Years ago, when I first came to Trout Unlimited and started working for the Public Lands Initiative (now it’s the Sportsmen’s Conservation Project, but given the threats facing our public lands, it was probably more aptly named at the start), I attended an all-staff retreat on the banks of the H
ousatonic River near the little village of Cornwall, Connecticut. I was a veteran newspaper reporter and editor who was jumping to the “Dark Side” to help promote the PLI’s work on public lands across the West, and this was my full immersion into the TU culture.
(Side note: We can debate “Dark Side” another time, becuase I believed then, as I do now, that both the media and the work we did all those years ago to protect places like the Wyoming Range and the Roan Plateau are noble professions at the core.)
Perhaps the biggest surprise when I came to TU is that a lot of the folks working here were a lot like me. Borderline dirtbag fly fishers with a passion to connect their favorite pasttime to the need to protect it. Oh, and they all drank beer.
I assumed, as we gathered just an hour or so from both Boston and New York on the banks of this tweedy, fabled trout river, that most of the folks would be into hoppy IPAs or oatmeal stouts or some other upscale craft brew that was, save for special occasions, generally out of my budgetary reach. When the coolers opened at the end of a day of meetings, I was surprised to find them full of good, old Pabst Blue Ribbon. PBR, in my humble opinion, is the ideal river beer. It’s light, doesn’t taste too bad and it goes down quickly. It’s great on a hot day and, when kept on ice, can be downed in a couple of purposeful chugs, so as not to impede too terribly on fishing time. No need to hold the bottle up to the sun to see if it’s just cloudy enough with craft-beer goodness or remark to your fishing buddy how the hops give it such a clean finish. It’s beer. You drink it.
Over the years, I’ve encountered all types of beer drinkers on the water. Cheap stuff. Pricey stuff. I’ve seen it all. But, for the most part, fishing beer isn’t something a lot of folks pick up at the microbrewery. Several years ago, I spent a few days on a spoils island in the Laguna Madre in south Texas. The beer of choice? Lone Star, of course. A few days spent casting to smallmouth bass and Driftless Area trout in Minnesota? Hamms and Old Style seemed to be the beers of choice. Enjoying fish tacos under a palapa after a day spent casting to roosters and jacks on the Baja? Pacifico.
They all have one thing in common. They’re not fancy. They go down easy. And, I would wager that three out of four anglers drinking them while sitting in a drift boat or perched on a tailgate wouldn’t immediately complain if you switched one out for the other.
What’s your favorite fishing beer?
— Chris Hunt