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Sierra Nevada Beer Camp rocks San Diego

If you live in a major craft beer town like San Diego, it can sometimes seem like there’s a beer festival every weekend. With so many opportunities to experience top-notch suds, it really takes a special event to stand out from the crowd. Sunday’s Sierra Nevada Beer Camp Across America tour stop at Embarcadero Marina Park North broke the mold when it comes to beer festivals, and it’s unlikely to be rivaled for quite a while.

Sierra Nevada founder Ken Grossman pours beers for festival attendees.
Sierra Nevada founder Ken Grossman pours beers for festival attendees.
Don Ayres
Ken Grossman, founder of Sierra Nevada Brewing Company, serves beer at Beer Camp Across America in San Diego
Don Ayres

Like a lupulin-laden Lollapalooza, Beer Camp Across America is nothing short of a travelling craft beer circus. While fans of PT Barnum’s travelling circus stood in line to see attractions like Tom Thumb and the Bearded Lady, Beer Camp attendees queued up for beers like Easy Jack and Naughty Sauce. For Sierra Nevada founder Ken Grossman, a stop in San Diego was a no-brainer.

“I poured our beer for a few hours on Sunday, and the conversations I had at the booth were so encouraging,” said Grossman. “San Diego is passionate about its craft beer, and it was great to share in that spirit for an afternoon. I’m excited to watch the industry continue to flourish in Southern California.”

While attendees flocked to booths for more than 70 regional breweries, the most popular place to be was the collaborator’s tent. This tent featured all of the Sierra Nevada Beer Camp 12-pack beers, and the 12 collaborating breweries also had space in the tent to pour their own beers. The longest line in the collaborator’s tent belonged to Russian River Brewing Company, as few beer geeks would pass up the opportunity to have a glass of Pliny the Elder poured for them by Russian River’s founders, Vinnie and Natalie Cilurzo.

Besides the 12-pack beers, the festival featured one more unique libation. Brewers guild representatives from every Beer Camp tour stop travelled to Sierra Nevada’s headquarters in Chico, California in early June. The result of their collaborative effort was Guildy Pleasure, an IPA that’s only being served at stops on the Sierra Nevada Beer Camp tour.

As Beer Campers sipped their favorite beer, the MarchFourth Marching Band provided an additional circus element to the festivities. No music group could have provided a better accompaniment to this beer festival, as MarchFourth’s eclectic blend of rock, marching band, burlesque and acrobatics. Those who managed to peel themselves away from the beer for a few minutes were treated to one heck of a show.

Sierra Nevada’s Beer Camp Across America tour continues next weekend with stops in Denver and Chicago. The whole festival culminates with the grand opening of Sierra Nevada’s new brewery in Mills River, North Carolina. Every stop features breweries unique to the stop’s particular region.

Before the travelling festival left town on the Beer Camp tour bus, Grossman couldn’t help but take a San Diego souvenir. “The next morning I got to take a little bit of San Diego with me,” said Grossman. “I did some early morning fishing, caught a tuna and made some sashimi for the brewers on the Beer Camp bus. Not a bad way to end a great visit.”