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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!

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