♫ It’s the most wonderful time of the year ♫
The 2013 incarnation of the Sierra Nevada Beer Camp variety pack has just hit retailer shelves. As a lover of fresh, hoppy beer, the selection of three IPAs in this year’s version should have me in humulus heaven. So why am I left feeling a little let down?
Probably because I hold the annual Beer Camp release to a very high standard—I love everything about it, from the Willy Wonka-esque premise of ordinary folks being let behind the gates in Chico, to the whimsical packaging imagery, to the surprise of what styles will be in this year’s version. I start emailing and harassing the other Aleheads weeks before it comes out. Beer Camp ’11 was probably the most enjoyable mixed pack I ever purchased– my first taste of a California Common, an incredibly tasty and balanced Juniper Black Ale, the very solid Ghidorah Double IPA, and my favorite Weizenbock to date. It was a perfectly balanced and diverse variety of beers, and opened my eyes to the breadth of what Sierra Nevada could do beyond their regular offerings.
2012 was strong as well, featuring the wonderfully aromatic Floral IPA, and a delicious Imperial Red and Oatmeal Stout. The Imperial Pilsner failed to impress this reviewer, but that isn’t a style I personally enjoy. Still the selections offered a nice variety of tasty brews.
This summer the lineup looks like this:
- IPA #93– Not the most inspired name or style choice. If you like Sierra Nevada IPAs, you’ll like this. Whole cone Cascade and Citra hops. Chico Yeast. Yadda Yadda Yadda. Very dry and quite bitter on the finish.
- Belgian-Style Black IPA #94– Probably the best, and certainly the most experimental of this year’s bunch. A touch of smoke and fruity esters from the yeast play off Sorachi Ace and Nelson Sauvin hops. Highly recommended.
- Imperial Red Ale #95– A different permutation from last year’s Red, very pronounced caramel and chocolate character moves to big grapefruit on the finish. Would be fun to taste fresh version of the ’12 and ’13 Imperial Reds side-by-side. Drink this one ASAP. I have a feeling it’s not going to hold up long.
So there you have it- three tasty, fresh, hop-forward and expertly-crafted brews to brighten up your summer. So as a card-carrying Sierra Nevada defender and fan, what is my beef with Beer Camp 2013?
- 3 beers instead of 4. No idea why they went this route. To me the Beer Camp series is about diversity and experimentation. Why reduce the number of beers? I’m no mathematician, but I know beer math, and 4 beers > 3 beers. Always.
- All IPA. Sierra Nevada is a leader in the craft beer revolution, and Beer Camp should be their opportunity to highlight lesser-known styles to the unwashed masses, like their Weizenbock and Common did for me two summers ago. What we get is three permutations of IPA. Sure, this case will fly off the shelves because IPA sells. But this is a limited release; it would anyway.
- Variety. This is what Beer Camp is all about. How about a Gose? Roggenbier? Grätzer? Hops are awesome. I love hoppy beers. But why not introduce the wider drinking audience to something they might not have a chance to try in their market? Shine the considerable beam of Sierra Nevada on an under-appreciated or forgotten style?
Beer Camp 2013 is yummy. I will enjoy it over the next few weeks. You should too. But here’s to hoping in 2014 Sierra Nevada gets more experimental, and lives up to the heights this annual release tradition has set for itself.