Geek Zone: Backcountry beer bliss

Thanks to Pat’s Backcountry Beverages, you can now enjoy a fresh cold pint after a long day outdoors navigating whiteouts and crevasses

Over Easter, while enjoying a carefully prepared lightweight meal in a remote backcountry hut and savouring the delights of the surrounding scenery, my company and the hut’s aroma, the conversation switched from the merits of dehydrated food to how most in the hut would really quite enjoy a dehydrated beer at that moment. I was surprised and glad to be enlightened that my two-decade old dream for powdered beer has actually reached fruition. Thanks to Pat’s Backcountry Beverages, you can now enjoy a fresh cold pint after a long day outdoors navigating whiteouts and crevasses, and dodging avalanches without the aid of a helicopter supply.  Water makes up 95 per cent of beer and no one likes carrying 95 per cent water for hours on end, only to end up camped beside a gushing stream. So this cunning system from Pat’s contains a mini carbonator that looks like a Nalgene water bottle. Just throw in the powdered beer, some cold clean mountain water (or some melted snow with random floaties if that’s all you have) and, like magic, you’ve got yourself a cold, bubbly beer in your hand less than a minute after you wished you had a cold bubbly beer in your hand. And hey, you might even want to consider this powdered beer as a way of cutting down on aluminium, glass and the transport of 95 per cent water around the planet. Heck, even get one for home and cut down on trips to the bottle depot.

Another company,  Palcohol (Powdered Alcohol) is about to gain U.S. Regulator approval as the first pure powdered alcohol on the market. Soon, you’ll be able to enjoy a marguerita while in the backcountry. The exact chemistry is currently under wraps, but many others have been attempting to create pure powdered alcohol — sometimes using old patents from the 1970s and “host-guest chemistry” to surround that volatile little alcohol molecule into a tiny cage of cyclodextrin or similar so that it doesn’t evaporate into thin air. A 50-gram packet could contain as much alcohol as a can of beer. However, that little packet could come packed with risks. The product could be used in many ways other than its intended “just add water” use, such as snorting the powder into the nasal cavity. The risks of this behaviour are unknown as they haven’t been studied yet, but due to its concentration, it’s likely that it could result in significant loss of motor skills and judgement at low levels.

Of course, generations ago, the French pioneered the solution for the backcountry drought — just sell liquor in backcountry refuges. While in the Pyrenees a couple of summers ago, it was quite refreshing to enjoy some cold liquor after a several-hour hike into the mountains. Even in Nepal, thanks to a system of porters that carries 95 per cent water back to its glacial source in the Himalayas, you can buy a beer from just about any tea house.

Rob Orchiston is a software programmer who lives in Invermere and stays on top of the latest trends in technology.