Tag Archives: Banquet Beer

Some Thoughts on Pocket Beers

Pocket beers are just one of the lower key aspects of skiing.  For all the people who spend near $10 for a draft at the top of the lifts there are a smaller number of hardy souls who take the route less traveled.   During the few minutes of isolation on a lift the pocket beer is produced.  It is consumed before unloading, sometimes shared, and the can is either stowed away or deposited discretely in a receptacle at the top.  Do not be the guy who tosses an empty somewhere on the mountain.

Over Spring Break I discovered that the pocket beer is looked down upon at Beaver Creek.  A fellow lift traveler looked at me as if I had told him that I was going to make America great again with my consumption of beer.  Perhaps it would have been more appropriate if I had broken out a single serve can of chardonnay.  Properly chilled of course.  Just kidding.  I would never drink chardonnay on a lift unless it was goon.  It’s an Australian thing.  Check it out.

Over the course of the week I thought about the nature of the pocket beer because I did not spend any time looking at the news, watching Netflix, or working.  It is amazing what you think about when left with your thoughts on a sunny Colorado afternoon in the spring.  Here are my conclusions:

  1. Pocket beers must be in cans. Like the beach, including the one at A Basin, and the pool glass should be a non-starter.  Bottles can break, the tops are another item to deal with, and it is harder to conceal a bottle in a gloved hand.  Oh sure, you could get by with an aluminum bottle but those are generally only purchased by people who are captive audiences at sporting events.  Don’t be that guy.
  2. Pocket beers should be shared. If you have more than one, offer a beer to a fellow lift rider.  If you only have one, offer a drink to a fellow lift rider if you know the person well.  Strangers might have a fear of your distinct brand of cooties.
  3. Pocket beers should not be craft beers. Yes, craft beer is ascendant and craft beer is a big deal in mountain communities.  However, with most high speed lifts only taking a few minutes to complete their runs there is no time to savor.  Reserve the craft beer for the après pint.
  4. Acceptable pocket beers:
    1. Rainier: Where do people find this stuff? I had not seen anyone drink Rainier since a childhood trip to the Pacific Northwest with my parents in the 1980s.  Sure enough it made an appearance this season on a lift at Keystone.
    2. Yuengling: I cannot stand this beer, but legions of East Coast ice skiers will scream if I do not include their favorite swill.
    3. Natural Light: The Natty is a legend among the hardy souls who ski the Midwest’s small hills. Purchased in containers with no fewer than 24 cans and usually 30 cans the Natty is the common currency of tailgates, impromptu backyard parties in your twenties, and pocket beers at Afton Alps.  Yes, it is swill but when the mercury is dropping below the 0 mark you do not have time to taste.
    4. Coors: Not that Coors Light garbage. When you are in Colorado and producing a pocket beer it should be the Banquet Beer.  The muted yellow can is iconic even if the beer inside is fairly mediocre.  It’s only brewed in Golden, which is off I-70 on the way into the mountains.  If you are chilling on the Peru Express lift, whip out a Banquet Beer, and enjoy your moment of perfection.

Embrace the pocket beer and the grungy soul of skiing before we are all left at mega-resorts staring at a menu of eye watering prices.  The pocket beer is the resistance.

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Rocky Mountain Goodness in a Can

Some places just do not like glass bottles.  So, in order to bring some beer to my holiday weekend festivities I needed to stock up on canned beer.  The upside was that I “needed” to make a trip to the liquor store to peruse the aisles for something contained within aluminum that could whet my whistle.

Sure, Leinenkugel’s Summer Shandy was calling to my from 16 ounce cans in the cooler but I wanted something different.  With the heat approaching 90 degrees and the sun feeling like it was trying to melt my face off, an IPA or stout or other heavy beer style was off the table.

Breckenridge Brewery came to my rescue with two options in cans: Avalanche Ale and Summer Bright Ale.

Avalanche Ale is described as being an amber style:

Avalanche Ale

This style, along with different varieties of pale ale, is one of the hallmarks of the American craft beer movement.  A relatively light (4.4% ABV) and mild (19 IBU) Avalanche Ale drinks easily on a warm day without tasting like straw colored water.  One thing that I really appreciated about Avalanche Ale was the inclusion of Chinook hops which are quickly becoming my favorite variety in homebrews.

The great thing about the amber ale style is that it can accommodate so many variations across the beer spectrum.  There is lighter fare, like Avalanche Ale, and much more heavy fare, like some of the homebrews that my friends have shared where the alcohol is north of 7.0% ABV and the bitterness is approaching 70 IBU.  The key is that the malt really provides a structure for the brewmaster to make an imprint.

Summerbright Ale is another story:

Summerbright Ale

Reading the can after pulling one out of a slushy cooler with temps above 90 degrees I was ready for summertime perfection.  Instead, I was left with a totally lifeless beer.

I cannot really pinpoint what went wrong with Summerbright Ale because I think many things are off.  There is very little malt structure whatsoever.  Therefore, you are left with a beer that just flies off your palate in no time like a drink of cold water.  It’s really on par with the malt structure of your typical canned American light lagers you see guzzled by the caseload over the Fourth of July.

There is also no hop profile to speak of either.  I am not a “hop head” seeking out the most bitterness all the time, but beer needs to have a balance between malt and hops to provide flavor.  Summerbright Ale did not have any of this interplay and came across somewhat tasteless.

I would purchase Avalanche Ale again and avoid Summerbright Ale.

Speaking of the six-pack, I was really curious about the packaging:

Six Pack Rings

Made by PakTech these rings are made from #2 HDPE plastic, which is one of the two types of plastic that are readily recyclable.  However, comparing these rings with the traditional plastic “tape” style it seems like the newer rings are made from much more material.  Considering that a lot of plastic does not get recycled would it not be better to use the packaging with less material?

One nice feature, as pointed out by the makers of the handles, is that the fully enclosed top protects the drinking area of the can from dust and debris.  It seems like a pretty minor advantage considering that I can wipe off the top of the can pretty easily.

Apparently, I was not the only one wondering about this new version of the venerable six-pack.