With craft beer in the middle of its “boom” Sierra Nevada began to take a back seat to all of the new micro and nano breweries popping up across the country. In the last couple of years they’ve started stepping up their game. Introducing several new varieties alongside their ubiquitous pale ale. But this Summer Sierra Nevada is using all of their power to do some truly amazing things. Their biggest initiative is Beer Camp a traveling beer festival that puts the most breweries in one place ever.
To commemorate this event the brewery teamed up with 12 of their peers from across the country to collaborate on a series of beers. These beers are being collected into a very limited edition box set. I was told Chicago was already through their allotment. I was lucky enough to snag one and I decided the best way to enjoy it was to gather together with friends and have all 12 beers in one night.
It took us about 4 hours to get through all 12 beers and to be honest we got pretty buzzed but I took notes and here are the 12 beers in order from the one I liked the least to the one I liked the best. Hopefully you get a chance to try some of these beers because some of them are quite unique and delicious.
12. Asheville Brewers Alliance Tater Ridge Scottish Ale
This is the only beer we ended up drain pouring. It was made with sweet potatoes and smelled like dirt. In honestly didn’t taste much better. I don’t normally like Scottish Ales and I was hoping this one would be a chance to change my mind on the style but it only ended up reinforcing my opinion.
11. 3 Floyds Chico King Pale Ale
Yes, I’m just as shocked as you are. What should have been an amazing collaboration between Sierra Nevada’s ability to hop anything and 3 Floyds skill at making pale ales ended up being a malt bomb with absolutely no hop profile. I have no idea how it happened but this was easily the most disappointing beer of the night.
10. Russian River Brewing Company Yvan The Great Belgian Blonde
Russian River is responsible for two of the most widely respected beers on the planet. Pliny the Elder and Pliny the Younger. I was expecting great things from this collaboration and instead we got a very middle of the road Belgian Blonde Ale. Nothing special, nothing interesting about it. Just Belgian funk in a decent Blonde Ale. I was hoping for something more, not a bad beer, just not anything special.
9. New Glarus There and Back ESB
I’ve never been a big ESB fan and I don’t feel like this one is particularly special. There’s almost no flavor in the front or the middle. The backend had a nice roasty flavor that was pleasant but nothing I would reach for outside of this box set.
8. Allagash Brewing Myron’s Walk Belgian Pale Ale
Allagash is known for great Belgian ales and there’s no change to that here. I have a similar complaint to the Russian River beer in that there’s nothing outside of anyone’s comfort zone. This is an average Belgian Pale that I’ve had several times before from other breweries. I wish they had thought a bit more outside the box. And then put that in this box.
7. Bell’s Brewing Maillard’s Odyssey Imperial Dark Ale
Bell’s makes a plethora of dark beers on their own time and for this box set they pump out an Imperial Dark Ale. It was full of wonderful dark aromas and flavors like coffee and toasted nuts with a bit of hop bitterness at the end. It was just unique enough to be interesting but in the end too similar to many dark ales I’ve had before.
6. Firestone Walker Torpedo Hoppy Pilsner
Firestone Walker took advantage of Sierra Nevada’s torpedo hopping technology to make a……hoppy pilsner. Something they already do. While it was delicious, I’ve had it before. You probably have too.
5. Victory Brewing Company Alt Route Altbier
Thanks to Off Color Brewing’s Scurry I’ve become curious about Altbiers and while this one didn’t have the molasses or oats featured in Scurry it still had the base flavor I liked. Lots of nice dark, sugary flavors, with a hint of Sierra Nevada’s love of hops shining through near the end.
4. Ballast Point Electric Ray Imperial Pale Lager
I knew Ballast Point could pull this off but I wasn’t expecting the results to be so delicious. This amped up lager was assertive and let you know this is what a lager could be. The fruitiness from the hops was a wonderful compliment to the EIGHT POINT FIVE percent abv lager and its aggressive malt profile.
3. Ninkasi Brewing Company Double Latte Coffee Milk Stout
A very delicious coffee milk stout from a brewery I never even heard of before. The lactose provided a fantastic sweetness and the coffee was delicious. An above average example of the coffee stout. A shame this may be the only time I get to try it.
2. Cigar City Brewing Yonder Bock Tropical Maibock
This beer was probably the one I was most excited to try. I haven’t had many Maibocks but the idea of a dark tropical beer had me curious. On top of the beer sounding delicious we don’t get Cigar City beers in Chicago so I couldn’t wait to finally taste one of their brews. Yonder Bock completely exceeded expectations. An even amount of dark malts and tropical fruit, a nearly perfect beer. This would be great to sit outside with on a Summer night and savor.
1. Oskar Blues Canfusion Rye Bock
Just narrowly edging out Yonder Bock was the rye bock. I wasn’t expecting to like this as much but the overwhelming spiciness from the rye was fantastic. I’m a sucker for rye flavors and this beer delivered and then some. Totally personal preference on this, Yonder Bock was the favorite amongst the majority of us in attendance the night we opened this box but I enjoyed the rye flavors in this beer more than most.
That’s it, hopefully you can find some of these beers. Thank you to Stephanie and Chester for being such great hosts that night. Also if you’re curious here is the order the 3 of us came up with together. It’s slightly different from my individual list.
1. Yonder Bock
2. Electric Ray
3. Rye Bock
4. Double Latte
5. Maillard’s Odyssey
6. Alt Route
7. Torpedo Pilsner
8. There and Back
9. Myron’s Walk
10. Yvan the Great
11. Chico King
12. Tater Ridge