Roadtest: Pat’s Backcountry Beverages
How many times have you finished a tough day’s hiking (or bushwalking!), pitched your tent, put the billy on and thought… ‘Geez, I wish I had a cold beer.’? If only I could brew a beer in the bush or that fairly normal looking Blue Gum suddenly became the Magic Faraway Tree and Enid Blytoned me a nice, cold Little Creatures or 4 Pines… or two.
Like you and I, they often had those same thoughts, but unlike us, actually set out to do something about it. Random question: What is it with outdoors blokes who love to build things? There are so many BYOG (build your own gear) freaks out there… sounds like these guys just took it that step further!
Unlike the product Palcohol (powdered alcohol) which has been in the media a bit lately, this concept isn’t about dehydrated beer, but rather, using a concentrated beer syrup along with a patented (and pretty smart) bottle that allows you to get all the fizzy and airy goodness out of a combination of Ascorbic Acid and Bicarb Soda, without get the taste from it (only if you do it right!), into your beer. Voila! Beer head in the bush.
When it comes to the process of working with the various components (bottle, syrup sachet, powder sachets) not to mention a small amount of human effort (pumping a small lever and shaking or inverting at certain points), it’s certainly not a simple process and does take more concentration than is within the 49% proof syrup sachet.
Thankfully, it appears that PBB are aware of what could be seen as complexity in the process and include very clear step-by-step diagrams with the bottle to ensure you get it right. There’s also a video by the maker, Pat Tatera showing you how to do it. Needless to say, due to lack of data coverage in the wilderness make sure you watch this before heading out!
Now, when it comes to taste, I reckon the best way to approach it is with fair expectations. Before you take your first gulp, think about…
- What you’ve just done to make this
- It’s made by Americans… think about flavours of traditional US beer
- Where you are… heck, look around you!
Because of all these factors, I think you need to be fair and not expect it to taste like your favourite craft beer, freshly popped, with condensation running down the bottle. But if you go in with a sense of curiosity, thankful to the beer gods for inspiring Pat and just happy to be sitting somewhere wonderful, then you’ll have a much better chance of coming close to your BHR*.
I did a couple of different tests and have tried both the Pale Rail and also the Black Hops (which I normally don’t drink) and my number one tip for a better experience is definitely using cold water. The colder the better.
For the first test, I used water from my bladder that had been on my back during the day and although the temps had dropped down in the valley where we were, it wasn’t super cold. Best idea would be to either stick your water bladder/bottle into a stream to cool it down prior, put the fresh brew into the river after brewing (but you might lose some head) or even better, use safe fresh drinking water from a stream to make your brew.
When it comes to clean water though, I wouldn’t recommend using stream water that has been chemically treated first, as this means that you may have that additional issue of residual chlorine flavour, yech. Best idea would be using an alternative method to ensure that you’ve got safe drinking water first (with no taste) and cool it as much as possible.
The biggest surprise to me, came in that I really enjoyed the dark Black Hops beer better than my traditional tipple of pale ale. I think that because I couldn’t get out of my head that I wanted the pale to taste like my favourites, that I was a bit disappointed with that. But because my experience with darks is so limited anyway, then it almost felt like a whole new beer experience, without expectations. I’ll definitely be doing some more tasting… especially with the black.
Oh and if you’re not the beer type, then they’ve actually also created a bunch of soft drink (aka soda) flavours including Lemon Lime, Ginger Ale, Root Beer (us Aussies have no clue what that is!!), Cola and the curiously flavoured Pomegranate Cola sachets for use with the bottle also.
Costs (in Australia as at May 2015) for the beer starter kit is $88.25, which includes the bottle, 4 Black Hops concentrates, 4 Pail Rail concentrates and 12 activator sachets.
*Beer Happiness Rating!