Very few 12 packs have a name as fitting for what I’m trying to do here – representing beer and travel together as one. So when a collaboration pack comes along like Sierra Nevada’s Beer Camp – Across the World, it naturally gets my buy. Beer Camp is a very respected collaboration series that Sierra Nevada has started to release annually. Essentially, Sierra Nevada teams up with twelve different breweries and creates twelve different beers of unique styles and flavors to bring attention to these breweries that are either hot on the rise, or breweries that have made respected quality beers for some time. Essentially, it’s a showcase, and a tasty one indeed. I’ve tried some of the beers in the past, but never had the enjoyment of indulging in the full pack, getting the real experience.
But this year I gave in. This stuff is difficult to find, especially after it is first released and all of the beer nerds are calling every distributor, hoping to find where the first cases will drop. I have to admit that this post is a bit overdue, but I still wanted to share what I found in this lovely pack of beer, representing six stateside beers, and six brews from abroad. I’ll go through them all, and tell you what I thought — but to cut to the chase — I’m in love with Beer Camp.
Dry-Hopped Barley Wine by Sierra Nevada / Avery Brewing Company (Boulder, CO): First off, you can tell the Sierra Nevada influence in this one straight away. From the brewery that defined the West Coast IPA style, hop forward beers are in their DNA. Regardless of style, if that’s what they want you to taste that’s what you’re going to get. Barleywine is a unique type of beer that is usually characterized by having a higher alcohol percentage than most. Never the less, it’s easy to screw up and have your beer taste of rubbing alcohol. I’m pleased to say that this Beer Camp colab with Avery was a spectacular start! At 9.4% ABV, this one is strong and very hop-forward, which is a unique take on the style. It has lingerings of an IPA, but still maintains the complexity of a barleywine. The beer is also super aromatic, with notes of caramel dominating the taste and smell. Sierra Nevada said that this beer was made to represent not a complete collaboration of the two breweries, but more the taste of if you poured their two signature barleywines of Bigfoot and Hog Heaven together into one bottle. Now, should I need to buy them individually and do a taste test? Naw, I’ll just stick with this because they accomplished what they were going for and it was so tasty!
Raspberry Sundae by Sierra Nevada / The Bruery (Placentia, CA): So what exactly is this beer you call raspberry sundae? According to Sierra Nevada’s Beer Camp site, it’s a spiced ale, but to me it’s almost a spiced ale meets cream ale. Here’s something about Beer Camp that is really told loud and clear with this beer — These collaborations are all about experimentation and it definitely shines through in this one. The objective was met: to create a dessert beer. Now how does it taste? I’m not going to say that it was my favorite, however I can always appreciate something so unique yet still tastes appealing. I was worried that this beer would be overly sweet, but they did a nice job with balancing the flavors. Probably the most exciting thing about this beer is that it had very distinct layers to it — which represents a sundae perfectly! First you taste the raspberry, then the cream, malt and spice notes shine. Lastly, the raspberry again. It’s actually pretty incredible that they pulled this off in such a distinct way. I’m going to have to keep my eye out for more beers from The Bruery.
Dry-Hopped Berliner-Style Weisse by Sierra Nevada / Saint Arnold Brewery (Houston, TX): Whoaaaaa! That’s a lot of hyphens for one beer style and the only thing to top those is the amount of tart kicking in this brew! These guys were certainly not kidding when describing this beer as fruit forward, but that’s to be expected if it’s to live up to the style of a berliner weisse. Speaking of which, berliner weisse style beer is something unique to Northern Germany, mostly Berlin, where a beer is mixed with a concentrate or syrup, usually raspberry or lemon, to create something both refreshing and lightly alcoholic. I would say that this beer makes that ring perfectly. You’d almost want to call it an Arnold Palmer of beer, but with the lemon zest screaming at you, “IT’S SUMMER!”. This is a beer to have on a hot day, while you’re drinking in the great outdoors, lakeside or at the beach. It’s also an appealing beer that might be a good introduction to the style for non-believers.
West Coast DIPA (Double IPA) by Sierra Nevada / Boneyard Beer (Bend, OR): So with this beer I have to make a disclaimer. I’ve been a huge fan of Boneyard Beer and they are from where I grew up. I honestly would call them my favorite brewery out there. Because of this collaboration, and also it being one of the first times (if not THE first) you can find Boneyard Beer distributed in something other than a keg — THIS WAS THE REASON I bought Across the World, the Beer Camp collaboration in the first place. So how do you meet such ridiculous expectations as the ones I put on this beer? By making this beer. Boneyard Beer you’ve done it again. Thank you. Enough of my religious(ish) experience going on over here, I need to tell you about the taste. This is by far the most drinkable DIPA I’ve ever had as it has such a beautiful palate of hops. They’ve put a ridiculous amount of Mosiac, Simicone, Centinnial and Citra hops in here and what a lovely picture it paints. I also have to note that it bitters just the perfect amount. It’s not trying to hide anything and we see it as it is, an arguably perfect beer. Love note to Boneyard Beer concluded.
Ginger Lager by Sierra Nevada / Surly Brewing Co. (Minneapolis, MN): We’ve come to a day where breweries use the term ginger and beer loosely. This is not one of those brews. Surly’s Ginger Lager (not to be confused with a ginger beer) is exactly what you needed to define the style. It’s also precisely what I needed after eating way too much from a dinner of burger and fries. Beyond being a tasty beer, could this possibly be medicinal? The ginger in this beer is insane! Really strong and also includes notes of cayenne that creep in alongside the intense ginger flavor. I would say that it’s almost too much, but at the same time this is completely intentional. If you don’t like a lot of ginger you’re not going to like this beer, but if you do… you might? It wasn’t a personal favorite as I felt a little overwhelmed, but it definitely helped my fast-food tummy ache.
East Meets West IPA by Sierra Nevada / Tree House Brewing Company (Monson, MA): So the Boneyard DIPA was the reason why I bought this pack, but this Tree House brew was arguably what I was most looking forward to. Tree House Brewing Company has made a name for itself as the best brewer on East Coast of the United States. However, It’s nearly impossible to find their beers over here in California and on the West Coast in general so many of us just think East Coasters are being biased or finally tasting quality beer and over-hyping it. I can report that Tree House is legit and should hold that title which they carry. This IPA is fantastic and really appeals to me personally. The beer definitely kicks off right, with a hoppy and bitter forward taste that lets the malt take the backseat. Honestly, I love that. Hop forward, light on the malty notes beers are my thing and this beer was perfect. I’m a little biased towards the Boneyard beer, but this was the obvious competitor as my personal favorite.
ACROSS THE REST OF THE WORLD:
Dunkle Weisse by Sierra Nevada / Ayinger Brewery (Aying, Germany): I have to say that I’m pretty familiar with Ayinger beers. I’ve sought them out from time to time and when I’ve been in Bavaria, I’ve made sure to try as many as I could. They are one of Germany’s best breweries so I made sure to hold this one to as high of standards, even though it’s been brewed outside Bavaria. It’s a really good beer and exactly what you expect an ideal dunkle weisse to have with pronounced notes of clove, banana, and baked bread. I would say the biggest downside to this beer and I mean with this specific bottle was that it arrived with a lot of yeast at the bottom which makes me wonder how long ago it was brewed. Hopefully not back at the origin of the German Purity laws 😉 . Never the less, this lived up to the gold medal standard which is Ayinger.
Hoppy Belgian Golden Ale, by Sierra Nevada / Duvel Moortgat (Puurs, Belgium): On a recent trip to Belgium, I indulged in a great many beers of all kinds of traditional styles and techniques. However, one thing that really stood out to me was the recent trend of hoppy Belgian Ales. One beer was especially memorable and I brought a couple bottles back, this being from The Half Moon Brewing in Bruges. I loved that beer and therefore I was really excited to try this one of the same style as I feel it can potentially make an amazing and complex beer. Belgians have been brewed the same way for hundreds of years and the recent experimentation of some traditional breweries is exciting to say the least. I’m very pleased to say that it was definitely enjoyable. The lemon peel that it’s brewed with is a nice addition to the hoppy bite that hits you right off the bat. It’s a beer that definitely lingers on the tongue. Because of the lemon notes, I would say that this beer is actually more refreshing than the typical Belgian as it is focused less on the savory and more on the hops. If I had to fault this beer for anything, I would say that I was maybe hoping for a bit more complexity as the other similar beers that I’ve tried seemed to find a bit more umph. Nonetheless, this one was solid.
Campout Porter by Garage Project / Sierra Nevada (Wellington, New Zealand): To be fair, I am much more partial to the hoppy IPA’s than the rich and hearty porters. Additionally, I wasn’t sure what to expect, as I don’t think I’ve had many New Zealand beers, especially on the micro end. But then I tasted this beer. I loved it. It’s not as dark or intense as most porters which is maybe why I liked it. According to Sierra Nevada, Campout Porter was a collaboration that is trying to represent toasted marshmallows while camping. They did an excellent job with this, and although the sweet marshmallow flavor is very subtle, I really loved this beer and am now convinced that I need to try more from this brewery. Maybe even visit New Zealand in the near future? The light smokey notes finished off this beer nicely and had me craving another.
White IPA with Yuzu by Kiuchi (Ibaraki, Japan): For those of you who haven’t heard, Japan’s beer scene is waking. Like a giant creature here to save us from Juggernaut beer behemoths, it has arrived — and it’s welcome. Kiuchi is known for their White Ale with the owl logo. You’ve probably seen it at some time as their beers have become pretty common stateside in recent years. This one definitely is similar to their white ale, but as Sierra Nevada does best, they added a lot of hops to turn this one into an IPA. The addition of Yuzu is curious. Don’t worry, I had to look up what Yuzu was as well: it’s a small citrus fruit similar to a lemon meets an orange meets a lime. Basically they added pure citrus to this beer to balance the witbier notes of spice. The result: It’s pretty damn good.
Thai Iced Tea Ale by Sierra Nevada / Mikkeler Brewery (Copenhagen, Denmark): Tea ales are all the rage in this region of Europe right now. My recent tastings in Amsterdam certainly said so at least. What is also interesting is that this great style hasn’t really made its way stateside. Even more interesting: this beer is brewed like a Thai iced tea. Upon first taste of this beer I wasn’t sure what to think. It definitely tasted like a tea ale, but the Thai iced tea notes were subtle at best. But then I was surprised. The more I drank, the more they blossomed like a Thai flower. It because a beautiful beer that was heavy on the tea taste, light on the cream (it’s brewed with lactose). This actually might be my favorite tea ale I’ve tasted. Nice job guys!
Atlantic Vintage Ale by Sierra Nevada and Fuller’s Brewery (London, United Kingdom): Having planned an upcoming trip to London and having tasted Fuller’s iconic London Porter, I was very excited to try this one. It says so on the bottle, but this beer is one that you can actually age and it might even taste better. That’s why I saved it for last… though I really couldn’t wait too long. There is a strong flavor to this ale. It’s not really complex though it’s enjoyable with strong malty flavors of caramel with mild hop notes. It wasn’t completely up my alley, but I’m sure many would enjoy this one! Keep in mind that at 8.5 ABV, this one packs a punch.
THOUGHTS FROM THE SKY
I’m so happy that I purchased Beer Camp – Across the World. Sierra Nevada sure knows how to pick ’em. That’s probably because they are one of America’s greatest beer pioneers and know what it takes to stand out and redefine a type of beer. Stateside, I was really impressed by the Tree House IPA and the Avery Barleywine, but my biased opinion prevailed and the Boneyard DIPA was my favorite. Abroad, and tasting the world, I thought the Mikkeler Thai Iced Tea Ale and Dunkel Weisse by Avery really stood out. But to my surprise, my favorite was definitely Garage Project’s Campout Porter! If you haven’t yet given Sierra Nevada’s “Beer Camp – Across the World” a try I would pick up a pack right away, that is if you’re lucky enough to get your hands on it! And if you’re like me and still wanting more, I snagged a 24 pack at Costco! So much beer, so much love.