Application is Everything

Jeffrey Wiser, July 01, 2013

I’m an experiential beer drinker. That doesn’t mean I drink for the experience of the buzz; quite to the contrary. I like to drink beer to enhance my life’s experiences, matching the brew to the conditions to create the perfect storm of life enjoyment. Sitting by the fire on Christmas? Give me a spicy winter seasonal. Kickin’ it in the sun it at a spring training game? I’ll take a refreshing pale. Floating the river in the heat of summer? Pass the pilsner. I’m sure you’re getting the point.

So when my first hike-in, fly fishing and camping trip in the rugged mountains of my new home state was proposed, I wondered what we might be drinking. I recently moved to the Southwest from the Pacific Northwest, altering my beer approach greatly. No longer needing to drink beers that paired well with cool temps and a constant, grey drizzle, I was somewhat out of my element. Just what kind of beer would pair well for this experience? Here were the details I had to go on:

  • There would be campfire.
  • There would be a lot physical activity.
  • Everything we hiked in, we had to hike out.
  • There would be brown trout.

Since there was going to be campfires, there would be ample beer-consuming opportunities. The amount of physical activity told me that I didn’t want something that was heavy or dark. The fact that we had to hike everything out of the campsite told me I wanted something easy to transport. That there would be brown trout told me that we might have some fish stories to share while sippin’ brews. That tidbit isn’t really important unless, well, you’re a fly fisherman.

Shift by New Belgium BrewingI chose something new to drink. I chose a Shift. Not a “shift” in my beer mindset, but the pale lager, Shift, from New Belgium.

It was great around the campfire and after a long day of hiking and fishing. It goes down smooth and easy but retains some crispness given that it’s a lager. It has the notes of a microbrew but drinks easier than most. Plus, it comes in a can, which makes it ideal for hiking because it’s lighter than a bottle and you can crush the can before you have to haul out your trash. I’ve never been a big microbrew-in-a-can guy, but for this application, it was the right call.

  • Appearance: light amber, minimal head (3.5)
  • Smell: clean, floral, not strongly scented (2.5)
  • Taste: light hop taste, malt, herbal, earthy (3.5)
  • Mouthfeel: light, crisp, smooth (4)
  • Overall: enjoyable, refreshing, easy to drink (3.5)

The beer is very enjoyable drink and goes down easy. There isn’t much of a lingering after-taste and the beer is honestly a little watery. It’s without a strong scent and the tasting notes are very subtle. The beer lacks a significant of punch.

While that may not be the most appealing description, given the setting within which I drank it, the beer performed well. After 10 hours of hiking and fishing, I was hot, dirty and thirsty. Shift was the perfect remedy and it was easy to hike in and out. It’s all about matching the brew to the conditions and Shift matched up well with a fantastic weekend.

The three of us enjoyed much guy-talk around the fire with cold ones in our hands, swapping tales of girls and fish. After a long day beating the banks and climbing some cliffs, a campfire-cooked sausage and a beer were just what the doctor ordered. Two mornings later, trip concluded, we smashed our Shift cans and hiked everything out. Our packs were lighter and I didn’t have to listen to empty bottles jangling around. Oh, and brown trout were caught.