Drinking My Way Back to Beer Camp

I’ll be drinking my way back to Beer Camp
With a burn-ing love insiiiiiiide

So Beer Camp is a thing. Specifically a nation-wide invite to all craft brewers to join a seven-city tour of brewfests put on by Sierra Nevada. Guess where the New England stop is? No, really, guess.


So yeah. The Lady Friend and I will certainly be attending. Now I don’t feel bad about skipping the ACBF this year.

As a happy bonus, Sierra Nevada brewed 12 collaboration beers with some of the craft breweries on the tour, and put them in a mixed pack. Which is awesome. Oh, and a Sierra Nevada dIPA bomber.

I’m gonna drink them all. And tell you about it. Good? Good.


Also, all of these are collaborations with Sierra Nevada and some other brewery. I don’t want to type “Sierra Nevada & …” 12 more times, so I’ll only be listing these with the collaborator (collaboratee?) brewery.

drinkingtobeercamp_torpedoFirestone Walker Torpedo Pilsner
Hoppy Pilsner, 5.2% abv
Pils are kind of hit or miss for me. I think a hoppy one from FW will be quite delicious.

Nose: Pils cereal grain. Slight sour twinge. Hint of cardboard/latex, but not to the extent of a lot of pils. Smells FRESH.

Taste: Sour/cardboard/latex more prevalent in the taste. Nobel hop style bitter, as would be expected from a classic pils. Some clean grain flavors, but it gets lost in those grassy hops.

Lady Friend: “The smell is kind of cereal and a little bit lemony. It tasted cereal grainy, with some grass and hay-like flavors. Not bad for the style.”

drinkingtobeercamp_yvanRussian River Yvan the Great
Belgian-style Blonde, 6.3% abv
I was very excited for the Russian River offering (makers of the legendary Pliny the Elder and/or Younger if you can get it, which you won’t/can’t) but a bit disappointed to find that it’s a Belgian Blonde. First time I’ve been disappointed by a Belgian Blonde. However, it’s Russian River, so the beer will likely be amazing, even if it’s not my favorite style. Can’t get RR on the East Coast (to my knowledge).

Nose: Fruity. Strawberry, cherry, tart, with a little tropical citrus. Oooh. Neat.

Taste: That fruity nose comes through in the beginning of the taste… a sweet yet tart flavor which turns a touch sour in the middle. Finishes more on the wheaty/Belgian side, with a slight banana clove and vinegar tart. There’s almost a hint of watermelon in there as well. I generally don’t like these beers, but I like THIS beer. Complex yet approachable. Lovely.

Lady Friend: “The smell was tropical fruit, honey, and apples. Tastes mango, pineapple, honey. Tasted fresh and crisp, but tart. Like the last one, not bad ‘for the style.’ A little more complex than I picture most of the Belgian blondes being. It helps greatly that I can tell it’s fresh.”

drinkingtobeercamp_myronAllagash Myron’s Walk
Belgian-style (duh) Pale Ale, 5.3% abv
Portland’s own Allagash makes the cut with, not surprisingly, a Belgian-style pale ale. It’s kinda what they do, and they do it well.

Nose: Light aroma. Belgian wheaty/clove, a touch of herbs, and a lemon/orange/floral lilt. Some pine hop in there, but as a secondary aroma, not hop-forward.

Taste: Light flavor as well, but tasty nonetheless. Slight Belgian smooth intro, with an easy sour/bitter hop. There’s an almost light savory quality in there. Fresh grain in the middle rolls through the finish. Exceedingly drinkable. Does not even taste like 5.3% abv; rather it’s more like a session. I suspect this will be too weak for Belgian lovers, but I think it’s got a lot of nice flavor in a light package.

Lady Friend: “Surprisingly hoppy. Honey sweet. Taste is cereal grain with a bit of hop bitterness, finishes honey sweet. I like it. I’m glad I like the local presentation. Now that I’m thinking about it, it doesn’t taste like a typical Allagash. I guess that would be the collaboration with Sierra Nevada. It’s been my favorite of the bunch so far.”

drinkingtobeercamp_altVictory Alt Route
Altbier, 6.6% abv
I don’t know what to expect from this one. Not a clue. I’ve had altbiers before, but they tend to vary. Regardless, I’m expecting a malty experience.

Nose: Smells… malty. Yup. Fall leaves, maple syrup, damp wood, and a citrus sensation floating on top.

Taste: Malty, but with a sharp, bitter hop that helps cut the syrup. Not too heavy of a mouthfeel. Well balanced; though there is a sharp contrast between the dark malt and bright grassy hop, they cancel each other out quite well. This is another beer that is not something I would seek out, but this particular example is done quite well. Suggested pairings: cool, early fall evening, campfire, hooded sweatshirt, and s’mores.

Lady Friend: “The smell was caramel malt. Taste was molasses, caramel, malt… chewy. It was ok, but I’m not a fan of this style anyway. Probably my least favorite so far. I don’t love really malty beers. It’s ok… I don’t dislike it, but…”

drinkingtobeercamp_thereandbackNew Glarus There and Back
English-style bitter, 5.6% abv
New Glarus is famous for making great beers in southern Wisconsin. And refusing to sell them anywhere else but Wisconsin. So this is a pretty big deal. You probably won’t find Russian River on the East Coast, but you WILL NOT find New Glarus anywhere else but Wisconsin. Those cheese-eating bastards are hoarding it all.

Nose: Slightly fruity malt aroma. Not much else. Not much else I’d expect from an ESB. There’s also someone in the neighborhood cooking on a charcoal grill, so that’s become a factor. Full disclosure. Because you care. Is anyone still out there?

Taste: Yup. It’s English. Got some of that chewy English style yeast, but not with the Ringwood esters like Shipyard and Geary’s beers. Malty sweet, but clean, not too sticky. Perfect for the style. This needs a dark pub and unintelligible accents. And I don’t mean Wisconsin accents. Oh ya dere hey.

Lady Friend: “Smell: it wasn’t a strong smell, but I got a slight fruitiness. Taste: smooth, like a copper penny, amber-like. A little honey sweet. It’s well balanced, but not as ‘bitter’ as expected. I’m used to Red Hook ESB, and this wasn’t really similar. But I still like it a lot. I could definitely drink a pint of this, especially with dinner.”

drinkingtobeercamp_chico3 Floyd’s Chico King
Pale Ale, 6.5% abv
3 Floyd’s makes some great beers, and I’m looking forward to a hoppy adventure with this one.

Nose: Ok, we’re back to normal here. This smells like a straightforward hoppy pale ale. Decent malt sweet, and a citrus spicy hop.

Taste: Yup. Hoppy. Spice hop tingle, then quick transition to malty middle. Finish is on the dry side, with that spice lingering. Very normal, very nice.

Lady Friend: “Smells like Froot Loops. Taste: smooth and fruity. I like it. I could drink a lot more of this.”

drinkingtobeercamp_CANfusionOskar Blues Canfusion
Rye Bock, 7.2% abv
The 12-pack has 10 bottles and two cans; the Lady Friend and I were trying to guess what the OTHER can was, assuming one would be Oskar Blues. They were one of the first craft brewers to can rather than bottle their beer, which has certainly become more popular. I’m hoping the rye bite cuts through some malt in this bock.

Nose: Fruity and malty. Sweet, but not syrupy, with an earthy quality. Definitely smells like toasted rye grain, with an almost raspberry-like aroma to the malt.

Taste: Certainly malty, but with a strawberry/raspberry sweetness, rather than just liquid caramel. There still is that toffee flavor, but not as heavy as expected. More fruit than spice from the rye malt. Very nice and unexpected.

Lady Friend: “I don’t have a whole lot to say about it. Smelled slighty sour with a tiny bit of hoppy pine. Tasted kind of metallic with some cereal grain. That’s all I came up with. My mind is not sharp tonight.”

drinkingtobeercamp_yonderCigar City Yonder Bock
Tropical Maibock, 7.7% abv
It’s the second can! “Tropical” and “maibock” are not two words that I’ve ever seen together. One implies equatorial rainforest, palm trees, and parrots. I would also accept monkeys. The other is a German spring beer named after a goat. So, yeah, this will be interesting.

Nose: Yeeaarruuugh. This is… stinky. Damp, dead leaves, rotting wood, mud. A farmhouse aroma, but after a late fall rainstorm. There is a slight citrus fruit sweetness, but it’s not as apparent as the stinkmalt. This smells like a goat.

Taste: Doesn’t taste like a goat. Tastes malty. There’s a brief citrus open, turning over to a malty middle, with a toasted grain finish. I guess this is what a “tropical maibock” would be, and I guess it’s why no one else has done one. My least favorite of the batch thus far.

Lady Friend: “The smell is cinnamon/strawberry. Taste cinnamon/nutmeg, spice-like. A little bit of mango and pineapple sweetness. There’s a slight bitterness to it.”

drinkingtobeercamp_taterAsheville Brewers Alliance Tater Ridge
Scottish Ale, 7% abv
I’ve never heard of these guys, but there’s a description on the Beer Camp site: “The Asheville area is a brewing hotspot nestled in the mountains of North Carolina. Tater Ridge was brewed by something of a craft beer super group made up of members of the Asheville Brewers Alliance.” Ok then. Now I know. I’m expecting a chewy malt bomb from this one.

Nose: Faint aroma, sweet and malty. There’s a little blue sprucy hop pine in there as well.

Taste: Pretty mild. Tastes like a brown ale. Nice and toasty, not overly syrup sticky. I was expecting a malt bomb, but wound up with a tasty ale. Very nice.

Lady Friend: “I was having a lot of trouble identifying a smell. At first I thought ‘metallic,’ but now I’m almost thinking ‘squash.’ It’s kind of malty sweet and also metallic in the beginning, finished kind of roasty. Thought it was well-balanced.”

drinkingtobeercamp_maillardBell’s Maillard’s Odyssey
Imperial Dark Ale, 8.5% abv
I don’t think I’ve had/heard of an imp dark ale before. Curious about this. Could go several ways. I wondered what that name was about and found the answer on Bell’s Brewery Blog: “The name honors the Maillard reaction—the “browning” of sugars and amino acids—that creates the wonderful caramelized toffee-like and roasted flavors so abundant in this beer.”

Nose: Smells like a good roasty ale or stout. Some char, some sweet cream. I’d have guessed this was a coffee porter/stout or the like judging by smell alone. Smells goooooood.

Taste: Heavier mouthfeel. Certainly some sticky syrup. Leads off roasty malty, there’s some sugar in the mid, then finishes with a bitter charcoal. Fig, chocolate, and raisin flavors abound before the ash aftertaste. I suppose a dark ale and a porter/stout are kind of the same thing, so they could have skipped a step here and just labeled appropriately. It’s an imperial stout. Think of it like that and it all falls into place. Regardless, it is quite wonderful.

Lady Friend: “Smells like chocolate coffee. Tastes like bitter dark chocolate and coffee. Tastes exactly like a chocolate-covered espresso bean.”

drinkingtobeercamp_electricBallast Point Electric Ray
India Pale Lager, 8.5% abv
Ballast Point makes very tasty West-Coasty beers, so let’s see what their IPL tastes like. I’m expecting a lot from this one.

Nose: Medium sticky hop aroma, blue spruce spice and very citrusy. So far, Ballast Point is on the ball with my predictions. In for the taste.

Taste: Malt snap, slight metallic, and a dry spicy, citrusy hop. It’s pretty good, but a lot more grain flavor than expected. Citrus sticky hop flows throughout.

Lady Friend: “I couldn’t really pick up any smell. Cereal grain taste with some fruity sweetness. I tried taking some sips, but I can’t pinpoint WHAT fruit exactly…”

drinkingtobeercamp_latteNinkasi Double Latte
Coffee Milk Stout, 7.6% abv
Really looking forward to this one. I like milk stouts, and I like Ninkasi. Let’s see how much “coffee” flavor this one has. Also it’s nearly 90° with the humidity over 80%. Not the best climate for tasting a coffee milk stout (much like the Goose Island Bourbon County Brand Coffee Stout we sampled earlier at Bier Cellar).

Nose: Smells like coffee. I dunno about this one. I’m expecting something like Founders Breakfast Stout.

Taste: Tastes like coffee. Seriously. Carbonated cold coffee. There’s a little hint of cream in there, but it’s all roasty bitter beans. Much like the aforementioned Founders. I’m sure people will LOVE this one, but it’s not my fav. Too much coffee, not enough beer.

Lady Friend: “Smell: big surprise, coffee roastiness. Taste: bitter roasty coffee. A perfect after-dinner drink if coffee doesn’t keep you awake at night.”

Ok then. I drank 12 beers and told you about them. This was kind of a way to brag that I’m going to Beer Camp. So I’m kind of a jerk, buuuuuuuut I stopped caring about that a long time ago. This twelve pack was pricey (came out to about $2/beer, which is a lot for a mixed pack) but the justification is that these are unique beers that you won’t see again. Probably. They were all good, mostly great, with a few excellent standouts. Go find one and try them. And come to Beer Camp.

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