co. Apricot Sour
Bright, tart, and fruity, the apricot purée really shines in this sessionable sour ale—the successful result of many kettle sour experiments in the Dry Dock Brewing lab. “This goes down easy once you reach the top of the trail,” says Toth. Equally important, he adds, “it leaves you ready for another once you get back down to the bottom.”
[Price varies; drydockbrewing.com]Get it
14. Anchor Brewing Co. Little Weekend
Advanced Cicerone and National Homebrew Competition gold medalist, Mandy Naglich, is a fan of this golden ale that clocks in at 100 calories and a hiking-manageable 3.7 percent ABV. “The beer has a touch of natural mango flavor which is a nice twist on the typical taste of a low-calorie beer,” says Naglich, who notes that it’s also crafted to reduce gluten for hikers conscious of their intake.
[$9, 6-pack; anchorbeertogo.com]Get it
15. Boulevard Brewing Co. Easy Sport Rally Ale
“For a brewery from the plains, Kansas City’s Boulevard Brewing Co. makes a great summit beer,” notes Coe. “Easy Sport Rally Ale is another perfect celebratory brew when you want to sit on a tree stump and take in the views.” Featuring just a touch of salt, this blonde ale doesn’t quite cross into gose territory, “but has just enough to balance the citrus notes beautifully,” she adds. At 4 percent ABV, Easy Sport is as super drinkable as the name kind of implies.
[Price varies; boulevard.com]Get it
16. Grüvi Non-Alcoholic IPA
“Pregnancy didn’t stop my fishing or day-trek excursions, and I was looking for something ritualistic to enjoy outside,” recalls Coe, who was pleased to discover Gruvi’s non-alcoholic IPA, brewed with Mosaic, Citra, and Galaxy hops. “It’s balanced, hoppy and gives you all the bitterness and flavor you’re looking for out of an IPA — without the ABV,” adds Coe. If you like this one, try their non-alcoholic pale ale on your next summit bid.
[$20, 8-pack; getgruvi.com]Get it
17. Lost Nation Gose
Chad Brodsky, a Boston resident who is the founder of Brewvana.com and City Brew Tours, thinks that just about all German Gose beers hit the spot when hiking. “Brewed with sea salt and coriander, it’s like the Gatorade of beer—with actual electrolytes due to the salt added during the brewing process,” says Brodsky. “It’s slightly tart and super-refreshing with a relatively low ABV.” Brodsky’s go-to? The Lost Nation Gose out of Waterbury, Vermont, which comes in 16-ounce cans.
[Price varies; drizly.com]Get it
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