It is not unusual to have beer as part of the camping experience. One of the most important pieces of camping gear is the beer cooler, right? Camping can be defined in many ways. 1) A shelter or temporary residence. 2) Roughing it with a sense of adventure. 3) An absurd exaggeration meant to poke fun. 4) An escape from our normal comfortable life. Sierra Nevada Brewing Company has been doing its own beer camping for several years and they hit on each of those definitions in their latest venture.
In the past, Sierra Nevada invited their fans to Chico to work with the brewers on a recipe and then brew the beer. This special batch of beer would be served at the pub in Chico and also sent to the area of the Beer Camp brewers so they can share their adventure in their local market. Selections from those Beer Camps were also included in the annual Sierra Nevada Beer Camp variety 12 packs release.
In celebration of Sierra Nevada’s 2nd brewery opening in Mills River, NC, the brewery wanted to do a celebration of this major expansion while also honoring the entire craft beer community. They invited their favorite craft brewery friends to camp at the Chico brewery and create a variety pack known as Beer Camp Across America. 12 brewery collaborations. 12 unique beers. The styles of beers are traditional styles, but often include a nod to the collaborating brewer or their shared passion (for ingredients or a flavor profile) or some other connection. The collaboration with Allagash is named after the founder of the Appalachian Trail which extends from the new Sierra Nevada brewery in NC to the Allagash brewery in Maine. The New Glarus collaboration has a very campy name inspired by the fact that both breweries in Chico, CA and New Glarus, WI are off the beaten path and if you are not local, requires a day trip to go and visit. The collaboration with Firestone Walker celebrates both breweries’ love for New Zealand hop varietals. The collaboration with Ninkasi reflects the love of coffee in Oregon combined in a chocolate milk stout. They also collaborated with the Asheville Brewers Alliance on a beer which reflects the Scottish roots of their new brewery location.
This collaboration 12 pack was a huge undertaking for Sierra Nevada. From formulating recipes and securing ingredients, to setting up brew days with the collaborators and hand-packing each and every 12 pack with 12 distinct beers, this is really a deviation from their normal, comfortable, everyday life at an efficiently automated brewery. One of the most appealing aspects of this Beer Camp collection is the fact that a few of these collaborations are with brewers that have very limited distribution outside of their own area (notably Cigar City, 3 Floyds, New Glarus, Russian River), which gives craft beer lovers everywhere an unprecedented opportunity to have beers which reflect the character of these renowned breweries.
As if that wasn’t enough, Sierra Nevada organized a series of 7 traveling beer and music festivals starting in Chico on July 19th and ending in Mills River NC on August 3rd. Going even further off the edge, not wanting to leave out the rest of the 2000+ breweries in the United States in this collaboration, Sierra Nevada also sent an individual invitation to EVERY craft brewery in the US to pour their beer at these events. This is probably the biggest undertaking in US Craft Beer history. Go to sierranevada.com for details on the beer festivals and look for the Beer Camp beers in your favorite stores. Load up the cooler. Each one of these collaborations is solid, distinct and flavorful. Not a bad camper in the bunch.
-John Gestautas, Keg Keeper
Master Brewers Association of America Beer Steward