21st Amendment IPA in Ventana
21st Amendment IPA in Ventana

If you’ve ever spent time around me, you know I love a good beer like a Yosemite bear loves the food in your canister. We brew (well, David brews, I drink) at home in our informally named “Drunken Marmot Brewing Company” (i.e. the garage). Our back yard is turning into a hop farm. One of my personal mantras is ‘the hoppier the better’, so you’ll usually find me with an IPA in hand, though I also enjoy a good wheat brew particularly after a long hot hike.

Our fridge is rarely tainted with the likes of Budweiser or Coors Light. The shelves are densely populated with a variety of craft brews, and I’m not afraid to experiment and buy something random at BevMo simply because I’ve never seen the label before.

Since this is a backpacking blog, I should probably get to the point: what is a beer lover to do when he or she wants a cold one in the backcountry?

Blackmail moment on the JMT
Blackmail moment on the JMT

At first, you may think beer does not fit in with a lightweight backpacking style. But to that I say: every pound and a half saved is another 2 cans of beer! Lightweight backpacking *encourages* beer! I mean, if I have 50 lbs on my back I’m not likely to want to throw in a beer. But if I have 15? I may be willing to splurge a little and bring a treat. Granted, this isn’t something I do when I’m knocking off large miles or out for a week, but for a simple relaxing overnighter? You can bet I have some along.

Now you are probably confused. I wrote about how I like good craft beer, then wrote about carrying canned beer in my backpack?! For starters, it makes sense. Carrying a glass bottle is kind of stupid – it can break and leave shattered glass all over the campsite (that’s a bit anti-LNT, don’t you think?) and you have to carry out the heavy empty bottle (you’re not leaving trash in the backcountry, ARE YOU?) Cans are much lighter weight and when the beer is gone, the empty can is much easier to deal with than an empty glass bottle.

Cheers! Glen Aulin Backpackers Camp
Cheers! Glen Aulin Backpacker’s Camp

But why even care about carrying a can of beer when it’s something like Coors Light? Why on earth would I bother hauling in that kind of swill? Well, canned beer is no longer restricted to the watery mainstream brews. Many craft breweries are canning their delicious brews, and this means I can bring along a yummy treat to chill in a mountain stream.

One of the first that I found was New Belgium’s Fat Tire. Around the same time, Heineken was using cans in their packaging. Admittedly, neither was my favorite, but it certainly indicated that the industry was moving in the right direction. Recently I’ve begun to see more of New Belgium’s stuff in cans: Ranger IPA and Mothership Wit come to mind.

Natures Cooler
Nature’s Cooler

There are smaller craft breweries that distribute their brews exclusively in cans, and it’s these that I’ve grown quite attached to. 21st Amendment in San Francisco has a good selection (I enjoy their Monk’s Blood around a campfire on a cool Sierra evening), as does Maui Brewing Company and Oskar Blues. As this trend spreads through the industry more and more breweries are canning their goods, and is seems like every time I head to the market I have a bigger selection to choose from.

Relaxing around the campfire, Yosemite
Relaxing around the campfire, Yosemite

You’re not going to find these beers in the standard grocery stores, but even there you’ll find *some* options: Heineken, Boddington’s, Guinness even. Some favor the efficiency of a giant Foster’s oilcan. The point is, you don’t have to resort to crappy American large brewery watered down beer if you want to carry a can or two along into the backcountry.

Once I’m in camp I find a nice cool creek to stash the beer and in 30 minutes it’s usually chilled quite nicely. If the creek runoff is too strong, my lightweight bucket filled with the cold water makes a nice cooler. Coincidentally, that’s about the amount of time it takes me to get settled in – tent setup, unpacking, etc. Then it’s great to kick back with my fishing pole and the beer. Yep, pretty much my definition of a perfect afternoon.

As I said, this isn’t something I do on every hike – higher pack weight, longer daily mileage, and altitude will preclude the inclusion of beer, but it sure is a nice treat on those trips where the objective is to relax and kick back for a weekend in the backcountry. Different conditions merit different treats as well – snow camping may mean that weight goes towards normally refrigerated items, such as sausages for breakfast.

Some people think this is silly – beer is heavy! Why not bring liquor? It certainly is more efficient for the weight. Well, the objective is not to get drunk – it’s to enjoy one of my favorite treats in one of my favorite settings. Do you carry any treats that most people roll their eyes at and dismiss as too heavy? What do you do to minimize or offset that weight? If you carry canned beer, what is your favorite?

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  1. Tweets that mention Backpacking for Beer Snobs | Calipidder -- Topsy.com

    […] This post was mentioned on Twitter by Roy Scribner and R. Sowards-Emmerd, Luke Stefurak. Luke Stefurak said: RT @calipidder: Blog Post: Backpacking for Beer Snobs http://goo.gl/fb/tQJ4f […]

  2. Frank - Our Hiking Blog

    Loved this post! A mate secretly carried 4 cans of bourbon and coke (440 grams each) , that’s 3.8 ibs…..for 4 days on a trip once as a special surprise for my ahem, 50th birthday.

    Gave em to me at camp, I threw them in a river to cool and when I went back two had split and were now bourbon, coke and water…..I did not have the heart to ask him why he had not just bought straight bourbon???? I could have had that with a dash of water…. (he is a bit “thick” and does not drink……)

    The last picture on this page : http://ourhikingblog.com.au/2010/07/david-noble-adventure.html is from 1975. These guys got beer flown in by a food drop…..

  3. Edie Howe

    OK, so, like, how do I get a tour (and hopefully a taste) of Drunken Marmot Brewing Company?

    Me, I’m more a stout or ale girl. Guinness is good, Mammoth Double Nut is better. BTW, Mammoth Brewery is also shipping their excellent brews in cans, too!

    Seriously, would you be willing to accept a print for some home-brew?

    All the best,

  4. Tom

    While I appreciate Adult Beverages in all their various forms, including good beers, I’ve become more of a wine person myself, the PlatyPreserve is a great piece of gear. I don’t take red wines in the backcountry because I don’t think they handle the rough treatment so well, which is a limiting factor, but I’m left enjoying nice white wines, for example last weekend at Dicks Lake in the Desolation Wilderness. Which isn’t so bad.

    I reserve the wines for shorter trips, taking anejo rums and tequilas, various bourbons, etc., on longer trips. For an upcoming trip I have Zaya rum packed and ready to go. I think that’s both practical and tasty.

  5. Eric

    As a family camper, I often don’t find myself drinking much beer at the campsite, but if I do I’m a proud lover of cheap beer/swill aka not a beer snob. I do appreciate those folks with a finer palette than mine. I do like your tips on putting the beer (or any beverage for that matter) in the creek to keep it cool, that can come in very handy when ice isn’t available.

    Thanks again!

  6. Randy

    Interesting topic. No one has invented dehydrated beer yet. I totally relate to the notion of “craft beer” simply for the sake of enjoyment rather than for the “buzz”. A cold one can be so good at times. A friend of mine used to wrap a cold bottled beer in some thermal socks to have it for lunch, but I never bothered. In some cultures, the optimum temperature for beer is barely below room temperature anyway so that can work. But I think if you really wanted to be a “beer snob” then you can’t even drink bottled beer because even it too has been ruined by some form of pasteurization. Maybe the way to go is to disassemble a brewery and pack it out with lamas 🙂

    Love reading you blog by the way.

  7. Randy

    I agree that there is nothing like a cold beer in the back country. Unfortunately my pack has never gotten light enough for me to consider it with the 10 lbs or so I carry in photography gear alone. On those trips it is a good Vodka mixed with Gatorade (lime for margaritas, orange for screw drivers).

    Now canoe camping, that’s a different beast. I can bring 15 lbs of photo gear and still have plenty of room for a full ice chest with whatever beer I feel like bringing. On my last trip I ran out of time to get to bevmo though, and wanted something in a can. In a pinch I find Tecate to be the best canned beer readily available at just about any market.

    Great topic! 🙂

    ~ The “other” Randy ~

  8. Randy

    BTW, if you can point out a canned beer similar to Deschutes Black Butte Porter then I’ll be your friend for life 🙂

    That’s been my go to car camping beer of choice lately and it goes down rather nicely by the campfire.

  9. Christy

    Maui Brewing Company cans their Coconut Porter. It isn’t Deschutes Black Butte, but it’s mighty tasty!

  10. CANFEST » Blog Archive » Beer Blogger Contest!

    […] Rebecca […]

  11. Maggie

    Attention all. Anderson Valley is canning Summer Solstice now. I can’t think of a better first beer after a long hike in the summer. Yum!

  12. Paul

    I always have some canned craft beers with me on my trips. I stash a couple of cans in my bag if I have room, but my black lab is my Sherpa, he always has 3 or 4 cans shoved into his backpack along with his food.

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