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Beer Camp Across America tour comes (somewhat) close to Columbus

Craft beer summer beer festivals are in full swing, especially in the Columbus area. We recently celebrated Digfest and the Gahanna Craft Draft Brewfest, and soon enough we will be facing the Columbus Summer Beer Fest and Grandview Craft Beer Alliance's Summer Session. All these festivals offer craft beer drinkers something special - a new type of beer, a chance to have a one-on-one with a local brewer and an opportunity to seek out and embrace fellow craft beer enthusiasts.

Beer Camp Across America brings a nation of brewers and brew drinkers together
Ryan Arnold, Sierra Nevada

However, would it be so wrong if you decided that you wanted to venture away from Columbus, just for a little bit, and see how other microbrew communities are faring? As a diehard Columbusite, I say you should definitely go for it. With so many breweries collaborating, it should only make sense that we Cbus beer drinkers test our palates on non-native beer. And what better way to do that than by attending the Sierra Nevada Beer Camp Across America Tour?

Sierra Nevada has recently opened a second brewery in Mills River, North Carolina. To celebrate properly, these crazy brewers decided to go big - and big they did. Their gift to craft beer zealots was to create a 7-city tour that began on July 19th in Chico, California. The schedule goes something like this:

  • Sat. July 19th Sierra Nevada Hop Field in Chico, CA
  • Sun. July 20th Embarcadero North in San Diego
  • Fri. July 25th Rocky Mountain Edition at Civic Center Park in Denver, CO 5-10 p.m.
  • Sun. July 27th Midwest Edition at Navy Pier in Chicago, IL 12-5 p.m.
  • Fri. August 1st New England Edition at Thompson Point in Portland, ME 5-10 p.m.
  • Sat. August 2nd Mid-Atlantic Edition at Penn Treaty Park in Philadelphia, PA 12-5 p.m.
  • Sun. August 3rd Southeast Edition in Mills River, NC 1-6 p.m.

As of publication, the two dates in bold have already come and passed, so we can ignore those ones. However, if you're an ambitious beer drinker, there's no reason you can't hop in your 1960s-era Volkswagon Minibus and become a craft beer tour groupie. If that seems too adventurous to you, no fear, there are a couple of options for those of us who call Columbus home, such as the festivals in Chicago, Pennsylvania and North Carolina.

If you choose any of these options, here is what you need to know. Tickets are $65 for general admission. With that ticket you will be given unlimited tastings (except Chicago, where attendees will be given 50 drink tickets upon entry) to hundreds of breweries, most of whom will be bringing two beers to try out. You will also receive a tasting glass to commemorate this epic event. If you're curious as to what breweries will be present, I suggest you click here to check out the list (this is the PA list only). Every microbrewery in the nation was invited to take part in this one-of-a-kind traveling craft beer festival, so the list is too many to name here, but suffice to say, there will be a variety like you may have never seen before (the Mills River stop has more than 100 breweries slated to appear).

In addition to trying out completely new beers that you may not have access to in Ohio, you will also be fed by local food vendors (bring extra cash for those) and entertained by the MarchFourth Marching Band spectacle, which according to Sierra Nevada's press release, is "an awesome blend of burlesque, vaudeville, horn-driven funk and marching band madness."

Proceeds from this 4,800 mile rolling tour will benefit the brewers guilds in each state the festival is stopping in, as well as to "hop and barley research to foster the development of new types of hop varieties and barley crops to fuel the pursuit of new flavor experiences for the ever-expanding tastes of craft drinkers," according to the press release. As an avid beer drinker, I think that's a mighty fine cause if I've ever heard one.

So other than drinking craft beer, what's the real purpose behind this country-wide festival? According to Sierra Nevada founder, Ken Grossman, it's about giving the microbrew scene it's recognition of breweries all over the country. "We're about to open a second brewery in North Carolina, and while that's exciting for us, it's an even greater reason to celebrate the future of craft brewers everywhere," he said. "We've watched and learned from each other for decades, and together we've seen tastes change and craft's momentum snowball. Beer Camp Across America is our way of reflecting this - with thousands of brewers, fans and great beers. It should be pretty fun."

That's all fine and good, but who is Ken Grossman, you might ask? (Although, I'm sure most of you already know.) In 1979 Grossman decided to expand his homebrewing experiences and figure out how to brew beer for a living. By scouring junkyards for the appropriate equipment and educating himself on how to use that equipment to brew beer, he opened his first operation in 1980, at a time when there were less than 50 breweries in the entire country (recent numbers suggest there are about 2,800 currently). Grossman's hard work and determination had certainly paid off, as he is now the owner of the seventh-largest brewery in America. As Columbus watches its craft beer scene explode, we can only hope there is a Ken Grossman or two in our little city that we can say we knew him when.

Okay, back to the festivals. If for some reason traveling is not on your agenda any time soon, no worries. You can still experience the essence of Beer Camp Across America by purchasing a similarly themed 12-pack for $24.99. This pack is the first of its kind, including 10 bottles and 2 cans. Here's what you'll find inside the pack:

  • Allagash Brewing Co. Myron's Walk Belgian-Style Pale Ale (ME)
  • Asheville Brewers Alliance Tater Ridge Scottish Ale (NC)
  • Ballast Point Brewing Co. Electric Ray India Pale Lager (CA)
  • Bell's Brewery Maillard's Odyssey Imperial Dark Ale (MI)
  • Cigar City Brewing Yonder Bock Tropical Maibock (FL)
  • Firestone Walker Brewing Co. Torpedo Pilsner (CA)
  • New Glarus Brewing Co. There and Back English-Style Bitter (WI)
  • Ninkasi Brewing Co. Double Latte Coffee Milk Stout (OR)
  • Oskar Blues Brewing Co. Canfusion Rye Bock (CO & NC)
  • Russian River Brewing Co. Yvan the Great Belgian-Style Blonde (CA)
  • Three Floyds Brewing Chico King Pale Ale IN)
  • Victory Brewing Co. Alt Route Altbier (PA)

Like the tickets to the Beer Camp Across America festivals, proceeds from these beer packs will also go to the brewers guilds or other nonprofit organizationsm, as well as hop and barley research. This must-purchase item includes beers that were selected for "their innovation and reputation for brewing world-class beers," according to the press release. You can learn more about each beer by clicking here.

So, with all that said, some of you may choose to hop in your cars and head to one of these must-attend events while others may be content to pick up a 12-pack and enjoy these special beers with a couple of friends in the comfort of your own Columbus-area home. Whatever the case may be, you're guaranteed a good time. Stay safe and drink wisely.

Cheers!