From time to time we’ll take a deep dive into our various beers for the reader who wants to know a little bit more about them. Answering questions like what’s behind the name of the beer, the different styles we brew and how it’s made. First in this series is our very popular Backpacker Blonde Ale.
Backpacker Blonde Ale has been given a number of designations since its first release. It’s a gateway beer, an approachable step forward into some of the diverse flavours offered in craft brewing. It’s a sunshine beer, a background companion to a patio, park, or beach. Any wide range of activities where the weather is hot and refreshment in the form of a well stocked cooler is a must. It’s a lawnmower beer. The kind of crisp beverage that pairs well with grass stained New Balances, and a pair of jeans.
It’s at this point that the list starts to spiral outward to sporting events, family get-togethers, and virtually any moment made better by a beer that can blend into the scenery. With seemingly endless contexts for it to be the perfect beer in, I’ll pose that Backpacker is deserving of the ultimate designation; that of the fridge beer.
What’s a fridge beer? Fair question! A fridge beer is the one you always keep a steady supply of. Ready and cold. The reliable standby that you can turn to for any of the events above, and many more. It pairs as well with an afternoon inside watching baseball, as it does with a full roast dinner.
So what exactly makes Backpacker such an adaptable beer? Let’s work through the ingredients to see what everything is bringing to the table, and how each component is working together.
To start, we use three different malts: Two Row, Pale Wheat, and Honey Malt. Two Row is a base malt, which effectively makes it the foundation of the beer, providing a bulk of the sugars that will be needed in fermentation along with other significant compounds. It’s a lightly roasted barley which imparts mild flavours of bread and biscuit to the finished beer. The addition of Pale Wheat is minor, but ultimately helps to create a rounder body without much adjustment to the flavour. Lastly is the Honey Malt, which is a more roasted barley than the Two Row, giving a hint of amber colour and a depth of complex flavours. It further layers the notes of toasted bread, while leaving a soft note of honey. Combined, these three ingredients develop the body of the beer and its distinct malt character.
The yeast that we pitch into Backpacker is a California Ale strain. With a neutral flavour profile and efficient fermentation, this strain is an absolute workhorse in the brewery. Yeast is an expensive ingredient in the brewing process (pound for pound), and it’s important to manage the yeast so that it can remain healthy as it is cropped (removed from the fermenter) and pitched (added to a new brew into a fermenter) over multiple generations. Backpacker is perfect to keep in rotation as its predictable fermentation produces a ton of healthy yeast to be used in any number of other styles. With high levels of attenuation (the measure of how well a given yeast will ferment sugars) the yeast ultimately provides the dry finish which helps make Backpacker so crisp by leaving very few residual sugars behind. Less sugar means less sweetness, which helps give us that perfect finish!
Lastly we have the hops. Now by almost no account would Backpacker be considered a hoppy beer. But that’s not to say that the hops that are present don’t have an important role to play. We exclusively use Willamette hops, which are perfect for providing clean bitterness and mild aromas of herbaceous spice and fruit. Backpacker is slightly more bitter than some of its Blonde Ale counterparts, and with good reason. This addition of bitterness brings just enough sharpness to counter the remaining sweetness and helps to further the dry finish. This is just another layer of complexity in the finished product that completes the balancing act necessary between the sweet flavours provided by malt, and the bitterness from the hops. These work harmoniously to make for a beer that seamlessly moves through flavours from start to finish.
As much as Backpacker is the perfect fridge beer, an anytime companion for a long list of experiences, it’s also a versatile player on the dinner table. The complex pale malt flavours are mild enough to pair well with virtually any protein without overpowering or getting lost, while the sharp bitterness can hold up to more intense spicing and richer dishes. The combination of the dry finish, sparkling carbonation, and bitterness make for a perfect weapon to cut into the fat of a roast chicken, pork chop, or even a steak.
For a style that sometimes gets taken for granted in the market, briefly forgotten among new IPAs and Saisons, it’s one that, when returned to, quickly reminds people of its deserving place as a flagship offering. Hopefully this helps you appreciate this perfect fridge stocker just that much more when you reach for it the next time you’re about to do - well - anything!