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Beer Planning: A Backpacker’s Perspective

Shi Shi Beach: Beautiful images require wondrous beer.

Last weekend we embarked on what might be the greatest “hike-in” beach camp spot in all of the Northwest. Our trip to Shi Shi Beach in the Makah Indian Reservation (Neah Bay, WA) was beyond epic. Many a new terms were coined, wooden implements fashioned, pasty foods consumed, ocean plunges taken, driftwood bonfires lit and even a few articles of clothes smoked for that take home campfire flavor (see SmokedJorts.com).

But like many of you, I was stumped by how to perfectly plan for 50+ hours in no man’s land, sans cooler and additional space for my brethren – beer. Food was a stumble, but doable. Equipment seemed to fit without excess weight. Even multi-weather clothing seemed to be a cinch. But Beer – not exactly.

 

The Dilemmas of Beerpacking

 

Here are some of the dilemmas:

  • (1)  Weight –   The ratio for alcohol to weight in beer is grossly disproportional. For most of us, its part of the reason we love it so very much. It allows us to consume various types and flavors over a long period of time. But for the camper (not you, car campers!) its a pain in the ass.

 

  • (2)  Shape & Proportion –   Our common vessels are the bottle, growler, keg, party pig and can. Lets toss kegs, growlers and party pigs pretty quickly. Unless you have constructed some amazing carriage that allows multiple people to share the weight, a three mile hike up and down cliffs will not facilitate these receptacles. That leaves us with smaller vessels, such as cans  and bottles. Of course, bottles are glass and would need to be separated or wrapped to prevent breakage. Not enticing. This leaves the common can – but many of you are still weenies about drinking from a can. Get over it. I’ll discuss more below.

 

  • (3) Cooling –   I bet you aren’t going to carry your cooler three miles down the trail eh? Excited to have ice last for about 2 hours? There is no great solution to the cooling challenge. Ice packs add unnecessary weight for the duration that they last. Soft pack coolers are a decent try, if they fit in your pack.

 

A Good Set of Rules to Live By

 

So, I thought long and hard about these things. We did some things right – and some wrong. Lets discuss the goals:

  • (1)  Cut Weight & Volume Usage With Cans –  We all want to drink beer when camping. Liquor just can’t satisfy the mountain man inside. Here’s the solution: Get cans. Unless you have been living in a cave, you probably know that many of our nation’s finest brewers can their beer. Here are a few of the best:  Oskar Blues, Big Sky, 21st Amendment, Anderson Valley, New Belgium, 7 Seas, and soon to be – Fremont Brewing. Canned beer is great! Newer cans keep beer fresher, reduce transit costs and are better for the environment. Its the easiest to pack in and to pack out, reducing in size to easily recycle. This one is a no-brainer. Get yourself a few sixers of canned beer.

 

  • (2) Forget the Chilling Vessel – Use Nature –   I realize that this one might apply only us in the high north. In Washington state, all of our water is cold! Whether you are by the sea or in the mountains, a fresh supply of frigid water will await you. Hauling around any type  of chilling device, whether it be an ice pack or a soft cooler is probably a waste of space. It will not protect your treasured ale from the sun and humidity. Find a water source early in the trip and something to lodge your beer beneath the water’s surface to keep it from the sun’s heat and light. A good choice is that good old bear canister that you are most likely required to have in order to camp in the vast NW. Once the sun retreats, pull your canister, drink up, seal off food for the night and repeat the next day.

 

  • (3) Pace Yourself & Conserve –   Unfortunately, you need to leave your Saturday city drinking behind. Do not expect to have the same epic consumption schedule you typically fly through each weekend. Be a grown up and consume at a reasonable pace. Remember, nothing is worse than spending some time on an amazing beach and knowing that you are out of ale. Always keep a few in the cooler and educate your friends on properly preparing. Otherwise, they’ll be hounding you to pass one over.

 

Suggestions From Beer Blotter

 

If you decided to go can and on-site cool – here are some pointers:

  • (1) ABV is KingThink about ABV when you are planning. In our instance we wanted the best ABV to price ratio. The golden rule in my opinion was a perfect 1 : 1  of ABV % to 6 Pack price (i.e.  8% for $8). This led us directly to Oskar Blues Old Chub, which rings in right at the sacred 1 : 1 ratio (actually I paid $8.99, but close enough).  While you might be tempted to go for that Oskar Blues Ten Fidy, Gordon or Gubna, remember that a 6 pack might take you into the $20-$24.00 range. Yikes! Look for the 7%-8% grogs; they seem to have the best value.

 

  • (2) Flavor Should Match Your Surroundings –   Here is where I admit my first error. Beach camping requires a specific type of beer. Old Chub, a scotch ale with complete caramel maltiness was not our best choice. Instead, 21st Amendment’s Brew Free or Die was our best selection. The IPA matched all weather conditions, was refreshing, and still maintained an acceptable flavor at air temperature. Unfortunately, we had a small 6 pack supply. Remember to look out for Fremont Brewing’s potential IPA release soon in the future. Another great choice would absolutely be 7 Seas Ballz Deep Double IPA, which comes in 16oz cans at 8.4%!!!! Wish we could have found a few of those for the trip.

 

  • (3) Suffer the Weight, Not the Beer-less Moments –   Nothing is worse then getting to your site and knowing that you could have handled another 6 pack in your pack. You will want that 72oz of greatness! Pack as much as you can possibly muster without injuring yourself. Remember that the trek back will be a heck of a lot lighter!

 

From all of us at BeerBlotter.com – Have a hell of summer!

The Beer Blotter Guide to Beveridge Place Pub’s Bacchanal 2010

February 24, 2010 1 comment

The facade of Beveridge Place Pub in West Seattle - the site of the Annual Bacchanal of Barleywines

Beveridge Place Pub’s 7th Annual Barleywine Bacchanal kicks off this Friday, February 26th, with over 40 barleywines pouring for a week straight from 24 taps.  That’s a lot of big bold brews to choose from.  Since there is clearly more beers than taps, there will be a constant rotation of kegs a flowin’.  As one blows, another will replace it, and so on.

The folks over at the Washington Beer Blog were kind enough to post the complete list for all to slobber over. Below you will find the entire list.  Clearly, all are barleywines, and thus, all are going to be packed with copious quantities of both malt and hops.  All will be fairly high in alcohol, and chances are good that all will taste pretty darn good.  Your main fear should be a harsh, young vintage.  Sometimes these fellas just need some time to mature and mellow out.  Too much bitterness and not enough sweetness can make your barleywine experience akin to being strangled by a hop vine.  There is no question, if you read this site with any regularity, that Beer Blotter holds great respect for Father Time and his agile hand at improving beers of many kinds, especially barleywines.

For Beer Blotter, the older the vintage, the more excited we are to try it.  Both rare and refined, these pours should improve your evening no matter who brewed them.

So our first overarching tip to you, “age is all the rage”.

But we need more detail than that.  Let’s dig deeper.

The biggest challenge of the Bacchanal is the barrels-to-taps ratio.  The rotation system will make it difficult to have a clear game plan for your visit, whatever day you choose to attend.  You will never really know exactly what to expect, which, granted, offers its own brand of excitement.  Your best bet is to pre-create a list of b-dubs that you’re most excited to taste, and chances are that no matter what day you decide to venture out to West Seattle there will be at least a few of them available.

Perhaps a look at the Beer Blotter list could assist you in creating your own list.  Below, as promised, is the unadulterated list.  Below that, the Beer Blotter list.

Complete List:

Alaskan, Barleywine ‘06, ‘07,’08

Anacortes, Old Sebastes ‘07

Anchor, Old Foghorn ‘06, ‘07, ‘08

Anderson Valley, Horn of the Beer ‘09

Avery, Hog Heaven ‘09

Big Sky, Old Blue Hair ‘06

Boulder, Killer Penguin ‘09

Boundary Bay, Old Bounder ‘09

Deschutes, Mirror Mirror ‘09

Diamond Knot, Icebreaker ‘09

Dick’s, Barleywine ‘05, ‘09

Dogfish Head, Olde School ‘09

Elliott Bay, Old Portside ‘09

Elysian, Cyclops ‘09

Fish, 10 Squared ‘08, ‘09

Fish, Leviathan ‘06

Flying Dog, Horndog ‘09

Full Sail, Old Boardhead ‘06

Full Sail, Old Boilermaker 98 (yes, 1998)

Hale’s, Rudyard’s Rare ‘06, ‘09

Hopworks Urban Brewery, Noggin Floggin ‘09

Hood Canal, Breidablik ‘06, ‘07, ‘09

Lagunitas, Old Gnarleywine ‘04, ‘06, ‘07

Laurelwood, Old Reliable ‘09

Left Hand, Oak Aged Widdershins ‘07

Lucky Lab, Old Yeller ‘09

Mad River, Old Barleycorn ‘07

New Old Lompoc, Old Tavern Rat ‘08

North Coast, Old Stock ‘07, ‘09

Pike, Old Bawdy ‘07, ‘08

Port, Angel’s Share ‘09

Port Townsend, ‘09

Rogue, Old Crustacean ‘08

Schooner Exact, Old Sinking Ship ‘09

Scuttlebutt, Old #1 ‘06, ‘08

Sierra Nevada, Bigfoot ‘08

Skagit River, Shiver Me Liver ‘09

Speakeasy, Old Godfather ‘09

Stone, Old Guardian ‘07, ‘08, ‘09

Three Skulls, Wreckage ‘09

Victory, Old Horizontal ‘09

Walking Man, Old Stumblefoot ‘08

Beer Blotter List:

Alaskan, Barleywine ‘06, ‘07,’08

-This is a “must” if offered at the time of your visit.  A Northwest Masterpiece.  Alaskans know how to warm up with Barleywine.  This guy ranks very well in any festival that it is involved in.  In the last 5 years this brew has placed in the top 3 at Brouwer’s Hard Liver Barleywine Fest 3 times, and the ’07 vintage was number 1 last year.  A warning though…chances are high that these will only be available on Monday, March 1st or Tuesday, March 2nd when verticals are offered.  To try all three vintages side by side would truly be a treat.

Lagunitas, Old Gnarleywine ‘04, ‘06, ‘07

-In Beer Blotter’s humble opinion, there is not many Barleywines being made in the world better than Gnarleywine.  The ’08 vintage was awarded 3rd place in this years Toronado Barley Wine Festival, and chances are, the older the better.  Do not skip this one, any vintage.  Another warning: 3 years offered…look to vertical night for these.

Speakeasy, Old Godfather ‘09

-Though this is young, the ’06 got second place last year at Brouwer’s.  Expect this one to be high in alpha…it’s the Speakeasy way.

Stone, Old Guardian ‘07, ‘08, ‘09

-If you read Timperial’s review of the ’07 vintage you would know, this beer is sickly good.  Astounding balance, even through time.

Victory, Old Horizontal ’09 & Dogfish Head, Olde School ‘09

-With the exception of a few CO representatives, these are the only 2 offerings that aren’t from the West.  Reason?  They are astounding beers made by two of America’s best breweries.

Fish, 10 Squared ‘08, ’09 & Leviathan ‘06

-Both of these beers are incredible and hard to come by, even in their home state.  10 Squared was probably my personal favorite from last years Hard Liver Fest and old vintages of Leviathan, like this ’06, are pretty much legendary.  The barrel-aged version of Leviathan is in the top 10 on ratebeer.com’s list of barleywines.

Port, Angel’s Share ‘09

-It would be silly of me to leave this one out since it is literally one of my favorite beers of all time.  Number 9 on ratebeer.com’s barley wine list.

New Old Lompoc, Old Tavern Rat ‘08

-Beer Blotter recently had this from the always-impressive taps of Uber Tavern and really enjoyed it.  Very nutty if you’re into that.

Boundary Bay, Old Bounder ‘09

-Seattle does not see enough Boundary Bay.  Maybe if we drain this keg quickly the “will of the people” will change that depressing fact.

That’s a pretty healthy list for you, and honestly, I could go on an on.  There is A LOT of really good stuff on this list, and even a few that Beer Blotter has never had and looks forward to trying (like Lucky Lab, can we please have more of their beers in Seattle?).

Anyone and everyone within striking distance of Seattle should never, EVER miss events like this.  We are so lucky to have beer bars that put so much time, effort and money into aging beers for years and organizing such exciting festivals.  Beer Blotter sends a massive hug to Gary and The Bev for making this happen year after year.

Find us in West Seattle, raise a glass, it’s barleywine season!

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