When Ken Grossman was welding together Sierra Nevada's first brewhouse out of old dairy equipment and loading a pickup truck full of grain in 1979 it would have been hard for him to imagine that in 34 years he'd be running the second largest American-owned brewery (only Boston Beer Company is bigger). The brand is still expanding, adding a second brewery in Mills River, North Carolina this year. To celebrate Sierra Nevada's success, Grossman planned the biggest craft beer festival in history and called up twelve of the most highly respected brewers in the nation to collaborate on the limited release 12 pack Beer Camp Across America.
Each collaborator worked with Sierra Nevada to brew one beer in the case and the ten bottles and two cans represent a wide range of styles and flavors from Hoppy pilsners to Coffee stouts. Quality is high across the board although we did find that we liked some better than others. Here's our beer-by-beer breakdown.
Torpedo Pilsner (Firestone Walker Brewing)
Collaborative brewing doesn't just allow brewers to share creative ideas, it's also an opportunity for brewers to walk into a new brewery and play with someone else's toys. Sierra Nevada's most famous toy is an invention of their own - the Hop Torpedo which runs fermented beer through charges of whole cone hops for extra aroma. Firestone Walker's Matt Brynilson already makes one of the nation's best pilsners (the Pivo Pils) and his Sierra Collaboration ups the ante on that beer by running fruity New Zealand hops through Hop Torpedo for a lager with a floral and fruity nose. Don't expect a hop bomb though: The hops are really an accent note and the focus remains on the cracker malt flavor and crisp drinkability.