Whenever I head into the Ducane Range in the southern end of the Cradle Mountain Lake St Clair national park, I always stash a couple of beers under some rocks in the river at Narcissus hut, where the hikers ferry drops you. There are few things better than a swim and a cold beer after four or five days of camping, hiking and climbing in beautiful mountains.

I have to confess that the best beer I ever drank (so far, anyway) was at Uncle Buds hut, at about 3,400 metres in the central Rockies. It was my first overnight trip in winter in Colorado. It’s a long approach around a lake, then a long climb up a ridge, and it was a perfect, mild sunny winters day, but slow going as we broke trail through fresh snow. We got to the hut and Donny produced some beers, including a classic US dirtbag brew, a PBR, and we sat on the verandah looking at the highest peaks in the state as the sun slid behind Galena Peak. We skied some insanely good powder the next day, but that’s another story.

There’s nothing quite like a beer after a long days ski, ride, hike, climb or paddle. And of course, if you’re out bush or in the hills under your own steam, that means cans. Which recently got me thinking about the environmental impact of cans vs bottles.

So I was interested to read this post from the Beer Cartel, who say:

“Cans have a number of environmentally friendly strengths:

  1. Cans have a higher rate of recycling compared to glass. Metal cans are completely recyclable, and able to be recycled again and again without any performance loss. It is reported that the average can today contains around 70 percent recycled metal. A can that is recycled today can be back on shelves in as little as two months.
  2. Recycling aluminium utilises 95% less energy than creating aluminium from raw materials. This provides a great incentive for recycling cans.
  3. Cans can be crushed smaller. Where a consumer has chosen not to recycling, there are still environmental benefits in that the vessel will take up less room in any garbage”.

As someone who likes to support independently owned operations, and tries to also be a ‘regional’ drinker, I’m a big fan of the breweries in north east Victoria. (My faves are Sweetwater Brewery in Mt Beauty, Bright brewery, Blizzard Brewing Company, located up at Dinner Plain and Bridge Road Brewers in Beechworth).

Other locals include Bullant Brewery in Bruthen, King River Brewing, Social Bandit in Mansfield, and Wrong Side Brewing in Jamieson (all are listed on the Independent Brewers Association website).

Most smaller breweries here tend to use bottles rather than cans (amongst the locals in NE VIC, Blizzard is the exception to the rule). In the USA, there is a real tradition of microbreweries encouraging low impact backcountry travel and adventures (and this includes packaging beer in cans with a ‘pack it in, pack it out’ message and ethos. Oskar Blues, which has a number of breweries, is a classic example of a business that encourages this approach).

There’s lots of similar energy here. Bright is a stand out in terms of its environmental initiatives and support for a range of outdoor events and causes, such as the 5Zero social ride.

Of course, as ‘craft beer’ becomes more popular, the mega breweries are buying up many of the smaller breweries so they can corner that market. Kirin, ABInBev, Coca Cola, Woolworths and Wesfarmers have all invested in what were or appear to be ‘local’ micro breweries. Check here for a list of the smaller brands that are owned by the big players.

Where am I going with all this? I’m not entirely sure. Except to say that our local breweries add a lot to the towns of north eastern VIC. Supporting them is supporting local economies and local culture, rather than some mega corporate which is headquartered overseas. Ski hard. Ride hard. Drink local. Enjoy.

(And why not join us at the outdoor bar at Falls Creek, hosted by Peter Hull from Sweetwater Brewery as part of the backcountry festival on September 1?).