2014 Sierra Nevada Beer Camp Across America

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Beer camp.  Mom and Dad never told you about this summer getaway.  The lake is a wonderful golden brown, the milk cartons are full of yeast, hops, grain, and water, and instead of earning that Swiss Army knife at the end, you get a cast iron bottle opener.  This is a summer camp that Bug Juice should have profiled all along.  Beer Camp is quite diverse too; of the 13 campers who attend, each of them bring 13 different stories and backgrounds to get acquainted to.  And what better place to get to know such a hodgepodge of campers than in beautiful California.

Sierra Nevada Brewing Company was the host of this pilgrimage, where 12 different breweries decided to go for a ride of their lives.  Those daring trail blazers include 3 FlIMG_0152oyds, Allagash, Asheville Brewers Alliance, Ballast Point, Bell’s, Cigar City, Firestone Walker, New Glarus, Ninkasi, Oscar Blues, Russian River, and Victory.  A lot of hands were involved in this 12 pack, but does that lead to beer bliss or a few too many cooks in the kitchen?  To answer this question, I did what any sensible person would do… cracked them open.  Since there are 13 brews in total, I quickly reviewed each beer on taste alone with my overall impression saved to the end.  Time to run them numbers…

Beer Camp Across America Double IPA (Sierra Nevada):  Bitter, boozy, and really lacks a good hop flavor.  A sub par double IPA that is thin on body.  C+.  This was suppose to be the introduction to the 12 pack as it came out about a week earlier on the east coast.  Quite a let down in my opinion.

Torpedo Pilsner (Firestone Walker Brewing Company):  Light, German malts, nice bitterness and minerality. Similar to Elm City Pilsner by NEB Co.  Good, but mundane.  B.

Chico King (3 Floyds):  A terrific pale approaching the IPA side.  Vibrant hops that are perfectly balanced without being too piney or fruity.  Malt is there to add body to the brew.  A-.

Yonder Bock (Cigar City):  Malty, boozy, and bitter.  Little balance in the beer and not the most drinkable.  Odd sweetness at the finish and quite muddled.  B-.IMG_0154

Tater Ridge (Asheville Brewers Alliance):  Malty, slightly smokey, and one dimensional.  Nothing too complex but a solid brew.  B.

Double Latte (Ninkasi):  Smell is coffee, chocolate, and roasted grain.  Taste follows the nose with big coffee and toasted malt.  Heavy mouthfeel and nice to drink, coffee can be a bit overpowering. A-.

Alt Route (Victory):  Metalic, piney bitter, heavy body, and forgettable.  B-.

Yvan the Great (Russian River):  Nice and hazy with a typical yeasty, Belgian smell to it.  It tastes fine with Belgian yeast being the dominant flavor with a little grapeyness and orange rind.  Nice beer but indistinguishable from Allagash Saison or Le Merle.  B+

CANfusion (Oscar Blues):  Smells like a malt bomb with a little bit if a plastic scent.  Taste is surprisingly light with a watery, thin body.  Caramel, grain, and alcohol are the main stays, but all flavors are subdued.  B-.

There and Back (New Glarus):  Another nice beer, but egregiously mundane.  Nothing pops about this beer, no aggressive flavors, but it drinks cleanly.  B-.IMG_0153

Millard’s Odyssey (Bell’s):  Big smell of coco nibs and a little coffee.  Taste is big and massively roasty with some smoke and lighter fluid coming through.  A little bitter, but this brew is robust and wonderful.  A-.

Electric Ray (Ballast Point):  Booze and syrup are the first two flavors that stick out for me.  Thick body with a bitter hoppy taste.  B-.

Myron’s Walk (Allagash):  Light, yeasty, orange oil, spicy and dry.  Nice.  A-.

Overall:  This 12 pack cost ~30 dollars, and another 6 dollars for the 24oz DIPA from Sierra.  For the money, it was incredibly disappointing.  While the darker styles shined, all other brews were ordinary, forgettable, and perfunctory.  I’m left thinking that this was simply a marketing gimmick by Sierra Nevada and inexcusable laziness on their part.  Rather than doing something that actually transcended the craft beer world, they were proud to bring to market a bakers dozen of brews that were cursory.  A collaboration from 12 of the best breweries in America certainly generated a lot of hype, but unfortunately, the best part of this 12 pack was reading about it before it was released.  Considering the price, quality, and exclusiveness of Beer Camp Across America, I give this an overall grade of a C-.  While only one beer scored in the C range (not so ironically, it was the only beer Sierra Nevada had complete control over) it is the sum of all the variables that produce this grade.  It’s so disappointing that I’d rather get a summer job than attend this camp.

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