Let's Go Beer Camping

Jeffrey Wiser, November 24, 2015

I'm not gonna lie, I missed out on the first Beer Camp. It wasn't due to a lack of effort - I drove all over trying to find it but came up short. I hadn't really figured out how to hunt beer effectively yet, so the lack of results aren't entirely surprising. Still, feeling left out of something so cool isn't a good feeling.

And if you're not familiar with Beer Camp, let's get you caught up to speed. In 2014, Sierra Nevada launched the first Beer Camp collaboration series where they teamed up with a dozen breweries and, using their own distribution leverage, brought beers from all over the country together in one 12-pack.

This 12-pack made limited release beers from Allagash (ME), Firestone Walker (CA), Russian River (CA), Ninkasi (OR), Ballast Point (CA), Asheville Brewer's Alliance (NC), Victory (PA), Oscar Blue's (CO), Bell's (CO), 3 Floyds (IN), Cigar City (FL) and New Glarus (WI) available in one simple package. If you landed one of these beauties, well, good for you. In addition to the beverages, there was also a seven-city tour to celebrate craft beer. That's the definition of doing it in style.

Sierra Nevada has a new plan for the 2016 Beer Camp Across America campaign, and it's even cooler. Rather than 12 individual bottles in the 12-pack, they're making six beers and including two of each in the case. Now, that might sound like a bad idea, but I assure that it's still intriguing. The six beers will be produced by regional collaborations, incorporating 31 total breweries. Yeah, 31. Thirty-one. Check out the lineup:

  • NorCal: Bear Republic (CA), Maui Brewing (HI), Faction (CA), Magnolia (CA), Mad River (CA), Sierra Nevada (CA)
  • Southwest: Beachwood (CA), Port/Lost Abbey (CA), Bagby Beer (CA), Societe (CA), Smog City (CA), Sierra Nevada (CA)
  • Pacific NW/Rockies: Bale Breaker (WA), Barley Brown's (OR), Melvin Brewing (WY), Black Raven (WA), Odell (CO), Sierra Nevada (CA)
  • Midwest: August Schell (MN), Dark Horse (MI), Sun King (IN), Perrenial Artisan Ales (MO), Half Acre (IL), Sierra Nevada (NC)
  • Northeast/Mid-Atlantic: Dogfish Head (DE), Devil's Backbone (VA), Lawson's Finest Liquids (VT), Stoudt's (PA), Trillium (MA), Sierra Nevada (NC)
  • Southeast: Funky Buddah (FL), Wicked Weed (NC), Austin Beerworks (TX), Bayou Teche (LA), Creature Comforts (GA), Sierra Nevada (NC)

Each collaboration will produce one beer, as stated above, and the style is up to the group. It's not known at this time what type of beer each will pursue, but it stands to reason that there will be a variety of beers represented when Beer Camp 2016 hits the shelves next summer. The idea is to provide a glimpse of the entire country's influence in one easy package. This is a good idea.

Living in SoCal, I was able to get my hands on a preview of the Southwest brew the other day. I stopped by Beachwood in Long Beach, CA to pick up some limited release bottles and, to my surprise, they had this on tap:

I didn't have to think very hard about this one - it was a must-try. I ordered a pint and grabbed a growler to go. 

Beer Camp Pilot Batch Stout

  • Appearance: a dark, dark brown that's essentially black with a light creamed-coffee foam (4)
  • Smell: there's bright vanilla and spice present without smelling "toasted" (4.25)
  • Taste: layers of cocoa, coffee, vanilla and cloves are complimented a touch of noticeable hops (4.5)
  • Mouthfeel: full-bodied, complex and the beer keeps on giving as it moves throught palate and flavors are revealed (4.5)
  • Overall: an incredibly refined, polished and intriguing stout. The beer shows tremendous balance, isn't dominated by a roasty smell or taste, and showcases a plethora of flavors. A real joy to drink (4.5)

This beer lived up to the hype for me. When you throw names like Beachwood (a personal favorite), Smog City, Societe and Bagby Beer together, you'd expect greatness. This didn't let me down. 

It should be noted that this was a "pilot batch" and not necessarily the official release that will appear in the Beer Camp 2016 collection. Given the brewers involved, it was surprising that they didn't produce an IPA, but whether they change course and go the IPA route or stick with a stout, the drinker will be in for a treat. 

For more on the Beer Camp Across America 2016 project visit the official site.

You can follow Jeff on Twitter at @outfieldgrass24 and find him on Untappd at jwise224