Sierra Nevada Brewing Company's road-show styled national beer festival, Beer Camp Across America, kicked off its nationwide tour with its southeast event this past weekend at Curtis Hixon Park in downtown Tampa.
The fest, which ran on Saturday, June 4 from 5 to 10 p.m., featured breweries from all across Florida, as well as some friends from Georgia, Texas, Louisiana, and more. Brewers brought some of their favorite beers to share with the masses during the hot June afternoon temperatures.
Despite the heat, many people were clamoring for stouts, with Cigar City Brewing bringing Hunahpu's Imperial Stout and Space Race, a rye imperial stout from the Brewpub. People were queued up for Funky Buddha Brewery's Maple Bacon Coffee Porter and were asking for Ziko's Rage, an imperial stout from 26 Degree Brewing Company, by name. Even Due South Brewing Company's Mexican Standoff was getting love from festival attendees, who seemed to be enjoying the kick of peppery heat.
Personally, I was enthralled by the lighter fare that was on tap, with the Southeast regional collaboration beer Sweet Sunny South fitting perfectly to the weather. This is a beer brewed with tea, honey-sweet peaches, and corn grits, and is a collaboration between six breweries: Austin Beerworks, Bayou Teche Brewing, Creature Comforts Brewing Company, Funky Buddha Brewery, Sierra Nevada Brewing Company, and Wicked Weed Brewing.
Meanwhile, Creature Comfort's Athena berliner weisse, with its tart and refreshing qualities, was an incredible thing to have poured. But yes, I was also enjoying the dark stuff just like everyone else.
"Tell me how many places you've been that every craft brewer in the United States was invited?" Sierra Nevada's heir and current manager of the North Carolina arm of the brewery, Brian Grossman said at the festival. This is in contrast to the average local beer fest, he said, because "Not every local area has invited every craft brewer in the nation to participate."
"Breweries always have to evolve, and go to the next thing. So when we did [the first] Beer Camp two years ago, it was when we opened up a new brewery up in North Carolina, and the idea was, it's not just about us, its bigger than us."
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"We should celebrate, so how do you do it? You go cross-country, and you stop at breweries and you have festivals and parties the whole way along, saying 'Look guys we're here!', and we invited everyone."
Grossman shared that this festival was formed much in the same way as any other party with friends. "You pull your phone out and you call your buddies."
Sierra Nevada's Beer Camp Across America's next stop is a double header Seattle, Washington and Milwaukee, Wisconsin on June 11. Then they'll be in San Francisco, California and Boston, Massachusetts June 18. Finally, they wrap things up in Los Angeles, California on June 25. For the full schedule with event details and to purchase tickets visit beercamp.sierranevada.com.
Doug Fairall is a craft beer blogger who focuses on Florida beers. He is a Certified Beer Server and has been a homebrewer since 2009. For beer things in your Twitter feed, follow him @DougFairall and find the latest beer pics on Clean Plate's Instagram.