I’ve never been a nautical person. I spent half my growing up years in landlocked Missouri with a mother who got violently seasick just looking at a boat on dry land, despite being raised by a decorated Navy Captain. Boats were just never part of my life–that is, until now.
After receiving a leisurely dinner boat sojourn through the East River as a gift last month, I decided to make it my business to be on a boat as much as fiscally and humanly possible this summer. What’s better than taking to the seas–rivers, whatever–escaping the sun-baked, garbage-strewn streets, disoriented, immobilized crowds of tourists and muggy, trapped air that is summer in the city. Seriously, it rules. You get to work on your tan while feeling the wind in your hair. You don’t even sweat! Also, the things you see–I’m not just talking about the breathtaking Lady Lib, which, of course, is a fantastic benefit of area boating, but green, unpopulated city islands, secret Brooklyn waterfront nooks and, somehow, at least a handful of whooping Bronx bros strapped to enormous jet-skis. It’s a whole new world out there.
And then, of course, there’s the beer. There’s literally no better place to down a cold craft beer than on the water, relaxing on a sweet little sailboat or even just kicking back on the Staten Island ferry. When I set out to make this list, I thought it’d be too easy. Top ten beers to drink on a boat? Answer: any beer, because you’re on a mother-f-ing boat! But, according to seasoned booze cruiser and ABC Beer Co. proprietor Zach Mack, who leads a series of sudsy sailboat charters in the New York Harbor each summer, there is some nuance to the art of stocking the perfect travel cooler. Mostly, though, it’s just sorting through all of New York’s fantastic, warm weather options.
“There are so many great local beers to drink on a boat!,” Captain Zach reports. “I’m always a sucker for witbier in sunny weather, and recently I’ve been really into the Port Jeff Beach Beer. Carton Boat Beer cans are an easy go-to as a gorgeous citrusy Session IPA, and the name is almost too good to pass up the juxtaposition. Also, I’m really huge on Other Half Superfun! cans–when I can get my hands on them!”
The name of the game, it seems, is that sweet combination of low-alcohol and high flavor, allowing seaworthy drinkers to stay hydrated and happy without falling overboard or causing a ruckus. No one wants to be trapped on a schooner with a wasted dude spilling Barley Wine all over his white linen, so don’t be that guy. And, similar to the beach, cans are also a good move, more durable and less slippery than their glass counterparts. So, without further ado, here’s your definitive list of choice brews for a summer enjoyed at sea.
Bronx Rye Pale Ale (Rye Beer, 6.3%)
Not the most sessionable beer in the bunch, but this spicy, piney tallboy is crispy AF. I drink a lot of these while baking under the sun and shouting obscenities at baseball games, so I figured it’d be right at home on just about any type of deck.
Port Jeff Beach Beer (Witbier, 4.8%)
Mack’s first pick definitely stands up to its nomination. A touch of Belgian funk opens up to a splash of banana and citrus, all washed over by a rising tide of soft wheat. Smooth sailing, boys.
Carton Boat Beer (Session Pale, 4.2%)
If I was ranking these (and I’m not), I’d probably stick Boat Beer at number one. How do they pack all of that bright, grassy, tangerine refreshment into a single can of 4.2% ABV brew? It’s a goddamn miracle.
Other Half Super Fun! (Session Pale, 4.2%)
If, as Zach rightly mentions, you manage to get your paws on a super hot Super Fun! pale, consider yourself one lucky seafarer. Floral, lemony and enticingly tropical, this hop bomb-lite is complemented by a shocking amount of depth for a session beer. Worth a trip to Carroll Gardens, for sure–just try not to set sail in that nuclear green Gowanus after grabbing your case.
Sixpoint Jammer (Gose, 4.2%)
It’s salty! Just like the ocean! Everything will make perfect sense once you’re gripping one of these teal blue skinnies. And, if your ride is equipped with a galley kitchen, you could do much worse than to mix up one of the Jammer Juleps I wrote about after the Kentucky Derby.
Two Roads Lil’ Heaven (Session IPA, 4.8%)
Cracking open a Lil’ Heaven is like coming ashore to your own tiny tropical island, where the air is tinged with sweet passion fruit and tart grapefruit and the sand is made of pillowy carbonation and smooth malt.
Upstate Common Sense (Kentucky Common, 5.3%)
Upstate’s take on this classic, newly resurrected style is a superb example of just how refreshing a malt-driven beer can be–medium-bodied, earthy and goes down supremely easy. Also, beautifully designed tall cans mean 4oz more fun in the sun for you.
Rockaway ESB (Extra Special Bitter, 6.4%)
Rockaway’s very recently canned ESB is an old favorite with a brand new, super suave look. It’s malty, crisp and mild in traditional fashion. Go ahead and crush a few–you won’t regret it.
And, the not so locals:
21st Amendment Hell or High Watermelon (Wheat Beer, 4.9%)
Not a New Yorker, true, but sipping on one of these fruity, pleasantly aromatic crowd pleasers while basking in the glow of the monumental Statue of Liberty (her likeness sketched onto the label, no less) just feels right. Everyone loves Hell or High Watermelon–it’s summertime in a can!
Firestone Walker Easy Jack (Session IPA, 4.5%)
Another non-native pick, Easy Jack is one of the best Session IPAs in the game right now and I’d be remiss not to include it. Citrusy grapefruit mingles with a burst of pine and herbal hoppiness, finishing neat and clean like a good Session should.