Even the most dedicated beer geeks usually give up their beverage of choice when backpacking.
After a long day on the trail, a beer might be no. 2 on your list of most desired consumables (we agree pizza is no. 1, yes?) but stuffing a six-pack in your backpack makes very little sense when whiskey weighs approximately one tenth as much, doesn't need to be cold to be tasty, and can be transferred between containers for transport without degradation of quality. Beer just doesn't make sense in such situations, even as some of the country's best craft beers have migrated from glass bottles to lighter, sturdier aluminum cans.
Well, someone finally solved the problem, making a concentrated beer for the backcountry. It's lightweight, carbonated, quaffable-if-not-five-stars-on-untappd, not too expensive and now available just across the state line in Vancouver.
The product comes from Pat's Backcountry Beverages, was founded in Alaska and is now based in Colorado. There are a variety of advantages—it's a lot cheaper to ship these little 2.1 ounce packets than bottles, and they're far more stable when it comes to intercontinental shipping—but the big one, suggested by the name, is the advantages for outdoorspersons.
Here's how it's intended to work:
The two Pat's beers now on shelves—a malty pale ale called Pale Rail and a bitter Cascadian Dark Ale called Black Hops—come in four packs that sell for about $10. That makes 64 ounces of beer, enough to fill a standard growler.
You can mix those packets with carbonated mineral water (which, unfortunately, weighs as much as normal beer) or carbonate them using a contraption ($50) that's about the size of a Nalgene bottle and weighs 9.8 ounces. Inside the contraption there's a plastic bubble where you mix up little Wetnap-size packets of citric acid and potassium bicarbonate ($6 for 12) which forces air into the bottle. It takes about five minutes and none of the powder from the packets actually goes into the beer.
Not being mechanically inclined, I screwed the process up a bit my first time, though it likely gets easier as you do it several times, much like setting up a tent. The Pale Rail won't make you forget about Mirror Pond, let alone Zombie Dust, but it's definitely better than some beers you'll find on local shelves.
Right now, the OLCC is still withholding approval—the unmixed packets are 100 proof, and thus fall under the jurisdiction of the OLCC, which would sell them in liquor stores—but as of last week the packets and activator are now available at one store in our unregulated northern neighbor: Global Liquor, 11717 NE 78th Way, Vancouver, WA 98682, (360) 882-1646.
If you're headed for an extra long hike in the Gorge, it might be worth swinging by.