On Saturday June 25th Long Beach was home to the grand finale of Sierra Nevada’s Beer Camp Across America. In the shadow of the Queen Mary over 150 breweries came together to celebrate both the local and nation-wide craft beer community in the only way craft beer knows how; with a strong showing of flavorful and diverse brews. The second Beer Camp to materialize after a one-year hiatus, Beer Camp Across America again highlighted various regions throughout the country in both a the six-city festival tour with nearly 700 participating breweries, as well as a commemorative twelve-pack featuring six beers each brewed in a different region.
Los Angeles has played a particularly important role here, which underlines a respect for the city’s fast-growing beer culture as well as a reputation for quality. “We saw a lot was happening in Los Angeles,” says Sierra Nevada founder Ken Grossman on bringing the festival to LA County. “LA had been a bit of a beer-desert… and now it seems like there’s really a movement here with a lot of great brewers and a beer scene’s really starting to happen.”
The tip of the hat from one of craft beer’s founding fathers also comes in the highly drinkable form of one of the Beer Camp mix-pack’s best beers, Stout of the Union. This robust American stout (7.3% ABV) brewed by LA breweries Beachwood BBQ and Smog City, as well as San Diego collaborators Societe, The Lost Abbey, and Bagby Beer, is indicative of LA’s inventiveness with its use of new ingredients as much as it’s esteem for the past. “Sierra Nevada Stout has always been a favorite of every member of the team. It’s an inspirational beer for all of us,” says Shrago.
“We’re all known as IPA brewers but it would just be too easy to do a big hoppy beer,” says Shrago. “We decided instead to pay homage to one of our favorite Sierra Nevada beers with a roasty, hoppy American stout and modernize it a bit. There’s two newly developed malts in there (Simpson’s Golden Naked Oats and Double Roasted Crystal) and also a brand new hop variety (Equinox).”
“Maybe I’m a little bit biased but I think it’s one of the best one’s in the mix pack this year,” says Frances (Franny Full Pint) Lopez, head of the Los Angeles County Brewers Guild. The event, hosted by both the LA County and Inland Empire Brewers Guilds revealed particular gains seen in Los Angeles beer culture. “Sierra Nevada bringing Beer Camp to LA County is an incredibly huge deal to us,” says Lopez. “It means that they’re paying attention to local markets and communities that are constantly growing in size and quality. It was exciting to hear from the Sierra brewing team say, ‘wow, LA’s got some amazing brewers.’”
This should come as no surprise to LA beer fans, many of who have spent the past week at events for LA Beer Week. Heavy hitters including Sierra’s Ken Grossman and Lost Abbey’s Tomme Arthur both held events in the city during beer week, and the kick-off festival on June 18th saw some of the largest and most enthusiastic crowds ever. That being said, respect on the national and international beer stage is something Los Angeles will continue to strive for, as its been a relatively short period since the city has made a name for itself beer-wise. While the Bay Area and San Diego have roughly twenty years or more under their belts, Los Angeles has only really made progress as a beer town in the last five or six. Beer Camp is just another cog in a big wheel to put a spotlight on LA’s local breweries, but it is an important one. “It’s the ultimate tribute to LA as a beer destination and gives a lot of credence to LA breweries,” says Beachwood’s Shrago. “We’re tremendously honored to have it here, and I’m proud to have it in my home town.”
Enjoy some more photos from the fest!