The growing popularity of craft beer has spawned all kinds of wacky concepts and gadgets. Perceived potential demand is the reason. Makers of these products figure beer geeks will buy them. And why not? Geeks buy everything else associated with craft beer.
Enter concentrated, instant beer. The company behind it, Pat's Backcountry Beverages, thinks backpackers and other outdoorsy geeks will buy in. Maybe they're right. Or maybe this is just another sign of the apocalypse.
When I first heard about this stuff, I thought it was dehydrated beer. I thought this because I associate dehydrated food with outdoor excursions...courtesy of many backpacking trips with my dad back in the day. Dehydrated food saved a lot of weight in our packs. So would dehydrated beer. But that's not what Pat's is selling.
Backcountry Beverages uses a patented brewing process to produce a concentrated brew that is nearly waterless. The end user mixes the concentrate with water and carbonates it in a proprietary container. The process takes just a few minutes. Viola! Fresh beer.
Pat's offers two styles of concentrated beer:1919 Pale Rail (5.2%) and Black Hops (6.2%). Officially, these can't be called beers. They are technically "distilled adult beverages." It figures. You can bump up the ABV by adding less than the standard amount (16 oz) of water (you can't water recipes down due to the size of the carbonating bottle). See how it works here.
Forget about whether you have to have a beer in a remote spot. Admit the idea of sipping a beer while on safari, particularly on a hot day, is tempting. With this setup, you needn't bother packing around heavy bottles or cans. Pat's concentrated brew packs weigh almost nothing and the plastic carbonation vessel doesn't weigh much, either. And there no empties to schlep out.
Cost won't break the bank. A four-pack of concentrate is $9.99. The carbonating mixes are 50 cents each and you need one per 16 ounce brew. The carbonation container, which can be used many times, is $29.95. So not a huge investment involved in setting yourself up to make instant beer.
The thing you wonder about is quality. We enjoy craft beer because it's better than macro sludge. Does concentrated, instant beer make the flavor grade or does it have too much in common with crappy beer or instant coffee? I don't know...haven't taste it. One review says the stuff is reminiscent of homebrew, with a hint of sourness. Not a glowing recommendation.
Like a lot of things, the success of instant beer will depend on the quality of the product. People who enjoy the outdoors and want to have a beer on their excursions may give it a try. But they won't keep coming back if the product doesn't meet the craft beer standard. Not if they're true craft beer fans. So we'll see.