Story last updated at 8/6/2014 - 10:24 pm
Sierra Nevada Brewing Company is generally credited with reintroducing America to beer with flavor. Way back then, in the mid 1980's American beer drinkers only knew bland, insipid mass-produced lagers with few exceptions. Fritz Maytag was preserving a vital piece of brewing history by resurrecting the flailing Anchor Brewing Company in San Francisco and keeping Anchor Steam Beer alive. I shaped my craft brewing palate on that beer. Jack McAuliffe's flash-in-the-pan stab at craft brewing in Sanoma reminded folks that not everyone was happy with beer's half-a-century- long status quo.
Sierra Nevada's founder Ken Grossman and his band of brewing bandits decided that despite the American beer drinker's affinity for flavorless beer, hops were designed to do more than just balance the often sweet, corn-like malt and adjunct base that punctuated America's favorite adult beverages This was back in about 1980. The legendary Sierra Nevada Pale Ale was launched and it didn't take long for a whole new breed of younger, open-minded beer lovers to emerge.
Dang near 35 years later, Sierra Nevada maintains its place as one of America's heritage breweries and is respected globally for not only producing stalwart beers, but being an excellent steward of the land with one of the cleanest, most eco-friendly production breweries on the planet.
Sierra Nevada has a program that gives back to aspiring craft beer lovers. Beer Camp is a program where select individuals get to attend a three-day, immersive tour of the brewery with an impressive capstone event: getting to brew a beer at the research and development brewery within the production brewery.
It's a once-in-a-lifetime chance to get an inside look at a brewery that's changed the beer world, and I'm proud to say that I've attended Beer Camp not once, but twice.
Collaborative beers created by two or more breweries are quite the rage, and the better the brewery, the more requests the brewery gets to participate. As you might imagine, Sierra Nevada gets a ton of requests. This year, they figured out how to do it just right and share the results with a huge audience.
Beer lovers that pay attention know that Sierra Nevada's Beer Camp Across America just wrapped up. This is being dubbed as the largest craft beer celebration in history, and indeed it probably is, since Sierra Nevada created a seven-city beer festival that boasts over 700 beers in the mix across our great nation.
The centerpiece is 12 collaborative beers with some of the nation's top-notch breweries. Not only were the beers available at each of the regional locations, but here in Alaska, half-racks with each of the brews are on the shelves.
The first location was the home of Sierra Nevada in Chico, California. The next stop was San Diego. The third event took place in Denver on July 25. Chicago's gig went down on July 27 and another fest took place in Portland, Maine on Aug. 1. The party moved to Philadelphia on Aug. 2. Finally, in Mills River, North Carolina, home of Sierra Nevada's new East Coast production, brewing wrapped up on Aug. 3.
Alaska has some legendary breweries that I thought might have a shot at brewing with Sierra Nevada, and I was hoping that we'd see a Beer Camp festival up here. Obviously, that didn't happen, but it's not an indictment of our craft breweries' ability to stand out.
Many of our breweries have done collaborative brews with other craft brewing greats around the world, so I know we've got what it takes as a brewing state. I have to admit I was a little disappointed that we didn't show up on the Beer Camp Across America tour schedule.
Still, we're not being left out, and at 7 p.m. Thursday, you can get a taste of the collaborative greatness at Humpy's Great Alaskan Alehouse in Anchorage. This little splinter festival will feature all 12 of the Sierra Nevada collaborative beers that were shared with the rest of the folks down south.
You can grab a half rack of the stuff from the shelves of your favorite grog shop, but the gig at Humpy's will be the only place you might get to experience these tasty treats on tap.
On board will be representatives from Sierra Nevada Brewing Company and from Ninkasi Brewing Company of Eugene, Oregon. Sierra Nevada and Ninkasi joined forces to produce Double Latte, a coffee milk stout that features cold-press coffee from Eugene's Stumptown Coffee Roasters and a smidgeon of milk sugar to provide the latte element.
The beer reeks of fresh coffee and cream and although it's a dark stout, the roast element is subtle and the beer wraps up on the dry side. I can't wait to try this on tap and chat with the reps.
Other beers in the mix: Yvan the Great, a Belgian-Style Blonde brewed with Russian River Brewing of California; Canfusion, a canned Rye Bock brewed with Oskar Blues of Colorado (one of two canned beers in the mix; Myron's Walk, a Belgian Style Pale Ale with Allagash Brewing of Maine; Alt Route, an Altbier fired up with Victory Brewing of Pennsylvania; Electric Ray, an India Pale Lager that brings Ballast Point brewing of San Diego into the mix; Chico King Pale Ale, with 3 Floyds of Munster, Indiana; Torpedo Pilsner, with Firestone Walker of California; Yonder Bock, a very tasty Tropical Maibock brewed with Cigar City Brewing of Tampa, Florida; There and Back, an English Style Bitter with New Glarus Brewing of Wisconsin; Maillard's Odyssey, Imperial Dark Ale brewed with Bell's Brewery in Michigan; and Tater Ridge, a Scottish Ale brewed with the Asheville Brewers Alliance of North Carolina.
The cost to participate is $20 and includes three-ounce pours of each of the beers in three flights of four samples per flight. Again, brewery representatives will be on hand to chat up the beers and there will be some nifty giveaways throughout the evening.
As a heads-up, don't be calling Humpy's and pestering them to reserve your way into this gig; the limited seating will go to folks who show up on a first-come, first-served basis. Translated, that means you should get there early if you want to participate. If you do show, look me up because guaran-darned-teed I'll be there getting my share of a great piece of American brewing greatness and history.