If you're the type of observant beer drinker who's keen to such things, you may have noticed last week's aggressive marketing launch of Sierra Nevada's Beer Camp Across America, one of the most ambitious craft beer celebrations yet.
A multi-pronged offensive into the gullet of beer fans nationwide, the Beer Camp Across America is part roving beer festival and part collaboration beer series, that for the next few months will have a presence in not just local bars, but also bottle shops, select large-scale event spaces and most definitely, your fridge.
The idea is an expanded spin on the pioneering Chico, Calif., brewery's annual Beer Camp program, which since 2008 has invited distributors, brewery owners, journalists and a few lucky consumers to Northern California for a hands-on brewing weekend with Sierra Nevada's pilot system. The top brews were made on a larger scale and released each spring in a highly anticipated Beer Camp variety pack.
For 2014, though, Sierra Nevada dreamt bigger than the two-day intensive it usually offers — way bigger.
First, instead of offering Beer Camp credentials to another round of industry folk, Sierra Nevada decided to invite 12 of the country's best breweries (some of which are not distributed in California) to to brew 12 separate collaboration beers for its annual Beer Camp variety pack. Featuring brewer collusions with big names like Firestone Walker (Torpedo Pilsner), Russian River (Yvan the Great Belgian-Style Blonde) and Wisconsin's notoriously elusive New Glarus (There and Back English-Style Bitter), the resulting pack feels like a must-nab CD box set from a cross-genre supergroup no one ever expected to sound so good (like Atoms for Peace or Broken Bells).
Second, Sierra Nevada organized a massive seven-stop traveling beer festival — which will take place over the next month in tandem with the variety pack release — to which every craft brewery in the country is invited to pour. Already, more than 90 breweries of various sizes from all over the country have signed up for the fest's Southwest stop in San Diego on July 20 and even more are anticipated for some of the later, East Coast dates.
Through the beer-fest-and-variety-pack double whammy approach, Sierra Nevada is creating an unprecedented celebration and showcase of America's craft beer culture as it stands today: robust, diverse and (despite awe-inspiring gains in the last few years alone) still growing.
From small-time local breweries who may be lucky to reach outside their neighborhood to the major players whose name is recognized the nation over (like Sierra Nevada themselves — the brewery celebrates the grand opening of their new North Carolina production brewery at the final, Southeast festival stop), Beer Camp Across America will act as a vessel for not only consumption and discussion, but hopefully more collaboration as well.
As part of the major Beer Camp push taking place over the next month, several L.A. bars are hosting tapping parties both before and after the San Diego festival date, where hard-to-come-by kegs of all 12 collaboration beers will be on draft and, at some locations, special menus will be available for pairings. More dates and places may be added to this list as distributors allot their shipments, but the following are the ones we know for now (check with each individual location for specifics on their event):
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Wednesday July 9, 5 p.m., Matt Denny's Ale House, Arcadia
Friday, July 18, Select Beer Store, Redondo Beach
- Thursday, July 17, Lucky Baldwin's Trappiste, Pasadena
Wednesday, July 23, Surly Goat Bar, West Hollywood
Thursday, July 24, Timmy Nolan’s Tavern, North Hollywood
Wednesday, July 30, 6 p.m., Beachwood BBQ and Brewing, Long Beach
Thursday, July 31, The Glendale Tap, Glendale
Beer Camp Across America, Sunday, July 20, Embarcadero North, San Diego. For more detailed information on the Beer Camp Across America collaboration beers or to buy tickets for any of the festival dates, visit beercamp.sierranevada.com.