By Chris Jennings
For the Oregon Beer Growler
Now that summer has arrived, it’s time to start getting ready for all of the activities that are best enjoyed in our small slice of glorious Northwest weather. Camping, road trips and weekend vacations are just a few options and all are made better with some tasty beer. As homebrewers, it would be even more exciting if the beer we drank was crafted by us. Transporting, storing and serving our award-winning beverages is a challenge that’s easy to overcome with some good old-fashioned homebrewer ingenuity.
Have Beer, Will Travel
Of course, once your homebrew is ready for consumption, it’s already in some sort of container — be it bottles or kegs. Naturally, the amount of brew to bring on a getaway depends on the circumstances. A day trip or hike will only require a six-pack or a couple of growlers and those can easily fit in a small cooler with the rest of the picnic goodies.
However, a weeklong camping adventure is another story, and being the only homebrewer in the group can be a bit trying. With everyone expecting you to supply all the beer, make sure there’s plenty to go around and plan ahead so that you don’t wipe out your cellar. It might also be fun to brew a special batch for the gathering. Aside from getting the chance to make something different, your fellow campers will be able to look forward to sampling a new brew crafted just for them.
If you don’t have a homebrew keg system, then be sure to use a cooler that’s large enough to hold all of your bottles. But if possible, you can have some fun building a keg system that will make pouring beer in an outdoor setting nice and easy.
Taking kegs camping doesn’t have to be difficult. You’ll simply need a place to keep them cold, CO2, a way to get the beer out of the keg and ice.
As with everything in homebrewing, there’s the easy way, the hard way, the expensive way and the cheap way. The costly way might not be easy, but it will probably look the coolest. Let’s start with a place to keep the kegs cold. Any container that will hold ice and allow you to submerge the bottom six-inches of the keg will work. It’s not necessary to keep the entire keg covered in ice because the beer is drawn from the bottom (as long as you’re not drinking a gallon a minute).
There are only a few options for CO2. Option one: You can pull your CO2 cylinder off your tap system and haul it with you to the wilderness. Though effective, this can be cumbersome. Option two: Use a travel-sized cylinder that’s around 2.5 pounds. There are also adapters on the market to attach your regulator to a paintball cylinder. Using an actual regulator and CO2 tank will give you much better control over how fast the beer comes out, preventing foaming and beer loss. Option three: A hand-held device that uses 14-gram CO2 cartridges with a trigger. This allows you to add CO2 to help push out the beer, but there’s no control. You could accidently add too much CO2, purging the keg or pouring out a lot of foam.
Now that the beer is cold and we have CO2, we need a way to get the liquid from keg to glass. The old standby would be a picnic/cobra tap on the end of a piece of hose. It’s simple, inexpensive and it works. But where’s the fun in that? The next option is a fancy adapter that will allow you to connect a beer faucet directly to your quick disconnect. Overall, it’s not that expensive and you have the benefit of beer not sitting in the baking sun all day. The Cadillac version is the jockey box. If you’ve ever been to a beer festival, you’ve seen one. It’s a cooler with a beer line going in one side. The beer then travels through either a stainless steel coil or plate that is inside the cooler. Ice is added to the cooler to ensure the beer is cold when pouring out the other side. A jockey box system isn’t cheap, but it can be an awesome addition to any homebrewer’s outdoor adventures.
Ensuring that our tasty homebrew is not only available to us everywhere we go this summer, but is treated right, helps guarantee the perfect pint every time.
Hop on it IPA [AG]
Hop on it IPA [Extract]
Stories from the print edition of the Oregon Beer Growler.