Two years ago Sierra Nevada Brewing took on a very ambitious project when it released its Beer Camp Across America 12 Pack that featured 12 different beers all brewed with 12 highly respected breweries that collaborated with Sierra Nevada on each one. Then after the release of the variety 12-pack, Sierra Nevada hosted a 7 city Beer Camp Across America Festival that traveled from Chico, California to Mills River, North Carolina with five stops in between.
Fast-forward to 2016 and Sierra Nevada Brewing decided to bring back its traveling Beer Camp Across America Festival along with its variety 12-pack that features 31 breweries on 6 different beers. Along with the 12-pack, Sierra Nevada once again decided to hit the road and bring the Beer Camp Across America Festival back to the people. This go-round the traveling festival is making 6 stops across the country and this past weekend Sierra Nevada hosted its festival in Seattle at Lake Union Park on Saturday, June 11th.
Upon entering Lake Union Park that sits on the southern most shore of Lake Union, the sheer beauty made for one of the best settings of any beer festival. Looking to the north you see sailboats and seaplanes taking off and landing while turning to the southwest and the iconic Space Needle is in the distance. From a few locals we heard that this was the first time that alcohol has been allowed at Lake Union Park that sits to the west of the Museum of History & Industry.
The BCAA Festival opened up at Noon for Early Access ticket holders that allowed for an hour of enjoying the 90+ breweries from the Pacific Northwest pouring its beers alongside Sierra Nevada and its collaboration breweries. Then at 1:00pm the gates opened up for those with General Admission tickets. With 30 drink tickets in hand, BCAA made sure no one left thirsty. We would be surprised if anyone actually used all 30 drink tickets as this was Sierra Nevada’s way of making its festival an all inclusive affair.
Roaming around the festival was none other than Sierra Nevada founder Ken Grossman. We were fortunate enough to set aside some time to talk the one of the fathers of craft beer. When asked why Sierra Nevada decided to revive the festival that originally took place over a 7 city run two years ago in 2014, Ken jokingly said, “Well it took us this long to recover from the first one. We wanted to repeat the show since it was a lot of fun; we had a good time connecting with other brewers. We wanted to try to pick beercentric towns and fairly near where the collaborators were. We then looked at maps to find communities that had venues that would be big enough to do beer festivals at.”
When it came time to seek out the breweries that were going to be involved in the 2016 Beer Camp, this work began last year when Sierra Nevada found six partner brewers. Ken states, “It was very easy to find the brewers. We knew who we wanted to invite and they all accepted and they picked their group of friends that they wanted to work with so it went quite smoothly.”
Each of these six then chose four other breweries from its region that then joined up with Sierra Nevada to brew a special beer for the BCAA 12 pack. For the Pacific Northwest beer in the Beer Camp series the partner brewery was Bale Breaker Brewing and they invited Barley Brown’s Beer, Melvin Brewing, Black Raven Brewing, Odell Brewing to join them and Sierra Nevada to brew its contribution, Moxee-Moron Imperial Session IPA.
“Moxee-Moron was a fun take on a strong session beer. Moxee is a hop growing community where we buy a lot of hops from and it’s where Bale Breaker is located,” stated Ken. “So they obviously wanted to do something hoppy and wanted to do something that was drinkable but mid-weight as far as alcohol goes.”
The festival itself had a large crowd but the beer lines were very short as the layout of the festival was done quite well. There were 4 tents that were staggered throughout the park with a main stage that was home to the band Deep Sea Diver for part of the afternoon.
BCAA Festival definitely lived up to the hype and offered some of the finest beers around. Along with the nice inviting atmosphere and a true Pacific Northwest weather forecast that saw everything from sun, to clouds to a drizzle to a rains shower, this all made for one memorable day. The beer selections from the 6 collaborations and the other breweries were outstanding. Many of the brewers were the ones pouring the beers and even Ken Grossman poured a few of his offerings from Sierra Nevada during the festival.
And if the beers were not enough to keep the craft beer fans happy there were plenty of food carts offering up some delicious treats. When in Seattle we highly recommend Biscuit Box in its modified Volkswagen Microbus.
While at the BCAA Festival we ran into many friendly faces including the fellas from Alesong Brewing & Blending, Tyler Brown from Barley Brown’s Beer, Kat Finn, Russ and Lexie from Green Dragon, Jeremy Lewis from Roscoe’s, The Bier Stein crew from Eugene, Dave Nunez from Old Ivy Brewery, Chris Nelson from GoodLife Brewing and Kendall and Kim Jones from our favorite Seattle beer website, WashingtonBeerBlog.com.
Now with half of the BCAA Festival stops complete there are three more in the coming two weeks. This weekend there will be stops in San Francisco, CA and Boston, MA on June 18 and then the final stop on June 25 in Los Angeles. “I am going to San Francisco and then to Long Beach the week after. My son is on the east coast stops. Milwaukee today and Boston next week,” stated Ken.
Now in its 36th year, Sierra Nevada is a brewery that continues to be as relevant as it has ever been. The brewery continues to offer up a portfolio of beers that range in style from its iconic Pale Ale to some of the most sought after barrel aged beers. Staying in front of the consumer is important for Sierra Nevada. “Doing stuff like this but also trying to connect with the consumer,” states Ken. “We are still brewing a very wide range of beers. We’ve added unique styles like Gose with a beer called Otra Vez. We try to stay part of the whole culture of what is happening in craft beer.”
Will there be another Beer Camp series in the coming years? “We think probably but don’t have any firm plans as of yet. We will certainly be talking about it,” said Ken with a smile on his face.
Here are more photos from the Seattle stop of Beer Camp Across America Festival.
D.J. is a Portland, Oregon based writer that spent his formative years in the Midwest. With over 25 years under his belt of drinking beer at festivals across America and the world, he has developed a strong appreciation and understanding of craft beer and the industry that surrounds it. He can be found in any of the great breweries or beer bars that make Portland the best beer city in the world. His writing can also be found in the archives of Northwest Brewing News and can be followed on Twitter and Instagram at @hopapalooza.