In my estimation, the Sierra Nevada Beer Camp Tour was a resounding success. This is what beer festivals should look like. The Mid-Atlantic stop of the tour was held at Penn Treaty Park in Philadelphia, PA, and it was a glorious day.
The Sierra Nevada Beer Camp Tour was a roaming beer festival that traveled from West Coast to East Coast with an open invitation to all breweries to come share their brews at each gathering. Read more here.
The park is expansive and located directly on the Delaware River and all day cargo ships glided by, cutting through diamond-strewn water that glittered in the day’s elusive high summer sun. The line gathered at the main entrance was long and intimidating but with all the vetting the workers were doing by validating IDs beforehand, once the gates finally opened it was a breeze to enter.
It was so easy, in fact, that I was through the line and past security before I even knew what was happening. Suddenly the crowd in front of me opened up and there I was, at the gates! A collection of sampling glasses awaited festival goers under a tent and once past the tent, we were free to wander around and sample all the beer and eat all the food.
The weather was questionable. Dark clouds threatened to let loose heavy drops onto the event below but as the day wore on, the clouds turned puffier and dissolved in places before piling up again toward the end of the event.
Because there were so many breweries represented at the festival, the lines were not overly long anywhere except for maybe Russian River. They brought along some Pliny the Elder and news of that magnitude is sure to make locals in the Mid-Atlantic froth at the mouth. I opted to skip that line because while it’s an incredible beer that deserves all the hype, I’ve had it numerous times and was more interested in trying other beers I haven’t had before.
I didn’t keep tasting notes of everything I enjoyed at Beer Camp but I did write down all the samples I tried. Please keep in mind these are all small pours and I wasn’t driving.
I took the train down to Philly from Lancaster and watched the scenery while listening to entertaining conversations around me (I wasn’t on the quiet train). Small country towns and idyllic farmland blurred by as the train hustled down tracks with power lines guiding the way. A girl behind me was lamenting the fact that her boyfriend just wasn’t the type of guy who wants to go places on her Pinterest board, like fairytale castles in France. “I googled it and saw that if I have to google whether your relationship is over, it probably is.”
I took the quiet train home.
This list is in chronological order and I’ve made notes of the samples I found to be exceptional.
Spring House Braaaiins – pumpkin ale
Cigar City Florida Cracker – Belgian-style white ale
North Country Paleo IPA
Heritage Brewing Kings Mountain – Scotch Ale
Manayunk Brewery Summer Paradise – seasonal ale
Weyerbacher Sunday Morning Stout – stout aged in bourbon barrels with coffee (exceptional)
Earth Bread + Brewery The Summer Day – session IPA (exceptional)
Firestone Walker Sucaba – barley wine (exceptional)
Firestone Walker Opal – farmhouse ale (exceptional)
Allagash Brewing Saison
PA Brewers’ Guild Guildy Pleasure – imperial pale ale
Twin Lakes Pale Ale
Berwick Brewing Belgian Gold
Climax Brewing ESB
Union Brewing Black Lager
The Sierra Nevada Beer Camp Tour was exactly what I think a beer festival should be: a laid-back atmosphere with food trucks, room to move around, a fresh selection of breweries, and organized well.
The MarchFourth Marching Band did an outstanding job entertaining the crowd, including one guy who was maybe a wee bit fuddled and was dancing the hula without a hoop. I wish there would have been more performance from them throughout the event because they were wonderful.
Excellent day. Superb job, Sierra Nevada, and congratulations on your new location in Mills River, NC!
The Sierra Nevada Beer Camp also featured a collection of collaborative beers that were poured at the festivals and available in cases. Here are my tasting notes from those beers.
Myron’s Walk (brewed with Allagash Brewing Company) – Belgian-style pale ale brewed with coriander. Warm golden in color with slight haze. Tons of citrus and pine in the nose. Piney hop bitterness carries through the sip with Belgian spice clear at the front. This has a middling malt backbone. I get some peach and pear at the beginning. Overall impression is excellent and drinkable; it’s clearly Belgian. It is fairly hop-forward for a pale ale. A well-done collaboration!
Double Latte (brewed with Ninkasi Brewing Company) – Milk stout with coffee and lactose added. Visually, this is about as close to black as dark chocolate can get. Opaque but no haze. I get roast and coffee in the nose, along with a sweetness from the lactose. The texture is silky smooth and it is super roasty but balances nicely with the coffee bitterness and chewy lactose. I’m not typically a milk stout fan and generally dislike lactose but I’d order this again and again.
Chico King (brewed with Three Floyds Brewing Company) – American pale ale that is golden amber in color and crystal clear. I get floral, citrus and just a hint of pine in the nose. This was softer than I expected and tastes like a higher ABV than 6.5%.
CANfusion (brewed with Oskar Blues Brewery) – Rye bock that is orange in color and super clear. Fruity hops and spicy rye in the nose. Tons of spicy rye bite throughout and a strong malt presence. It’s pretty damn good for a bock, a style that isn’t my favorite. As it warms up, I get honey in the nose.
Maillard’s Odyssey (brewed with Bell’s Brewery) – Imperial dark ale at 8.5% ABV and 40 IBU. Extra dark brown, almost black in color with a light brown head. Tons of roast in the nose. Chocolate and roast in the mouth.
Alt Route (brewed with Victory Brewing Company) – Altbier that is dark orange-red in color and super clear. It smells of marshmallow, sweet strong malt, and jasmine. Great floral hops.
Electric Ray (brewed with Ballast Point Brewery) – India pale lager coming in at 8.5% ABV and 70 IBUs. Golden orange in color. Musty, resiny hops in the nose. This is a dank beer and it tastes sticky. I get lager in how crisp and clean it is but some of the lager qualities are lost in this hop bomb.
Yvan the Great (brewed with Russian River) – Belgian-style blonde at 6.3% ABV and 50 IBUs. Gorgeous golden yellow with the slightest haze like a late summer sun. Warm spicy scent that carries through the mouth. Dry. Refreshing.
Torpedo (brewed with Firestone Walker) – hoppy pilsner at 5.2% ABV and 45 IBUs. Gold in color, mostly clear. Head was thick and white on first pour before it dissipated. Strong floral aroma, crisp and clean. The beautiful floral notes are in harmony with a medium maltiness. I get tons of jasmine in this.
Tater Ridge (brewed with Asheville Brewers’ Alliance) – Scottish ale brewed with sweet potatoes. 7.0% ABV and 35 IBUs. Chestnut brown in color. Spicy notes like cinnamon and nutmeg in the nose. Very sweet and malty. Full-bodied. Little to no hop presence. Very nice Scottish ale.
There & Back (brewed with New Glarus, who wasn’t at the Mid-Atlantic stop of the beer tour. What the heck, New Glarus!?) – ESB with 5.6% ABV and 40 IBUs. Orange in color and hazy and can see a moderate to high carbonation before even sipping. Creamy white head. Malty and citrusy in the nose, reminiscent of lemon zest. Strong malt backbone that is balanced by the citrus and floral hop aroma but little bitterness. Delicious.
Were you at any of the Beer Camp stops? Have you tried these collaborative beers?
Disclaimer: Sierra Nevada provided me with a complimentary pass to enter the Mid-Atlantic stop of the Beer Camp Tour. All thoughts and opinions are my own.