What's the difference between a beer...and a cowboy beer? A sort of weather-beaten, leathery manliness, perhaps? Well, craft beer's got you covered there—have you seen some of the beards people lining the Crux bar are sporting these days?
Ignoring the fact that real cowboys would likely prefer cheap whiskey, a good cowboy beer should involve several factors: powerful, mouth-filling tastes; an affinity for nature and the open land; and (if all else fails) potency. Along those lines, here are six bottles and cans to line the saddlebags with:
The Cowboy (Evil Twin): Well, there you go, right? It's got a cowboy right on the label. "I need to know what kind of beer cowboys drink," brewer Jeppe Jarnit-Bjergsø writes on the label, "as I have recently become one. I want to be the best cowboy I can be, and I think drinking the correct beer is important." In his book, that means a medium-bodied pilsner with a hint of smoke on the tail end.
Knotty Blonde (Three Creeks): Sisters is full of cowboys, of course, or at least folks pretending to be one for a living. The Fivepine Chocolate Porter might be their best seller, but the touch of honey malt added to this lighter ale makes it one partner you wouldn't mind spending all evening with.
Willet Bourbon Barrel Cavatica Stout (Fort George): Freshly released at the Festival of Dark Arts two weeks ago, the Astoria-based brewery's latest stout is quite a monster, aged in barrels from Willet Distillery in Kentucky and clocking in at just under 10 percent alcohol. Bonus: It's got the same whiskey burn you'd experience taking an actual swig out of the ol' jug on the range. (Can one earn a DUII on a horse?)
Pub Beer (10 Barrel): Being honest for a moment, if you see an actual ranch hand at a bar in Bend, it'll probably be a dollar PBR you see in his hand. But let's pretend he's one of those rare locavore cowboys. In that case, he'll start drinking this canned pale lager—"requests for a glass will be denied"—as 10 Barrel's menu puts it, and won't stop until the cows come home in search of him.
Sahati (The Ale Apothecary): If the cowboy ethos is all about oneness with the land, Paul Arney's living the dream already. His Sahati ale, brewed inside a hollowed-out spruce tree lined with branches and needles, is the definition of self-sustained brewing—"The process impacts the flavor profile at least as much as the ingredients themselves," he says.
Barrel-Aged Rocky Mountain Oyster Stout (Wynkoop): Originally conceived as an April Fool's joke in 2012, this stout is aged in oak and infused with 25 points of bull testicles. That can't possibly be any more cowboy'y. You are quite literally drinking cow. (You'll have to travel to Colorado to score a can, but the bragging rights are worth it, no?)