Sierra Nevada Brewing Co. invited every craft brewery in the country – more than 2,700 – to take part in a multi-weekend traveling beer festival this summer. Beer Camp Across America is a celebration for the entire craft beer community, bringing together brewers and the fans who have buoyed their success. The Midwest Edition took place on July 27th, on Navy Pier, under a full sun and blue skies. Partly indoors, partly outside, this was a well-designed event that, while crowded, never felt uncomfortable. It was awesome to be able to walk in and out as desired. Food trucks parked at the end of the Pier offered lunch with a view and plenty of opportunities to try a variety of beer and food pairings.
A lot of people make fun of me when I say that, while a blast, there is a certain amount of stress involved in attending a huge tasting. By my Untapp'd record, I tasted 19 beers, which was literally a small drop in the bucket of availability. FOMO? You bet! Initially I randomly sampled beers, but then decided it made more sense to visit the booths of breweries that were either very small, very far from me, or offered a beer or two that was unlike anybody else's. This served me pretty well, but even at the amount I tasted I missed out on a bunch I wish I had the fortitude to try. Hopefully they'll do this again in coming years.
That's the other aspect that's tough - you can taste at these events, but you can't really drink, unless you want to find yourself sleeping it off at a picnic bench or waking up in an ambulance. Around the hall were large plastic tubs for dumping excess beer - a shame in that it was a total waste, but their use meant a lot of people were in fact tasting and not just imbibing.
In conjunction with the festivals, Sierra Nevada partnered with a dozen exceptional craft breweries to create 12 different beers for one mixed 12-pack – including 10 bottles and two cans – another first in the craft beer world.
Beer Camp Across America - Midwest Edition Video
I will say that this was one of the most pleasant events I've visited. A gorgeous location was (happily) enjoyed with near-perfect weather. Amazing beer from all over was tasted, friendly brewers were chatted with, attendees were happy and not pushy. Small details were not overlooked - tubs for excess beer, water (though that ran short at times), and recycling were all part of the package. Nicely done.
I received a media pass to attend this event - all opinions are my own.
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