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Pat's Beer concentrate

Beer concentrate system promises a real brew, anywhere

Could this be the beer of the future? Alaskan company, Pat’s Backcountry Beverages, has developed and launched a beer concentrate-carbonation system, effectively just-add-water beer, aimed for now at the camping/backpacking/outdoors market, but it has the potential to transform the greater beer industry.

For decades, centuries probably, people have dreamed of a more convenient way of transporting beer on distant adventures, but how to overcome the problem of bulk and weight has never been resolved. Pat’s Backcountry Beverages has broken through and done it, creating a beer concentrate that fits into a pocket and turns into a 473ml craft-style ale with the help of plain water and an easy-to-use carbonation system.

The problem haunted Tatera for years. With a background in home brewing and chemical engineering, he took up developing a solution as a hobby. Then, about five years ago, he got more serious about pursuing a commercial product, sinking his own funds into it, applying for patents and fine-tuning what he calls “Hybrid Brewing Technology”. The unique brewing process creates a genuine beer concentrate that transforms into a cold, frothy mug of beer in minutes with nothing more than water and carbonation.

“For decades brewers have been trying to come up with a concentrated beer for the same benefits of Coke and Pepsi – they save a lot of money shipping and transporting their product as a concentrate,” Tatera explains. “The same benefits exist in the brewing industry, it’s just that it’s never really worked. You know, they’ve always been trying to suck the water out of their beer, and the problem with that is you invest a lot of energy when you start removing water from something. So we came at it from a different trajectory, and we just asked a simple question: ‘What if we don’t add the water to begin with?’

He asserts that no dehydration is involved, and that his recipe upholds “the German purity laws – it’s barley, water, hops and yeast… but from that point forward what we do with those ingredients is a radical departure from how the traditional brewing process takes place.”

According to an article on PopSci.com, Tatera’s brewing process starts like that of any ale. He boils water and malt to create wort — unfermented beer — then cools the mixture and adds yeast to ferment it. Instead of finishing the brew there, he builds a concentrate.

He vacuum distills the mixture and reserves the ethanol, leaving behind a syrup. Then he starts the process again, adding the syrup instead of water. He ferments again, removes the ethanol, and repeats. In total, he brews each batch four times. He then soaks hops in the reserved alcohol and adds it to the syrup. The final concentrate is 10 times the strength of beer, and with the addition of water, it’s ready to drink. Just add bubbles.

The 49 percent alcohol beer concentrate is turned into a fizzing and foaming 5 percent beer via a portable carbonator which doubles as a regular water bottle. Pat’s Backcountry Beverages actually launched the carbonation system, along with soda concentrates, about a year ago in an effort to help fund the brewing equipment for the beer concentrate.

Pat's CarbonaterThe carbonator (left) contains a specialised compartment for its Eco2Activator powder, a mix of potassium bicarbonate and citric acid, which creates the CO2 bubbles. With a little priming and shaking, the liquid inside transforms from flat to bubbly.

One reviewer, Chris Weiss, writing on Gizmag.com, says the following of his taste experience:

“I wanted to love the beer, because of how much potential ultra-portable beer has, but the “Pale Rail” that Pat’s crew kindly mixed up for me fell a bit short of the ‘equivalent [of] most microbrews on the market’ that Pat’s advertises. Its flavour was thinner than a typical pale ale, and, perhaps it was because I watched it being added to water, but it did have a sort of ‘beer-flavoured sparkling water’ character that couldn’t compete with the full flavoor of a traditional pale ale.

“That said, the Pale Rail was better tasting than a lot of lighter, less flavourful beers on the market, and it packs an alcohol content that’s quite typical of other beers. Considering that you’d traditionally not be drinking beer at all in the types of situations that Pat’s system was designed for, it beats the heck out of the alternative. Buyers could also presumably play with the taste and character by varying the amounts of water and carbonation, something I wasn’t able to try because supplies were quite limited at the demo I attended.”

Beyond this first personal-use scenario, Tatera’s brewing methods also have potential to transform the greater beer distribution industry. Instead of being packaged and distributed in heavy, expensive kegs, beer could potentially be concentrated and mixed with water on site, similar to how soda is mixed in soda fountains. This could theoretically revolutionise the industry, saving all kinds of shipping, packaging and distribution costs.

“We’re having communications, collaborations with some of the major players in the industry right now,” says Tatera of future possibilities. “We are looking at everything from big, big, big scale, like being able to support the industry in moving, like, tanker trucks of beer from point A to B, but shrinking it down and saving an awful lot of fossil fuel in the process, to working with breweries that just want to be part of sort of the excitement of being able to bring beer anywhere people are travelling and hiking and in the backcountry.”

The purist beer lovers may be shaking their heads at the idea of just-add-water beer – but just maybe this is the start of a whole new beverage category?

Pat’s Backcountry Beverages Carbonator is available now for US$29.95, or $39.95 in a package with six packets of carbonation powder. The beer concentrates will launch in September in two flavours: Pail Rail and Black IPA, starting at $9.95 for a four-pack, which creates four pints of beer. Because of their high alcohol content, the concentrates are considered distilled spirits and will be distributed through liquor stores. Tatera is working to secure distribution around the United States.

Once the initial two beers launch, the company plans to add a new style every month or so, including nut brown, American lager, pilsner, etc. Carbonator users can enjoy a range of the company’s soda flavours like pomegranate cola and spicy ginger ale.

Sources: Gizmag.com, PopSci.com, see more at Pat’s Backcountry Beverages

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