A few months ago (I can’t recall exactly when) I first learned of Sierra Nevada’s plans for their 2014 Beer Camp Sampler. This isn’t the first year, of course, that they’ve done a Beer Camp 12-pack, and I look forward to the variety of beers they deliver, each a special formulation by a homebrewer. At least that’s usually the case, anyway. For 2014, Sierra Nevada wanted to do something a little differently.
Hence, Sierra Nevada Beer Camp Across America. This time around, the sampler would in fact offer 12 unique brews, each a collaboration with a highly regarded brewery. The beers would be brewed at Sierra Nevada’s two facilities: Chico, California, and Mills River, North Carolina. More than an eclectic gathering of special beers, this sampler shines through as a symbol of the collective spirit craft brewers hold, a spirit of respect and admiration for finely crafted beer that transcends the competitive drive.
The 12 beers in the sampler include (from the Sierra Nevada Website):
•Allagash Brewing Company, Portland, Maine -- Myron’s Walk Belgian-Style Pale Ale
•Asheville Brewers Alliance, Asheville, N.C. -- Tater Ridge Scottish Ale
•Ballast Point Brewing Company, San Diego, Calif. -- Electric Ray India Pale Lager
•Bell’s Brewery, Inc., Kalamazoo, Mich. -- Maillard’s Odyssey Imperial Dark Ale
•Cigar City Brewing, Tampa, Fla. -- Yonder Bock Tropical Maibock (CAN)
•Firestone Walker Brewing Company, Paso Robles, Calif. -- Torpedo Pilsner Hoppy Pilsner
•New Glarus Brewing Company, New Glarus, Wis. -- There and Back English-Style Bitter
•Ninkasi Brewing Company, Eugene, Ore. -- Double Latte Coffee Milk Stout
•Oskar Blues Brewery, Longmont, Colo./Brevard, N.C. -- CANfusion Rye Bock (CAN)
•Russian River Brewing Company, Santa Rosa, Calif. -- Yvan the Great Belgian-Style Blonde
•3 Floyds Brewing Company, Munster, Ind. -- Chico King Pale Ale
•Victory Brewing Company, Downingtown, Pa. -- Alt Route Altbier
It’s the Chico King Pale Ale that I’m drinking tonight, and more on that in a minute. First, though, I had to find the sampler, and I knew that wasn’t going to be an easy task. I e-mailed Sherlocks in Kennesaw about it, but didn’t get a response. Total Wine couldn’t tell me when it was coming in. I only found out when pictures started appearing in Honest Craft Beer Reviews, and then I made it a mission to get a 12-pack. Luckily, Sherlocks had just gotten them in, and I raced there in time to score (along with a bonus 13th bomber of a Beer Camp West Coast Double IPA).
The price was not as welcome a surprise, however: $25 is steep indeed, and $5 more than I paid for last year’s Beer Camp 12-pack. That was overpriced as well in my book. Prices seem to vary across the country according to accounts in Honest Craft Beer Reviews, with prices as low as $17 and as high as $30 being reported. $25 seems to be the median price, and as much as I complain about price it’s important to note you are paying for 12 unique singles here, and that is a mitigating factor. Then too, these aren’t beers to pop in succession over a weekend, but to be savored over a series of nights one by one.
My advice: don’t let the high price keep you from this one.
OK, now to the Chico King Pale Ale that I’m drinking tonight. This is the sixth bottle (or can for that matter) that I’ve popped from the sampler, meaning I have reached the halfway point in my beer camping. The plan had been to drink them in order of strength, smallest to largest. But our own Tom Beer Whisperer Mulvihill teased me awhile back with the notions of sweet potato in beer in a brew that included them. Since Tater Ridge also used that tuber as an ingredient, it was the first to be popped. I'm now drinking them in order of alcohol content, and Chico King is next on deck by that criteria.
Chico King is a collaborative effort with Indiana's 3 Floyds Brewing Company. 3 Floyds is a personal favorite for me, and though for some reason we don't get their beers in Georgia currently, they were ubiquitous here when I first arrived in 2001.
From the label:
3 Floyds has a reputation as the Midwestern kings of alpha (hops), and it seems our flagship beer helped lure them down the lupulin-paved path. Chico King is a mash-up of our mutual passion for hoppy pale ales and we suspect you'll find it fit for royalty.
Ingredients from the website:
Bittering Hops: Mosaic, El Dorado
Finishing Hops: El Dorado, Citra, Calypso
Malts: Two-row Pale, Pilsner, Caramel
Chico King has an alcohol content of 6.5% by volume and 45 IBUs. The alcohol content is a bit high for the style, and even the IBUs approach IPA levels here. Mine was bottled on 5/15/14, I assume at the Mills River facility.
Sierra Nevada Beer Camp Across America Chico King Pale Ale pours to a bright orange color with a very thick, nay almost towering head of unruly, uneven foam and a gentle nose of soft fruit and citrus, and light butterscotch. A thick layer of Brussels lace follows the liquid all the way to the bottom. Taking a sip, I get some delightful malt up front-thick and chewy caramel folks- followed by some interesting fruity esters of apple and pear, some resiny hop aroma and then an immense bitterness that seems much bigger than the 45 IBUs imply.
The aroma at the last is herbal and grassy and really in your face. If you wanted hops, you’ve got them here friends but not those tropical fruit hops the Mosaics might imply. Remember they were added early and that means bitterness, not aroma. Just an excellent pale ale startling the line to an IPA I think. It has the IBUs and gravity for it. Call it what you like, it is certainly delicious.
Sierra Nevada will be doing festivals to celebrate its efforts as well, and you can read more about them here.
And remember, try a new beer today, and drink outside the box.
*Pricing data accurate at time of review or latest update. For reference only, based on actual price paid by reviewer.