Tampa Bay's Brewery Guide

Beer Camp 2014: My Thoughts

Earlier this month, Sierra Nevada released a 12-pack of collaboration beers, and began their national festival tour – known as Beer Camp. Since I bought the 12-pack, I have tried every one – for science!

If you missed out on any of the beers or curious what I thought of them, you’ve come to the right place.

When I put all the beers in the fridge, I actually tried to separate them based on which ones I’m looking forward to the most. That way, I’ll spread out the beers I’m quite confident I’ll enjoy, and the ones that I’m not as excited for. This list of reviews are actually written as I’m trying them, so there may be multiple references of “so far”, “my favorite thus far”, or something similar.

Let’s get tasting!

Yvan the Great – Belgian-style Blonde, Russian River Brewing Company

I kicked off my tasting party with Yvan the Great because Belgian brews are among my fiancée’s styles, and I wanted to share with her. Yvan the Great certainly set the standard that I’ll expect the rest of the beers to be like. It certainly fit the style of a belgian blonde.

It had a bit more hop than expected – but it didn’t take over the beer or make me think it didn’t fit the style. It was a very light straw color, had a slight syrupy mouthfeel and a bitter-hoppy aftertaste that goes away quickly. From this, I’m really looking forward to the rest of the pack.

Maillard’s Odyssey – Imperial Dark Ale, Bell’s Brewery

I actually don’t believe I’ve had an “Imperial Dark Ale” before. I’ve tried a lot of Imperials, though – so it’s pretty easy to guess what it’ll be like: maltier, heavier, high alcohol – and this was certainly no exception.

The main thing I typically look for when a beer is an “Imperial” is how deceptive the high-alcohol content is. Some brews you can just taste that high ABV, and it can totally ruin your enjoyment of the beer. However, this beer was just delicious, and my favorite so far. A great malt and roast taste.

I also love how nerdy the name of this beer is. A “Maillard Reaction” is the chemical reaction between amino acids, that gives food the “browned” look and taste, like the brown crust of bread, or more fitting: the roasting of malted barley. It’s very fitting for a dark brew such as this.

There and Back – English-style Bitter, New Glarus Brewing Company

I was really hoping this was also keeping with the nerdy names, but unfortunately “There and Back” isn’t a Hobbit reference like I thought it was (I figured JRR Tolkien’s ancestry played into this.) That was a little disappointing.  Thankfully, this beer was very satisfactory.

As an ESB, it again fits the bill. Easy to drink, but full of flavor. The mouthfeel was super easy to go down, and it danced on your tongue with fruity and hoppy flavors. I’m a big fan of English-style Bitters for their drinkability. When I want something that I’ll be drinking all night, it tends to be this style, and I’d definitely grab this one again.

CANfusion – Rye Bock, Oskar Blues Brewery

I guess I should’ve expected this one. I am a big fan of Rye beers, but knowing that it was going to also be a bock, I could’ve properly assumed that the rye would be a lot more mild in this than in other rye ales I’ve tried prior. This is also, in my opinion, quite different from the other offerings that Oskar Blues have put out so far. At least, the ones I’ve tried. Still, this was an easy to drink brew, that was enjoyable.

Tater Ridge – Scottish Ale brewed with Sweet Potatoes, Asheville Brewers Alliance

This is one of the few in the pack where I’ve absolutely never heard of the brewer that Sierra Nevada collaborated with. That said, I will definitely be keeping an eye out for anything else they produce. It’s brewed with sweet potatoes – so  it’s certainly one of the more unique ones in this pack. Not as much sweet potato as I expected. Rich and malty.

Myron’s Walk – Belgian-style Pale Ale, Allagash Brewing Company

Named after a founder of the Appalacian Trail that extends down nearly the entire east coast of the United States, ending near Allagash Brewing’s home in Maine. This brew was very lightly belgian (syrupy) in taste, with a super hoppy aromatic nose that I just loved. Even though it had a lot of hoppy smell, it finished clean with minimal bitterness and a great citrus taste overall.

Yonder Bock – Tropical Maibock, Cigar City Brewing

Cigar City has done well yet again, and it continues to prove that it is among the top breweries in the United States – and worldwide. Very malty brew, just how I like it. This bock was certainly not my standard opinion of what a maibock is and should taste like. That said, Yonder Bock was very smooth, and I definitely got the sense of the “tropical” with some fruity lingering tastes that I really couldn’t place to a specific fruit. The Sierra Nevada page for this beer mentions aromas of guava, mango, and passion fruit, which certainly explains why I couldn’t place these accurately.

Torpedo Pilsner – Hoppy Pilsner, Firestone Walker Brewing

I really wasn’t expecting much with this beer, as I’m not typically a fan of pilsners, and making them hoppy don’t tend to change that. The Torpedo Pilsner reminded me of the Costa Rican lager Imperial, with a good amount of peppery and floral hops in the smell and taste. While I wasn’t a huge fan, I know of plenty of friends who would be all about this beer.

Electric Ray – India Pale Lager, Ballast Point Brewing Company

Ballast Point releases a few beers that I’m a fan of, especially Victory at Sea, an Imperial Porter. However, this beer was a pretty standard India Pale Ale for me. It was tasty and I enjoyed it, but it certainly didn’t stick out like some other beers in this list.

Double Latte – Coffee Milk Stout, Ninkasi Brewing Company

I honestly thought Ninkasi was an Asian brand when I first heard of them, but apparently they are based out of Oregon. This was easily one of my favorites in the box. Milk Stouts are usually very hit or miss for me, but somehow I continue to call them one of my favorite beer styles. The Double Latte had a great amount of coffee while still continuing to remain smooth and creamy. It certainly didn’t last long enough in my glass – that’s for sure!

Alt Route – Alt Beer, Victory Brewing Company

Very light, dry… just like an Alt beer. Victory always does well. German Alt beer styles are among my favorites, because they’re so mild and easy to drink while still being darker and more flavorful. This one is no exception.

Chico King – Pale Ale, 3 Floyds Brewing Company

3 Floyds have built such a huge reputation for beer, with Dark Lord and Zombie Dust both being in the Top 10 Beers in the World according to Beer Advocate, and with another four (some being Dark Lord variants) in the top 250. That said, this beer is not in the same style as most in the top 250, but it’s similar to Zombie Dust – a pale ale with a wide blend of hops. It was a tasty Pale Ale.

So – what’s the best?

Sure, everyone has a different opinion and I’m sure you’ll find a considerable amount of people that are fans of each of the 12 beers offered in this pack. My personal choice is… a tie between Double Latte and Myron’s. Yonder Bock is a great runner-up you can never go wrong with.

Where can I get it?

They’re pretty hard to find as they are selling out quickly, so check your local Total Wine for availability. Hurry – they’re going fast!

If you can’t find your own 12-pack, World of Beer Westchase is having an event on Tuesday where they’ll be tapping out each of the Beer Camp brews. I’ll see you there!