In 1980 Sierra Nevada became one of the first players in the nascent craft beer movement. Thirty four years later the brewery is still leading the charge. In 2013 it was the second-largest craft brewer in the country. Its Pale Ale, one of the best-selling craft beers in the country, still somehow manages to be oft overlooked. And now the brewery is opening a second location, this time in Mills River, North Carolina, to better serve the eastern half of the country. To mark this momentous occasion, Sierra Nevada has launched one of the largest celebrations of craft beer in history.
There are collaborations and then there is Beer Camp Across America. Sierra Nevada teamed up with twelve of the top breweries across the country to create a variety pack and festival unlike any other. The festival started on July 19 in Chico, California and concludes August 3 in Mills River. The Midwest stop, in Chicago, was last weekend, but there’s still an opportunity to catch it in Philadelphia today or North Carolina tomorrow. Every craft brewery in America received an invitation to pour at the various festivals and more than 700 accepted.
If you aren’t able to make it to a festival stop, the Beer Camp Across America 12-pack is the next best thing. There hasn’t been anything done like it before. Ten bottles and two cans brewed in collaboration with twelve of the best craft breweries in the nation reside within its cardboard confines. For some this will be the first time they can get their hands on beers from such sought after breweries with limited distribution as Cigar City, New Glarus and Russian River.
Each beer serves as an excellent example of each brewery’s house character. Allagash brings a Belgian-style pale ale to the table. Cigar City likely was contractually obligated to do something tropical. Three Floyds hopped the hell out of its pale ale. Each beer then adds a little touch of Sierra Nevada, usually in the form of big West Coast hops. If you want to get to know a variety of breweries before exploring further, use Sierra Nevada’s beer locator and find a pack near you.
Here’s a quick rundown of the Midwestern beers in the pack.
There and Back: New Glarus went with an English bitter that blends toasty malt with fruity and floral hops. The result is about as American-tasting as an English bitter gets, with the hops a bit more apparent than the more reserved versions usually coming out of England. To my palette that’s a great thing.
Maillard’s Odyssey: Bell’s named its Imperial Dark Ale after the Maillard reaction, the browning of sugars and amino acids when malt is roasted. In a pack of beers often leaning towards bright and hoppy, this complex dark and roasty beer stands out. Malt is the star here and lends big flavors of chocolate, coffee and caramel.
Chico King: A play on Sierra Nevada’s hometown and Alpha King, the Three Floyds flagship, Chico King might be the best beer of the bunch. That’s no surprise when both breweries are well known for their pale ales. The malt body stacks up well to the bright hops, which impart more flavor and aroma rather than pure bitterness.