It’s not often that a 12-pack “variety box” of craft brews actually offers 12 completely different products. Typically, you’re looking at the chance to try four new beers—maybe six if you’re lucky. But a box where every product is unique? That’s something you don’t see every day, but that’s exactly what Sierra Nevada has just released—a big box of collaboration beers with 12 different brews inside.
It makes writing a review rather difficult. Realistically, I’m only going to be able to drink a few of these at a time, and I hate to waste any of the beer. How, then, can I get reviews written of all 12 bottles/cans in a reasonable time? Answer: I call in some assistance.
To review Sierra Nevada’s newest release of Beer Camp, a package of 12 collaborations with other prominent U.S. craft brewers, I pulled together a group of impartial friends. Many of them aren’t particularly schooled in craft beer, so as we sampled our way through the package I kept two sets of notes: One of my own impressions, and one from my friends. The differences in descriptive language will be quite apparent. Some of the beers we found impressive, and others made less favorable impressions.
Beer #1: Yvan the Great Belgian-Style Blonde, Russian River Brewing Co.
Jim Vorel: A light-bodied, zippy Belgian ale that belies its 6.3% ABV. Aromas of bubblegum and spice, with a lightly grainy flavor, well-balanced and refreshing.
Accomplices: “Licorice—it reminds me a little of Triaminic cough medicine.” “This would be a refreshing patio beer.”
Beer #2: Torpedo Pilsner, Firestone Walker Brewing Co.
JV: Very, very floral pilsner. Lots of “green” flavors and a strong hit of bitterness, quite hop-forward. Heavenly for lovers of hop-forward, floral, fruity pilsners.
Accomplices: “I don’t dislike it, but I don’t feel like I could drink a lot of it at once.” “It tastes like how I imagine a flower would taste if you chewed it.”
Beer #3: Yonder Bock Tropical Maibock, Cigar City Brewing Co.
JV: Now here’s some unusual beer, a maibock with lots of fruity, experimental hops. It reminds me a bit of malt liquor (as most maibocks do), with a squeeze of fresh grapefruit juice. Citrus pith flavors, medium bitterness and a bit of toasty, German melanoidin malt.
Accomplices: “It reminds me of malt liquor a little bit too.” “If it was a little more tropical fruity and less bitter I would really like this one.”
Beer #4: Alt Route Altbier, Victory Brewing Co.
JV: A very classic alt, with hints of raisin and prune on the nose. Strong malt character, with dried fruit and toasted malt flavors. Well balanced, but on the rich side. Very well-crafted.
Accomplices: “Light, sweet and very smooth, good maltiness.”
Beer #5: CANfusion Rye Bock, Oskar Blues
JV: Great aroma of spicy rye and malt. Flavor can’t quite back it up, but there’s some bready maltiness and a bit of orange hops to go along with the rye.
Accomplices: “You definitely get that rye.” “This is some weird stuff, what am I drinking? Why does it taste like bread?”
Beer #6: Chico King Pale Ale, Three Floyds Brewing Co.
JV: Ah yes, a pale ale with Three Floyds, what else? Aroma is complex, with tropical, pine and rather dank marijuana notes. On the palate though, it’s not nearly as hop-forward and bitter as expected. Bitterness in fact is very light, and a lightly grainy flavor is present. Kind of odd, not the hop bomb I was expecting.
Accomplices: “It’s subtle, but not in a great way.” “I like it, it’s very light and crisp.”
Beer #7: There and Back English Bitter, New Glarus Brewing Co.
JV: Definitely a lot of toasty, nutty malt character in this one, but still very light. Slightly herbal hops, like a hint of thyme. Very drinkable, satisfying session beer.
Accomplices: “There’s not much to this. It tastes like a bit of hops in club soda to me.”
Beer #8: Maillard’s Odyssey Imperial Dark Ale, Bell’s Brewery
JV: Big in flavor and aroma. Smells like a miniature Russian imperial stout, very much in the Old Rasputin style. Flavors of red fruit like raspberry, along with very strong impressions of coffee and chocolate. Tastes even bigger than its 8.5% ABV.
Accomplices: “It’s a little strong on the coffee, but I like that. It tastes like a coffee stout.” “This is good sipping beer, pretty intense.”
Beer # 9: Tater Ridge Scottish Ale with sweet potato, Asheville Brewers Alliance
JV: Malty aroma with prominent caramel malt and a hint of brown sugar. Not very assertive in the flavor department, mildly nutty, but doesn’t really evoke sweet potato.
Accomplices: “I miss the fruit flavors from some of the earlier beers.” “This one is really smooth, but I definitely wouldn’t say it had sweet potato if I didn’t read that.”
Beer #10: Myron’s Walk Belgian Pale Ale, Allagash Brewing Co.
JV: A very complex bouquet of different spices, and a funky, yeast-heavy presence in the aroma. Flavors of hay and green, grassy hops. This is a tasty beer—not surprised it comes from Allagash, seems very much in their wheelhouse, if a little bit more sessionable.
Accomplices: “Blue Moon without the orange?” “I really like all the spice in the aroma, it’s sort of peppery.”
Beer #11: Electric Ray India Pale Lager, Ballast Point Brewing Co.
JV: Very citrusy and dank aromas, but also sort of weirdly spicy like one would expect from the Saaz hop in a Czech pils. Predominantly dry and hop-forward, reminds me of an imperial pilsner. Hops come off as more noble than American.
Accomplices: “I actually like this a lot, it’s definitely in-your-face hoppy.” “The hoppiest beer of the night, easily.”
Beer #12: Double Latte Coffee Milk Stout, Ninkasi Brewing Co.
JV: Smells like a mocha, poured over ice. Definitely on the sweeter side. The dessert beer of the bunch, great coffee character.
Accomplices: “This is like chocolate espresso ice cream in a glass, sweetest of the night.” “Smoother than the other dark ale of the night (Maillard’s Odyssey).”