Sierra Nevada Founder Ken Grossman described Beer Camp as "a celebration of our new brewery [in Asheville, NC] but really a celebration of what's happening in America and the whole craft brewery scene." Sierra Nevada is the second biggest craft brewery in the U.S. and the oldest craft brewery still operating under its original ownership. There really is no better choice for head counselor than Grossman, trailblazer of the American Pale ale, IPA and countless other styles along the path. He contacted Joey Redner, founder of Tampa FL's Cigar City Brewery, to be a part of the project. "For me, it was like getting a phone call from Jesus," he said. That should tell you all you need to know.
The Beer Camp project was split into two parts: first, there's the Beer Camp Across America 12-Pack, which features a dozen unique collaborations, each with a brewery selected by Sierra Nevada. It's their of bringing the party to you, if you can't make any of the festival dates (there are seven, try to go!) If you're worried about committing to twelve brews, you absolutely shouldn't be. It's every bit of a trip across the American craft beer landscape as you could imagine.
The best part of the package is the variety. Many of the breweries are associated with a single flagship beer — take Russian River's Pliny the Elder, for example. Russian River has extremely limited distribution beyond California and instead of doing an IPA, they did a hopped up Belgian-style blonde. Although some will undoubtedly be disappointed they didn't get a Pliny clone here, I have a lot of respect for the brewers' choice to be creative and step outside their normal repertoire. A nod also goes to Colorado's Oskar Blues and Florida's Cigar City for staying true to their love of cans. Sure enough, both of these brews come in metal, and they both rock.
If you perked up at the thought of getting to try Russian River, you'll probably also be excited to hear that other collaborators include Indiana's Three Floyds and Wisconsin's New Glarus. If you're pining for a taste of these breweries, take this opportunity to spend a weekend at Beer Camp! If you're not the type for tents, mosquitos and not showering for several days, don't worry: this is urban beer camp. There are three more stops this coming weekend in Portland, Maine on Friday, Philadelphia on Saturday and Mills River, NC on Sunday.
100 breweries pouring in one place, plus music and tons of beer-friendly food. Not enough to get you going? The reward of tasting rare beers not available on the East Coast should be. Russian River will be in Philly, and yes, they are pouring Pliny. It's also worth going to check out local breweries pouring at the Beer Camp Festival who didn't make the Beer Camp Pack, like Oxbow Brewing in Maine, Sly Fox in Pennsylvania and Wicked Weed in North Carolina.
While beer festivals pop up all over the country, Beer Camp stands out because many of the brewers themselves will be there pouring the beer. If you can't get to the East Coast this weekend, you can still partake in the awesomeness of the 12-pack. Let us know what you thought of it!
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