I'll be very honest, I've never been to a big beer festival. I've done some local stuff, some smaller tasting events, but nothing on the scale of Beer Camp Across America. The $50-ish entry cost included 30 tasting tickets, of which most vendors didn't even ask for, and a comemorative glass to help your remember the event that you drank too much at to remember altogether. Well, I can assure you, dear reader, that I didn't drink too much to remember the event, but with 102 brewers scheduled to pour, some people decided to show up to the event inebriated. That's poor game planning, IMO. This leads us to an important recap of the Beer Camp Across America Seattle event using a super efficient pro's and con's list. I hope you'll enjoy.
Pro: there may be no finer people-watching spectacle than a beer festival. Anything that gathers a bunch of strangers who've been unburdened of their regular real-world responsibilities, then sufficiently supplied with social lubrication, will result in some amazing stuff. There were a half-dozen Marshawn Lynch's in attendance and at least half of their owners were making a legitimate attempt at going Beast Mode. There were couples arguing in public, a few shattered glasses and regular sightings of Mr. and Mrs. Drunk Face -- all by 2:00pm. The event started at 1:00pm.
Con: a decent portion of the event was held in a steady rain because Seattle. The rain wasn't the real problem -- it was the subsequent umbrella parade that followed that drew ire. Nothing's worse than getting whacked in the face by somebody's wet umbrella and having it lauch watery shrapnel all over your person. Aside from this minor inconvenience, there are a couple of less obvious problems. First, if you're from the Northwest, you were issued a rain jacket with your birth certificate when you entered this world for a reason. Second, stealing your own three-foot, rain-free bubble in front of the Bale Breaker tent is just selfish even if it does technically earn you points for strategy.
Pro: the beer on tap was stupid-good. While I'll still maintain that the San Diego beer scene is tops in the country, the diversity of Oregon, Washington, Idaho, Wyoming, Utah, Hawaii and Colorado brewers created a cornicopia of options. A little advanced scouting of the event via the Beer Camp Across America App kept me on track as I'd set my wishlist the night before the event. With so damn many brewers in the fold, I'd have wasted a lot of capacity on beer I wasn't interested in had it not been for this effort. It was bad enough having to dump so many beers just to be able to keep tasting, it would have been worse if I hadn't prioritized. Some standouts for me:
- Bottomcutter Imperial IPA - Bale Breaker Brewing, Yakima, WA
- Turmoil Cascade Dark Ale - Barley Brown's Beer, Baker City, OR
- Half Hitch IPA - Crux Fermentation Project, Bend, OR
- The Sister Imperial IPA - Fremont Brewing, Seattle, WA
- Ace of Spades Imperial IPA - Hopworks Urban Brewing, Portland, OR
- Red Wine Barrel-Aged Imperial Stout - Top Rung Brewing Co., Lacey, WA
- Imperial Coconut Porter - Maui Brewing Co., Kihei, HI
- Three Sundays Belgian Tripel - Black Raven Brewing Co., Redmond, WA
- Friek American Wild Ale - Odell Brewing Co., Fort Collins, CO
- Birthday Suit (23rd Anniversary) Sour Raspberry Ale - Uinta Brewing Co., Salt Lake City, UT
Having had the Beer Camp collaboration beers at an earlier date, I skipped them this time around. If you can find them on tap, give 'em a try. I liked them much more on draft than bottled, where they lost a lot of punch for me and made for a very expensive 12-pack.
Con: within like 20-minutes of entering the event, my buddy spotted his boss. The problem here is that my friend is a young, single male, which is compounded by the attractiveness of his supervisor, which is further compounded by the fact that he's had his job for three weeks and didn't want to jeopardize his future earnings. So we had to duck her for most of the event until she spotted us at the food trucks re-carbing and passed by my friend saying, "Hey, the point of having the glass is having it full of beer, not empty," pointing at his empty vessel. She won this round, that's for sure.
Pro: the views at Lake Union Park are super awesome and watching sail boats on the water and float planes take off behind the brewers' tents was entertaining all by itself. When the sun came out, the collective mood of the event seemed to rise and the pours got seemingly larger. I might be stretching on that last part, but the venue of the event was perfect and encompassed much of what's great about Seattle: a little rain, a little sunshine, bodies of water, food trucks and a bunch of people wearing North Face gear while trying not to look as happy as they really are.
Since you can count, you'll notice that the pro's outweighed the con's and I'd say that's pretty reflective of the event overall. There were some really good beers and I was especially surprised by the quality of the sours available. I think I managed 25-28 tastes, nothing of which I'd ever had before since the idea was try a bunch of new stuff. That goal was accomplished.