My Sierra Nevada Beer Camp Experience

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I hadn’t been to a camp of any kind since I was a kid, so when the opportunity to spend a night at a beer-themed camp arose, naturally I jumped at the chance. Instead of bunk beds, lame counselors, relay races and craft-making classes, this camp had a lone kitchen table, a couple good friends, a bag of pretzels and 12 chilled beers awaiting our bellies.

For those unfamiliar with Sierra Nevada’s Beer Camp, the Chico, California-based brewery, a pioneer in the craft industry, collaborated on separate beers with a dozen of the country’s best breweries. The result was a highly sought-after, one-time-only 12-pack containing one of each of these beers.

Beer Camp’s styles ranged from traditional lagers and pales ales to bocks and a milk stout. With IPAs being such a popular style these days, it was surprising but refreshing to not see it included. Beer Camp forced me to try styles I never even think about ordering at the bar or picking up at the bottle shop; now I might think twice before passing up the pilsners and ESBs next time I’m thumbing through a beer menu.

With two fellow campers alongside me, we “braved” through the challenge of drinking the entire 12-pack in one sitting, taking notes and marking down our tasting grades along the way. There were definitely some surprises as far as some beers/breweries not meeting or exceeding our expectations, but for the most part, the Beer Camp box was an enjoyable experience. Keep in mind that none of us are BJCP-certified, but we drink enough beer to know what we like and don’t like. And what’s a camp without a followup report for all of the campers’ parents to read?

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It was neck and neck between Ninkasi and New Glarus, but the coffee milk stout had us all giddy, jumping around our cabin, pillow fighting and pulling pranks on the unsuspecting house pets.

I wish there was a Beer Camp every summer.

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