The perfect weather in the mountains outside Asheville, NC, matched the conditions inside the grounds of the new Sierra Nevada Brewing Co. facility that opened to great fanfare with a festival celebrating its Beer Camp Across America collaborations. The beers were refreshingly cold against the hot summer sun, the food trucks dished out a variety of flavors, and the bands had many on their feet, dancing between pours. All together, a beer lover couldn’t have asked for more.
Huge copper kettles gleamed through the large picture windows at the brewery’s entrance, as rows of rows of white brewery tents looked like peaked clouds against the clear Carolina blue sky. Taking it all in, it was hard not to see the reverence being paid to the beer and the brewers and to see how far things have come.
When I joined the industry, a few decades past, the challenge was getting beer lovers to taste the beer. Simply taste it. The next step was teaching beer drinkers about the quality of the experience, encouraging them to pursue more. Finally was the creation of raving fans. All of this took many years and, along the way, many breweries have dropped from the landscape while new entrants scrambled to establish a beachhead for a business that would endure.
Few back then could have imagined how far the industry would grow, and even fewer would have predicted the ethos that drives it. For 35 years, All About Beer Magazine has covered the emergence of this new beer culture and the changes to the global beer scene. Only in the past few years have we come to understand the dynamic that has fueled this piece of the beer industry—collaboration.
The final leg of an eight-stage celebration of craft beer, Sierra Nevada’s Beer Camp Across America brought together a collection of more than 80 breweries from throughout the Southeast. Situated in the middle of all of these stellar breweries were the one dozen collaboration beers that Sierra Nevada had brewed over the year with some of our nation’s leading breweries. All together this made a profound statement of the status of the industry today.
There I stood in the middle of dozens of breweries being hosted, promoted even, by another brewery. In the beginning, often the only source for material or advice was the competition. A necessary component of a fledgling industry, this ethos has become who we are: an industry of partners dedicated to building the whole category. The early days of sharing ingredients, processes, tips, even equipment have morphed into joint promotions and joint beers.
A bright Sunday, among the forests of a mountainous Asheville and hosted by one of the country’s largest brewers, put it all on display—a collection of small breweries working together with their customers to build an industry.