Beer Camp On Tour
WORDS: Fraser Doherty PICTURES: Richard Croasdale
Wednesday 06 December 2017
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The timing of our trip to California couldn’t have been any more perfect, since it coincided nicely with the launch of the Sierra Nevada ‘Beer Camp Across The World’ selection case of 12 collaboration beers.
Brewed with some incredible brewers from around the world, including the likes of Fuller’s, Avery, Mikkeller and Garage Project, it is an ambitious project to say the least and we were excited to taste some of the beers for ourselves.
Explaining how this fits with Sierra Nevada’s ambition of helping beer drinkers to discover new styles of beer, founder Ken Grossman talks us through the collaborations: “We’ve got a low-bitterness ginger lager brewed with Surly Brewing Co, a mildly-hoppy Atlantic-style vintage ale, brewed with Fuller’s and the dry-hopped barleywinestyle ale, brewed with Avery Brewing Co.”
Having interviewed Adam Avery a few months ago as part of our Colorado issue, this was a beer I was excited to try. These collaborations are all completely new beers, but the concept of ‘Beer Camp’ is not a new one for Sierra Nevada.
Ken reminisces about an epic multi-state bus trip that the brewery took back in 2014, dubbed “Beer Camp Across America.” It was an endeavour that showed their commitment to the craft beer community, but Ken admits, “It almost killed us”. And so today, three years on from Ken and his team’s death-defying road trip, we stand at the entrance of a beer festival unlike any we have been to before.
Usually, back home, we find ourselves shuffling between tightly packed rows of tables in a dark, indoor space, clutching a beer glass, trying not to bump into other hop-heads.
Sierra Nevada’s beer camp couldn’t be more different; set in a stunning beach-side park, the sun beats down onto shaded bars and parasol covered tables, as drinkers lounge around listening to a live funk/soul band and watch the yachts powering up and down the water.
The crowd is in great spirits and we explore the various tents filled with stands from well-known brewers, not only from all over the US, but from around the world. Of course, all the collaborators from the case of beers are present, including UK collaborator Fuller’s, whose beers are being poured in a scene that seems a million miles away from rainy Chiswick.
Talking about the latest incarnation of his father Ken’s epic bus tour of the US, second-generation brewer Brian Grossman explains: “Our events mix great craft beers with amazing live entertainment and local food for a festival experience – it’s a huge undertaking for us.” By supporting the craft beer scene in America with numerous festivals like this, Sierra Nevada can not only bring new craft beer drinkers into the fold, but help foster the next generation of craft brewers.
Joe Whitney, the company’s chief commercial officer, explains that the invitation for those curious about their beers is open all year round: “We like to invite beer drinkers to share a pint with us at our breweries, tasting rooms or at one of the thousands of events held nationwide every year.” We enjoy some tacos from one of the many food trucks that are feeding the crowd and watch participants playing ‘beer keg bowling’.
Clearly proud of what they have been able to create here, Ken explains: “What started out as a cross-country road trip between Chico, CA and Mills River, NC, to highlight the opening of our second brewery in 2014, has grown into one of the largest craft beer celebrations in America.”
With the festival hitting eight cities, Ken concludes by saying of his many collaborators: “Not only do they bring their own unique perspective and style to the party, but in many cases hundreds of years of brewing history and experience. We are very fortunate to have forged the relationships we have in craft over the years.”
A little sun-kissed, but well-watered and thoroughly entertained, we head to downtown LA in search of yet more great beers.
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