Craft beer seems boundless. The number of breweries is stunning; in just a few decades, what felt like you could count on just one hand now takes 500. Maybe more inspiring than the variety of beer that drinkers can choose from is the incredible quality across the board. Making excellent beer consistently is exacting, and American craft brewers are proving to be resolute. That’s good for all of us.
We’ve been fortunate to find success amid this craft renaissance, which has allowed us to work toward building a second brewery in Mills River, North Carolina. And while we’re eager to celebrate its public opening in 2014, it’s wildly obvious to us that it should be a celebration of the whole craft community. We’ve collectively helped each other, peers near and far, get our footing and generate this awesome momentum.
Since 2008 we’ve hosted Beer Camp®, which gives "campers" the keys to our pilot brewery to make a beer. You just have at it, really; from beer style to raw ingredients, you make the calls, however wild. After two days of recipe development and hands-on brewing, they carry on like a true band of brewers—the very spirit that permeates the craft-beer pros.
So we thought, What the hell, let’s take that idea and go all out next year: 12 partner breweries creating a variety 12-pack—one partner per beer—and taking the liquid and the fun on the road via a multi-weekend path of beer festivals. We’re calling it Beer Camp Across America.
Well, we reached out to a dozen craft breweries from numerous states to come to camp and be mad beer scientists with us. (Narrowing a list down to 12 is agonizing, by the way.) It won’t stop at brewing, though. In summer 2014, we’ll jump on a bus together and venture to cities with killer craft beer cultures to share these special beers and offer a massive proverbial cheers to the industry that’s given all of us such a delicious livelihood.
We have immense respect for the breweries that accepted our invitation, and we’re eager to brew alongside them. There are so many other breweries out there doing great things in beer, and believe us, we wish we could have a 2,500-pack, but that sucker would be too wide for the highway.
We can’t wait to welcome to Chico:
This crew has largely focused on brewing in the Belgian style, and they’ve long been nailing it. (Try their Allagash White, whose neck is covered in festival medals.) They’re also among the few brewers using a traditional coolship for spontaneous fermentation—just open up the windows and let nature do its often-funky thing.
We have plenty of new hometown friends in the Asheville Brewer’s Alliance (ABA), which represents the fast-growing craft beer scene of Western North Carolina. They’re now 29 strong, and we’ve had the fortune of brewing with a big chunk of them before. From the hop-crazed to the sour explorers, this collective brings steep creativity to the Appalachian Mountains.
These are renowned homebrewers who went pro, though they stick to their roots and still own a local homebrew shop. A love for hops and the ocean inform incredible offerings like Sculpin IPA, which, like all of their beers’ labels, boast some beautiful, and sometimes gnarly-lookin’, fish. The founders have dipped their toes into distilling, too.
The Midwest put its stake in the craft beer map with big help from Bell’s. We’re always impressed by their top-notch American stouts, but gems like Hopslam Ale (six hop varieties in the kettle!) take a hophead’s palate on a helluva ride. Bell’s is also dialed in to giving back to its ever supportive Kalamazoo community.
Enamored with the Latin roots of their Tampa home, Cigar City always tries to channel a bit of local history into their beers, e.g. the Humidor Series whose beers age on Spanish cedar. Where else do you see that wood? Cigar boxes. Less than five years old, this brewery deserves the fast praise that’s come its way.
Brothers-in-law turned a wine background into a brewery that’s earned "Mid Size Brewery of the Year" at the World Beer Cup four times. Like us, Firestone is passionate about hops, and their skill with the ingredient shines in their Pale Series, and certainly elsewhere in a long lineup driven by a premier brewing team.
First look at their latest BA ranking of craft brewers: #17. Then learn that they do not distribute anywhere outside of their home state. Wisconsin loves great beer, and New Glarus has no shortage. A husband-and-wife team spearheads a diverse portfolio, but we’re partial to their fruit beers (e.g. Raspberry Tart).
This young-gun brewery has a locomotive charge. A rich conversation at a local bottle shop in 2005 has morphed into a Pacific Northwest staple with a 95,000-barrel capacity. Named after the Sumerian goddess of fermentation, Ninkasi’s first batch of beer was Total Domination IPA and it remains a must for those with a lupulin itch.
Behold the pioneers of craft canning. These guys share our love of the outdoors, and Dale’s Pale Ale is an awesome bookend to hours-long mountain bike rides. (Their crew hops on their REEB rides most every Tuesday!) We have a few mountain ranges separating our original breweries, but we have them within a stone’s throw in North Carolina.
From American wild ales to the Double IPA—ever seen a line for the Pliny the Younger release?—Russian River is pushing style boundaries while respecting technique and quality. Through prior collaborations and more (founder Vinnie Cilurzo officiated Brian Grossman’s wedding), ingrained in us is a deep respect for Russian River.
Since its mid-90s founding by a father and two sons (three Floyds, see?), this regional brewery has had northwest Indiana and the Chicago area clamor for its eclectic beers. Their Dark Lord Imperial Stout inspires such hysteria that they’ve turned its annual release into a one-day festival that’s on the bucket list of many craft beer fans.
We share with Victory an allegiance to whole-cone hops, which we’re currently cherishing in their perfect-for-summer Prima Pils. (Eff you, triple-digit Chico heat.) We’re also charmed by their focus on, and experiments with, hop flavor—think single-hop beers highlighting the same hop grown in different regions. You do that for the love of brewing, right there.