California's Sierra Nevada Brewing, the nation's second-largest craft beer maker, is nearing completion on a second production facility, this one near Asheville, North Carolina. And to celebrate, company founder Ken Grossman wanted to turn the spotlight on the craft brewing industry as a whole, rather than on Sierra Nevada by itself. With that in mind, the brewery has launched a three-week, seven-city road-tripping festival called Beer Camp Across America, which starts in Sierra Nevada's hometown of Chico and will end in North Carolina. But it stops in Denver on Friday, July 25.
"This is an important milestone for us, but Ken wanted to point out that we wouldn't have had the chance to build this second brewery unless all of the other breweries in the country had helped build momentum for craft beer," says Sierra Nevada spokesman Ryan Arnold. So the company invited every craft brewery in the nation -- nearly 3,000 of them -- to participate; the other stops on the touring festival are San Diego, Chicago, Philadelphia, Portland (Maine), and Mills River, North Carolina, where Sierra Nevada's second brewery is located.
To accompany the festival, Sierra Nevada selected twelve breweries across the country with which to collaborate -- and ended up making twelve beers, all of which have been bottled and canned and will be for sale in liquor stores. "The selection process wasn't that rigorous," Arnold says. "We took stock of some friends in the industry as well as some breweries who we didn't know that well but who are making waves, and whittled it down. We fell like we have a good mix of talent."
One of those breweries is Longmont's Oskar Blues, which sent two of its brewers out to Chico to help put together Canfusion, a rye bock with tangy wheat notes and a citrusy aroma. It will be canned and included in the twelve-pack, along with collaborations between Sierra Nevada and Bell's, New Glarus, Ninkasi, Cigar City, Allagash, Russian River, Firestone Walker, 3 Floyds, Ballast Point, Victory and the Asheville Brewers Alliance in North Carolina.
Putting them all together was a "logistical nightmare," says Arnold, who explains that four of the collaborations were brewed in Chico and four in Mills River. The beers then had to be shipped back and forth and packaged by hand. Altogether, Sierra Nevada plans to package 120,000 packs.
"It's pretty brutal, but it's a labor of love," he says. The two cans in the twelve-pack from Oskar Blues and Cigar City were particularly problematic, he adds, because they are smaller than bottles -- and had to be stabilized with cardboard inserts.
Sierra Nevada Beer Camp will run from 5 to 10 p.m. July 25 at Civic Center Park and will include beer from more than 100 breweries (eighty of them from Colorado), food trucks, live music and unlimited beer samples. Tickets, $65, are available at BeerCamp.SierraNevada.com (only 5,000 per venue).
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