Beer Camp 2016: America’s Biggest Craft Brewing Celebration Returns

Sierra Nevada joined forces with 30 fellow craft brewers for the 2016 Beer Camp Across America.
Sierra Nevada joined forces with 30 fellow craft brewers for the 2016 Beer Camp Across America.Bill Manley / Sierra Nevada Brewing

America's biggest craft beer celebration is returning as Sierra Nevada has announced initial plans for a 2016 Beer Camp Across America. Launched in 2014, the first Beer Camp featured seven beer festivals, from San Diego to Portland, Maine, with every brewery in the country invited. Sierra Nevada also brewed a 12-pack of collaboration beers with a dozen peers, making an Appalachian Trail–inspired Belgian with Allagash and a Double Latte coffee ale with Ninkasi. Beer Camp was capped off by a tour bus traveling to each festival, filled with Sierra Nevada founder Ken Grossman and his son Brian, who manages the brand's Mills River, North Carolina, brewery, along with their closest beer friends, such as Victory's Bill Covaleski, Matt Brynildson of Firestone Walker, and Vinnie Cilurzo from Russian River.

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After taking a year to recover from the fun, the Grossmans have announced that plans are in the works to collaborate with 30 brewers for 2016. "We knew we had to surpass the last Beer Camp," says Brian Grossman. "So we decided to go bigger." This won't, unfortunately, lead to a mixed 30-pack. Rather, Sierra Nevada split the group into a half dozen geographic regions where five brewers work with Sierra Nevada to create their beer.

Sierra Nevada tapped just one operation to lead each region, then let that brewery assemble its own team. "We reached out to passionate brewers we respect and share values with," says Ken Grossman. Despite not repeating any of 2014's collaborators, the new Beer Camp roster features brewing rock stars like Bear Republic, Odell, Dogfish Head, and The Lost Abbey (full list below).

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As Sierra Nevada's communications manager Ryan Arnold spread word on Tuesday of next year's Beer Camp, the 30 brewers were meeting in Mills River to hash out the details and formulate recipes to test. Though the six beers are far from finalized, most teams sough to represent their region, showcasing local ingredients (hop heads will probably enjoy the Pacific Northwest beer) and brewing history, and in some cases designing the beer to match the area's climate.

While collaborators are brewing the pilot batches, the final product will be produced by Sierra Nevada. One of its brewers is working with each region to ensure the beer can be accommodated by the Chico, California, and Mills River brewhouses. When meeting with the Beer Camp partners, Ken and Brian Grossman stressed not to worry about ingredient costs and simply asked that wild yeast strains — which can spoil unintended beers if mismanaged — be avoided. The only other constraint is that whole-leaf (not pelletized) hops be used, which could lead to minor hop-availability issues.

The Beer Camp ales and (possibly) lagers will be bottled and released near the end of spring 2016 in a 12-pack. Addressing the assembled brewers in Mills River, Sierra Nevada brewmaster Steve Desler said he intended to see that they produce "the best damn 12-pack on any shelf." 

The six festivals will follow in early summer (dates and locations have not been finalized) with one per region. Sierra Nevada expects at least 100 breweries at each event, which will have 3,000 tickets available, as well as a VIP early entrance.

While there will be no tour bus this time, all proceeds from Beer Camp sales will again go to brewing nonprofits. 2014's beers raised $150,000 that went on to support barley and hops research, as well as local brewery guilds. "Beer Camp is a celebration of craft brewing," says Ken Grossman. "And we want it to be about giving back to that community. 

Watch highlights from 2014's Beer Camp Across America:

Norcal
Bear Republic Brewing (leader)
Maui Brewing
Faction Brewing
Magnolia Brewing
Mad River Brewing

Southwest
Beachwood BBQ & Brewing (leader)
Port Brewing/The Lost Abbey
Bagby Beer
Societe Brewing
Smog City Brewing

Pacific Northwest and Rockies
Bale Breaker Brewing (leader)
Barley Brown's Beer
Melvin Brewing
Black Raven Brewing
Odell Brewing

Midwest
August Schell Brewing (leader)
Dark Horse Brewing
Sun King Brewery
Perennial Artisan Ales
Half Acre Beer

Northeast and Mid-Atlantic
Dogfish Head Craft Brewery (leader)
Devils Backbone Brewing
Lawson's Finest Liquids
Stoudts Brewing
Trillium Brewing

Southeast
Funky Buddha Brewery (leader)
Wicked Weed Brewing
Austin Beerworks
Bayou Teche Brewing
Creature Comforts Brewing

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