Sunday, June 12th, 2016

Beer Camp Across America – Happy Campers in Seattle

Ron Swarner

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Sierra Nevada Brewing Company didn’t provide the entertaining sail boats and seaplanes on Lake Union, but the Chico, California-based brewery certainly took care of all the other details at Beer Camp Across America, a roving six-city festival that hit Seattle’s South Lake Union Park yesterday. There were celebrity brewers pouring their own creations — including Sierra Nevada Brewing founder Ken Grossman — beers from more than 100 breweries, on and off rain, the lush melodies of Deep Sea Diver band, tulip glasses for tasting cups, a plethora of food trucks and restrooms — all in a stunning setting between the Space Needle and Lake Union. There were many happy Campers in Seattle.

Breweries from across the nation, although most from the Pacific Northwest, poured two beers from their coffers with almost no lines anywhere, including the bathrooms. The longest wait was at the Sierra Nevada Brewing booth. Although Sierra Nevada’s Barrel Aged Narwhal Imperial Stout was wait worthy, Grossman behind the taps caused the line, mostly full of anxious brewers wanting to shake the craft beer pioneer’s hand and give kudos for inspiring their careers. The other semi-long lines formed in front of Cloudburst Brewing and Barley Brown’s Beer, both breweries ended up dry before the 5 p.m. closing bell rang. There wasn’t any jostling through herd-like drunken crowds, which was refreshing as the occasional raindrop. Instead, attendees had their choice of several hundred beers, many rare or special ones, which they could sip from tulip glasses in the spacious park.

To accompany the festival, Sierra Nevada selected 31 breweries across the country with which to collaborate — and ended up making six beers, all of which have been bottled for one-time only variety packs. Each unique beer was brewed by a regional team of breweries and Sierra Nevada to represent the styles of the breweries and ingredients from their region. One of those beers is the Sierra Nevada Beer Camp Moxee-Moron Imperial Session IPA, a delicious citrus sipper with the classic Sierra Nevada hoppy finish brewed with Bale Breaker, Barley Brown’s, Black Raven, Melvin and Odell.

Although the sun remained hidden most of the day, many people were clamoring for the lighter fare, with Engine House No. 9 bring its tartalicious Nefilibata Sour. People were queued up for Belching Beaver Brewery’s tropical IPA Here Comes The Mango as well as Alesong Brewing And Blending’s Strawberry Gose and Black Raven Brewing’s Three Sundays spicy Tripel. Even Trap Door Brewing’s A Gose Called Quest was receiving love from festival attendees, who seemed to be enjoying the apricot kettle sour. Odell Brewing’s Friek framboise meets multiple kriek lambic style ales concoction was our favorite fruit.

We were more enthralled by the heavier fare that was on tap; with the Southwest regional collaboration beer Stout of the Union fitting perfectly with the cloud bursts. This robust stout with layers of deep malt flavors is a collaboration between six breweries: Bagby Beer Company, Beachwood Brewing, Smog City Brewing, The Lost Abbey, Sierra Nevada Brewing Company and Societe Brewing. Meanwhile Belching Beaver’s Viva La Beaver Mexican Chocolate Milk Stout, with its Mexican chocolate, cinnamon and lighter notes of peanuts and coffee creamer, was an incredible thing to have poured. Top Rung Brewing‘s Red Wine Barrel Aged Pyrolysis Imperial Stout is stellar. But yes, we were also enjoying the lighter stuff just like everyone else.

For a complete list of participating breweries and the beer they poured, download the free Beer Camp app, which came in handy during the festival.

Kudos to Sierra Nevada for providing water stations and encouraging attendees to bring water bottles for free refills.

Below are a few photos we snapped at the Seattle version of Beer Camp Across America 2016.