Sierra Nevada doesn’t just push the envelope. They evaporate it.
Beer Camp started in 2008 as a way for Sierra Nevada (SN) to share their then nearly three decades of knowledge to experience to others in the industry. The intensive two-day course goes start-to-finish, from coming up with a recipe to brewing to branding.
As word got out, those outside the industry wanted in. Due to the demand, SN set up a contest whereby anyone could submit videos stating their case. Those deemed most creative won the coveted spots.
After several years of stellar Camp recipes, they brought the very best out to the public as Beer Camp Variety Packs, four each of three different varieties, released each July since 2011.
This year, to coincide with the opening of their new facility in Mills River, NC, they’ve upped the ante.
Since collaboration brews are all the rage, SN teamed up with 12 different American breweries to create unique styles to fill out the pack. And what a stellar lineup it is, from Russian River and Ballast Point in the west, to Cigar City and Allagash in the east, and many in between.
Plus, remember what I said about evaporating envelopes?
They decided to hold a festival to celebrate this year’s release. But, being a 34-year-old brewery that has broken new ground since the beginning, a simple festival wasn’t enough.
They invited every brewery in America.
Now, inviting that many breweries (3,000-plus at last count) to a festival is gonna cause some logistical issues. How do you jam that many people into one festival?
You don’t. Instead of bringing them to a festival, you bring the festival to them — the Beer Camp Across America tour.
Stretching coast-to-coast, the tour makes seven stops, starting at their first home in Chico, CA, ending at their new location North Carolina, with stops in San Diego, Denver, Chicago, Portland ME, and Philadelphia in between.
Sadly, I won’t make it to any of the festivals. But I did get an invite. Sort of.
Sierra Nevada “Invite” DIPA
What’s the best way to get every brewer in the U.S. to come out to your event?
Send them free beer, naturally. SN shipped 22-oz. bottles of “West Coast” Double IPA, with tags affixed announcing the details, to each invitee.
To coincide with the variety back release and festival tour, they released the “Invite” DIPA to the public as well.
(Even the labels are cool – the bottle equivalent of a concert tour T-shirt, will all the “tour dates” listed on the back.)
The beer itself is, of course, stellar. Clean, crystal clear, plenty of spicy hop punch, with a pretty nimble palate and mouth feel for an 8.5% ABV brew. Nice, and very, very smooth.
So what about the other beers in the Beer Camp pack? I’ll note them here, periodically, as I get to them. Here are the first couple, grabbed in no particular order out of my fridge.
Torpedo Pilsner, w/Firestone Walker Brewing Co., Paso Robles, CA
Firestone Walker began in 1996, in a small space rented out of Firestone Vineyards in Santa Barbara County. As their reputation grew, so did the brewery, so that by 2001 they purchased SLO Brewing in San Luis Obispo, CA and moved their operations there.
Many years and an unprecedented four Mid-Size Brewery of the Year awards from the World Beer Cup later, their mini-empire in the Central Coast includes their main brewery in Paso Robles, plus satellite facilities in Buellton, CA (which includes their ambitious Barrelworks project), and opening soon in Venice Beach, CA.
As for the beer, I can’t think of a better way to start the collection. They packed New Zealand hops into the Hop Torpedo, and away they went.
Don’t be fooled, though. This is a Pilsner, first and foremost. Great, great grainy character, clean and dry. The hops provide a great bite at the finish, zipping the palate clean and ready for the next sip. This is simply phenomenal, one of the best Pilsners I’ve had in a long, long time, and a tremendous way to kick off this sampler. Outstanding.
Tater Ridge Scottish Ale Brewed with Sweet Potatoes, w/Asheville Brewers Alliance, Asheville, NC
Wanting to make a good impression on their new North Carolina neighbors, SN reached out to the Asheville Brewers Alliance, a group of nearly 30 local breweries, retailers, distributors, and home brewers, all united to promote themselves, their industry, and to share knowledge.
I’ve never been a huge fan of Scottish Ales, so I approached this reluctantly. They usually have too much of a burnt-sugary flavor for my taste. This was different, though. In a very good way.
The sweet potatoes accentuate the malt sweetness, providing lift to the caramel flavors. They are more predominant in the nose, with some potato earthiness and a touch of pumpkin-pie spice. Overall, this was a very pleasant surprise.
The first of many from this pack, I’m sure. Stay tuned.