MILLS RIVER, N.C.—Beer Camp is going international this summer.
In June, Sierra Nevada Brewing Co. will release Beer Camp Across the World, a variety 12-pack featuring collaboration beers with six American breweries and six international breweries.
The 2014 version of the Beer Camp pack featured collaborations with 12 American breweries, and last year “super groups” of five American breweries combined to brew beers. Global collaborations were the next logical step, according to second-generation brewer Brian Grossman.
“The first year we did the bus [across America] and that was insane,” says Grossman. “Year two we did the super groups, and then how do you make it even bigger again? So that’s when we said, ‘Let’s go across the globe.’ I have no idea what we’re going to do next year.”
The limited-release pack will only be available in the United States, but international flavors will be notable in the beer.
“When we partner with somebody we want to have their influence and our influence to make a proper collaboration,” says Bill Manley of Sierra Nevada. “With the international folks, we asked them to think about something unique to them, what’s unique to their sense of place, so we’ll be able to, theoretically, taste two senses of place.”
Participating breweries include Avery Brewing Co. (Boulder, Colorado); Ayinger Brewery (Aying, Germany); Boneyard Beer (Bend, Oregon); Duvel (Breendonk, Belgium); Fuller’s Brewery (London); Garage Project (Wellington, New Zealand); Kiuchi Brewery (Naka, Ibaraki Prefecture, Japan); Mikkeller (Copenhagen, Denmark); Saint Arnold Brewing Co. (Houston); Surly Brewing Co. (Minneapolis); The Bruery (Placentia, California); and Tree House Brewing Co. (Monson, Massachusetts).
Brewers started making pilot batches of the beers as early as November 2016. And last week, brewers from 10 of the collaborating breweries visited Sierra Nevada’s new brewery in Mills River, North Carolina, for a round table tasting of the initial brews.
The production beers will be brewed at Sierra Nevada’s brewery in Chico, California. The variety pack, which will be available in early June, will retail for $25. In March, Sierra Nevada will also announce plans for a series of festivals to take place across the U.S. this summer.
Here is an early look at the beers, some of which will be tweaked prior to production for the variety pack.
Dunkel Weisse with Ayinger Brewery
In joining Beer Camp, Ayinger broke a centuries-old rule of not collaborating with other breweries. “My father and me talked about it and said, ‘Okay, if there’s a brewery with which we would do it with it would be Sierra Nevada,’” says Franz Inselkammer. “For the first and maybe last time we’re going to do this.”
Ayinger stayed true to its roots with a beer that honors the Reinheitsgebot, the German beer purity law which limits the ingredients in beer. The collaboration beer is Ayinger’s first dark wheat beer.
Hoppy Belgian-Style Golden Ale Brewed w/ Lemon Peels with Duvel
Brewers from Duvel took a “less is more” approach to their collaboration. “We did the hot side very similar to Duvel in the brew house,” says Duvel’s Sam De Belder. “Then we decided to add that Sierra torpedo twist to the beer and I think it worked out very well. … Ours is really simple, actually. I think that’s why it’s going to stick out in its way.”
In addition to lemon peel, the beer is dry hopped with Cashmere, Callista and El Dorado hops.
Atlantic Vintage Ale with Fuller’s Brewery
An American spin on Fuller’s Vintage Ale, Atlantic Vintage Ale was brewed with plum purée and dry hopped with Centennial and Loral hops. John Keeling of Fuller’s believes the beer will taste best with age.
“Now we’re tasting the potential of where the beer can go,” says Keeling. “Last Thursday we drank 10 of the different vintages [of Fuller’s Vintage Ale] right back to 1999 and the 1999 was astounding. So don’t drink this for another 20 years. Or, buy 64 bottles of it, drink one every couple of months.”
Campout Porter with Garage Project
Garage Project brewers initially thought of using New Zealand whole cone hops in their beer, but the seasons didn’t align. Instead, they landed on malt smoked with wood from the mānuka tree, which is native to New Zealand and Australia. Beechwood honey and Tahitian vanilla combine with the smoky character, conjuring the taste of a toasted marshmallow.
“It’s probably a tamer beer than a lot of the beers we do,” says Pete Gillespie of Garage Project. “When I drink it, it’s kind of like a hug from an aunt that you really like. It’s not that it’s sexy—it shouldn’t be sexy. But it’s kind of comforting.”
White IPA w/ Yuzu with Kiuchi Brewery
Brewers from Kiuchi (best known for its Hitachino Nest beers) jumped at the chance to brew with yuzu, a Japanese fruit. The straw-colored beer, with an aroma dominated by fresh-cut lemons, will pair best with a hot summer day.
Thai-Style Iced Tea with Mikkeller
How do you create a novel beer with a brewer that’s made more than 1,000 of them? Because of Mikkeller’s fondness for Asian culture and food, brewer Matt Ruzich of Sierra Nevada recommended a beer inspired by the Thai iced tea, in which condensed milk is poured over black tea. Brewers achieved it with a grain bill that includes wheat, oats and puffed rice, and the addition of tamarind powder, star anise, black tea, orange peel and lactose.
Dry-Hopped Barleywine Style Ale with Avery Brewing Co.
Avery Brewing co-founder Adam Avery cites Sierra Nevada’s Bigfoot Barleywine Style Ale as his epiphany beer, which first inspired Avery to brew Hog Heaven barley wine in the mid-1990s. “[Bigfoot] was the beer for me, and Hog Heaven really changed our brewery and we started down the road with higher gravity things and we ended up where we are right now,” says Avery.
For Beer Camp, a blend of Hog Heaven and Bigfoot seemed appropriate, and the result is a massively malty ale with hints of caramel and toffee.
West Coast Style DIPA with Boneyard Beer
Boneyard stuck to what it knows best—brewing hoppy IPAs. Its collaboration features Citra, Centennial, Simcoe and Mosaic hops. The pilot brew was close to 10%, but Boneyard’s Tony Lawrence is aiming to get the final beer closer to 8.5%.
“I think it came out darn good,” Lawrence says. “I can’t wait to make a couple of twists and tweaks. Calculator, pen, piece of paper and we’ll get this done.”
Dry-Hopped Berliner Weisse with Saint Arnold Brewing Co.
Saint Arnold’s Boiler Room, a Berliner-style weisse beer, isn’t one of the brewery’s best selling beers, but it is a go-to beer for employees at the Houston brewery. “In a Texas summer, it’s one of those beers we always go to at the end of a shift,” says brewer Stephen Rawlings.
The collaboration beer is a traditional Berliner-style weisse with a twist—the brewers used the same yeast Sierra Nevada uses for its Kellerweis.
Ginger Lager with Surly Brewing Co.
Brewers from Surly wanted to make a unique but “super drinkable” beer. They’ve accomplished that with a pilsner base brewed with ginger and cayenne pepper and dry hopped with Sterling hops and oak spirals.
Manley was skeptical of the beer on paper, but an early taste made him a believer. “From the bitter wort tasting, I was a fan ever since,” says Manley. “I think this is going to be a big hit for this year’s pack.”
Raspberry Sundae with The Bruery
Taking inspiration from two of its recent culinary beers, The Bruery is aiming to replicate the flavors of a raspberry ice cream sundae. The recipe includes raspberry purée, cocoa powder, lactose, vanilla and oats. The pilot beer, while decadent and delicious, is closer to a raspberry truffle.
“I would love to see a little more vanilla flavors,” says Andrew Bell of The Bruery. “If we bump up that vanilla, that will help get it a little bit closer to the concept.”
East Meets West IPA with Tree House Brewing Co.
Described by brewers as a “not-so-super-duper-hazy IPA with low bitterness and a boatload of hops”—Citra and Mosaic hops, to be specific. Along with the other two IPAs in the pack, East Meets West will be packaged in 16-ounce cans. “They each have their own unique voice and flavor profile,” says Manley, referring to the IPAs. “If you’re an IPA person or new to the style, one of those three are going to be right up your alley.”
Editor’s Note: Travel, lodging, meals, and beer were provided to the author by Sierra Nevada Brewing Co. during the course of reporting for this article.