All You Need to Know (Is It Worth the $65)
People are busy and don’t always have time for the personal ramblings of a beer fanatic. For that reason, let’s start with the wrap up for those who missed out on the biggest roaming beer fest in these United States and want to know if it is worth attending next year (assuming there is one). The Sierra Nevada Beer Camp rolled into Philadelphia as a huge undertaking that came with equally huge expectations. For the most part, those expectations were met and in some ways exceeded. It was a safe, enjoyable beerfest handled well by the staff and the other attendees. It wouldn’t have been half as good if the Beer Campers had acted like drunken idiots instead of the respectful and friendly crowd we all turned out to be. Well done us.
Before I continue the lovefest, I do have to address one significant area of disappointment. If you are not aware, Sierra Nevada created collaboration beers with 12 respected brewers from across the country and released them in a case. The idea is that Sierra Nevada and the brewers would go on a 7 city tour, bringing in any local brewers that wanted to join them for a big celebration of beer. For Philadelphia, only 7 of the 12 Beer Camp collaborators had a presence. The brewer I was most excited to sample, 3 Floyds, was not in attendance, nor was Asheville, New Glarus, Ninkasi, or Cigar City. Basically everyone that doesn’t already distribute in PA (Cigar City does to a small degree) was a no show.
While I can understand that from a business perspective, why spend the money and effort when the festival goers can’t legally drink your brews in their homes (PA has a law that you can’t even bring beer from other states over the state line into PA), I was let down as a beer fan. With so many restrictions, stupid beer laws and lobbyists trying to protect the market share of lackluster brewers, this was a chance to try some beers from heavy hitters we don’t normally get. I have no idea if their absence was due to regulations or brewer’s choice, but it doesn’t diminish my frustration. End rant.
Minor grievances aside, out of the dozen or so beerfests I’ve been to, this is easily one of the best. It sprinkles in major players on the national beer scene with local brewers and gourmet food trucks in a secluded park setting practically at the door step of one of the biggest beer cities on the East Coast. $65 isn’t an outrageous price for 5 hours and 80+ brewers, however taking food money into account brings the actual cost closer to $80.
This might be too much to ask if the food wasn’t as good as it was, or the event wasn’t as well run as it was, or the collaborator and local brewers didn’t bring their A-game like they did. Had big beers like Pliny the Elder, Supplication, and Sucaba not been there, maybe I would need to reevaluate the cost vs reward, but either way the experience was a positive one. For all the ways this could have gone wrong, it just worked, and worked fantastically. Should this become an annual Philly event, I’ll have another yearly, must attend beerfest along with PA Flavor and the Ren Faire BrewFest. Cheers to next year!
For those with some time to kill that want to know what it was like on the ground, read on.