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America's greatest craft beer celebration, Beer Camp Across America, ends

America’s greatest craft beer celebration, Beer Camp Across America, concluded near Asheville this past weekend.

Beer Camp Across America, the brainchild of Sierra Nevada founder Ken Grossman, ended this past Sunday in Mills River, N. Car., the site of the new Sierra Nevada east coast brewing facility. This epic event started July 19, in Chico, Cal., where Sierra Nevada began. The party then traversed the country, north to south, east to west.

So what the hell is beer camp? Beer Camp has been around for a few years and has essentially been a teaching tool for aspiring, though advanced, brewers. People join the camp, limited access, of course, and it is a full immersion training session. The attendees work with Sierra Nevada brewers, on the brewery floor, and develop their beers. Ultimately, the best beers from Beer Camp are then brewed on site and sold to the public, again in very limited quantities.

This year things got changed up a bit. With the country just breaching the 3,000 brewery mark, perhaps it seemed time to take the show on the road. First, though, instead of aspiring brewers, Sierra Nevada approached some of the country’s undisputed best craft brewers and invited them to do a collaboration beers. The result is an amazing twelve pack of spectacular beers, this time distributed nationally.

As an additional way to celebrate, Grossman decided to the Greatest Craft Beer Celebration in History. This meant a sixteen day bus tour across the country, with seven locations hosting a craft beer festival.

This was no simple craft beer festival, however, often driven by distributors and “crafty” beer. For this event, they divided the country into seven beer regions with a main craft brewer to host the event. On top of that, instead of going to the distributor to see what was available, they went to the craft brewers themselves. Every single one of them. That means 3,040 as of a few weeks ago, though I’m sure a few more have already added to that.

So essentially, it was a beer festival put on by the craft brewers. The beer supplied would be the best of the best, with an incredibly diverse tasting opportunity. Hundreds and hundreds of different craft brewers were on site for one event or other, with over 110 on hand for the final event, including local Yazoo Brewing Company, and Calfkiller from Sparta.

A quick review of the route is exhausting to imagine. A simple start at home base in Chico was July 19, followed the next day in San Diego. They gave themselves a few days to get to Denver for the July 25 event but had to hustle to get to Chicago by Sunday the 27th. Again, allowing for a few days travel time to get to Portland, Maine for the beginning of the epic end. Portland was Friday, August 1st, followed by Philadelphia Saturday, then straight to Mills River for the Sunday finale. Brutal. Oh yeah, the bus broke down on the way to Mills River. The best laid plans.

Sierra Nevada, the second largest craft brewer in the country, began looking for a location for an east coast operation a few years ago. Some of you may remember the botched way our legislature tried pass very specific, limited access laws to entice them to come here. Of course, it made no sense to anyone how Sierra would get such special status, and the rest of Tennessee beer laws were immeasurable bad, with the highest beer tax in the country, by over twelve percent. Since then, the laws have improved, but the tax is still the highest, by thirteen percent, but doesn’t punish craft brewers. All that being said, Sierra Nevada decided to build their one hundred million dollar brewery in North Carolina. That was all spelled out for a reason.

Tennessee missed out on Sierra Nevada, and Oskar Blues, and New Belgium, and Beer Camp Across America is complete. So don’t miss out on the great beer in the collaboration twelve pack.

Time for a pint. Cheers!

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