We’ve all been there. You’re at the end of a grueling day of hiking. You’ve reached the lake or the top of the peak and think to yourself there’s one thing you could really go for now more than any other and that’s an ice cold beer.
For Pat Tatera, finding a solution to that age-old desire became a 17-year journey. The result is Pat’s Backcountry Beverages, which sells craft-brewed beer, as well as soft drinks, that can fit into your pack. If you’re beside a glacial stream or some snow, all the better.
Sure there are other ways to drink on a camping trip. You could bring a flask of whiskey. Wine keeps nice. Or you could lug that 24 ounce can of Fosters like you did in high school. With Pat’s, you just need to pack a specialized water bottle and a bag of concentrated beer and you can have a whole six pack in a small plastic bag.
The beer comes in pouches that are then mixed with water. To add the fizzle – for shizzle – comes the tricky part. The whole genius behind Pat’s beer is that it’s beer concentrate, not powdered beer like some other companies tout. In this way, Pat and his team of brewing madmen fine-tuned their methods in order to brew beer with a very little amount of water.
Not surprisingly this is not very easy and what you’re left with is a rather flat beverage. So the trick is getting the bubbles back into the drink. You could do this in two ways, either through a CO2 canister similar to the way you make club soda, which would be easiest. But Pat doesn’t go the easy way. He is also a conservationist and he would hate to see a product that resulted in wasteful canisters after every use.
So he developed a special water bottle that has a small pump built into the top. The pump delivers water to a bottle within the bottle housing a mixture of sodium bicarbonate (baking soda) and citric acid. This creates a harmless reaction that releases air bubbles. Now to get these bubbles into the beer, you shake vigorously — but not up-and-down, only side-to-side. This is important as you want to get the air into the drink and not the baking soda.
In our taste test of three samples of Pat’s beer, we were fortunate to have in our test kitchen a fellow beer maven from Northern California. We were both impressed by the general frothiness of our concoction. It in fact looked and tasted like beer. The pale tasted like pale, the stout like stout, etc. We could imagine the pure joy of sitting around the campfire and cracking open your beer as if you were at home on the couch.
On the down side, it was really difficult to avoid the beer generally tasting flat no matter how much or how little shaking or however long we let it sit. It seemed there was a great deal of air in the bottle as we released the cap, but not so much in the actual drink. The smell too is rather pungent.
As my fellow taste tester put it, “If there was no way on earth we could get any beer, I would drink it.” For a beer that’s meant to be drank in the middle of nowhere, that’s pretty much a ringing endorsement.
Pat’s Backcountry Beverages succeeds in solving the age-old challenge of how to drink beer deep in the woods, even if it’s not the absolute best. The whole setup will run you about $50 and then $10 for each pack of four refills.
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Photos courtesy: Pat’s Backcountry Beverages