Two of my favorite things in the whole world are beer and camping.
Imagine my ecstasy when I found a product that claimed to bring them together in holy union. Some things are too good to be true.
Multi-day hiking trips are great for a lot of things, like communing with nature, spending quality time with your friends, and peeing outside. I would argue that all of these things are improved with the addition of a cold beer in your hand.
Pat’s Backcountry Beverages produces “the world’s first” microbrew concentrates. I learned about the company through social media osmosis: a friend of a friend shared the product on a friend’s wall, I think. When I attended the Wine and Spirits Wholesalers of America Convention in Orlando, Florida (for work?), I stumbled across the Pat’s Backcountry booth. They were kind enough to load me up with samples.
Pat’s Backcountry sells a whole suite of products to facilitate you getting a swig of beer after a long day on the trails. The Carbonator Bottle Starter Kit (retailing at $49.95) is the most comprehensive way to get you set up. It includes a 20 oz Carbonator Bottle, Activator Packets to get the carbonation going, and concentrated mixers like ginger ale, cola, lemon lime, etc.
At first blush, the idea behind Pat’s Backcountry Beverages is genius. You don’t want to carry in beer on a hiking trip. It’s heavy, and it gets warm and flat by the time that you’d actually want to take a swig. But you’d also secretly love to be that person that pulls out a cold one at the end of the trail. Pat’s Backcountry facilitates this fantasy by saying, hey, listen, don’t sweat it. Here’s a tube of goo that will MAKE beer. Just add water. Oh, and this activator packet. And don’t forget the carbonator. Oh! And maybe a mixer?
Therein lies the issue. Pat’s Backcountry solves one problem by creating four more.
[bctt tweet=”Pat’s Backcountry solves one problem by creating four more.”]
I don’t have $49.95 to spare for 6 activator packets, 5 soda concentrates, and a carbonator bottle. All I had were beer concentrates that I picked up at the conference, and by God, I was going to make it work.
I tried the concentrates on two different occasions with different mixers: first, I mixed the Pale Rail concentrate with lukewarm water in a Nalgene after a long day of biking at Land Between The Lakes National Recreation Area.
Denial: This isn’t horrible, I guess? It only tastes a little like apple juice. Warm, sickly sweet apple juice.
Anger: Okay, this is horrible. Why did I put this in my mouth?
Bargaining: What was I expecting, anyway? It’s better than water.
Depression: It’s not better than water. Water is better.
Acceptance: I should have packed in wine.
I figured I should try the concentrate under more ideal circumstances, but I still wasn’t prepared to spend about $50 for the activator packets and the carbonator bottle. In my backyard, I mixed the Black Hops concentrate with cold club soda with considerably better results. I wouldn’t say it was either delicious or refreshing, but I didn’t go through the stages of grief and loss, either. It was okay.
I think the key was to not think of it as “beer” and more as a delightful bubbly near-beer. It’s all about managing expectations.
Let me emphasize that I’m not drinking the beer as intended by Pat (sorry, Pat)–I’m drinking a low-cost substitute. But here’s my question: who could drink it like Pat intends? If you were on a multi-day hike, you’d have to pack in the carbonator and then somehow chill your water–by tying your Nalgene up with a rope and letting it dangle in a cold stream, I suppose?
Everything could be different with the $50 packet. Who knows.