This summer, Sierra Nevada Brewing of Chico, Calif., is putting on Beer Camp Across America, a traveling beer festival taking place in seven U.S. cities. More than 700 breweries and 1,300 craft beers will be on tap during the extravaganza.
Tampa’s Cigar City Brewing will be serving its beers on the tour, but it also will be included in the Beer Camp 12-pack of beers created in collaboration with Sierra Nevada and sold across the country. It’s the first time a variety pack has included 10 bottles and two cans. Cigar City’s can of Yonder Bock is a mashup of Latin tropical flavors of guava, passion fruit and mango with traditional German bock beer. The pack is now showing up in retail outlets.
For Cigar City Brewing vice president Justin Clark, it’s a little like a cool uncle asking you to go on a road trip.
“They are the coolest, most down-to-earth people in the world,” Clark said last week. “They are awesome.”
Homebrewers Ken Grossman and Paul Camusi founded Sierra Nevada in 1980 in Chico. It now is the seventh-largest brewing company in the U.S. by volume. The label’s pale ale is the second best-selling craft beer in the United States, behind Boston Beer Company’s Samuel Adams Boston Lager. The brewery produces about 800,000 barrels of beer annually.
The other 11 collaborating Beer Camp breweries are Allagash, the Asheville Brewers Alliance, Ballast Point, Bell’s, Firestone Walker, New Glarus, Ninkasi, Oskar Blues, Russian River, 3 Floyds and Victory. Sadly, the closest that the Beer Camp tour comes to Florida is Mills River, N.C., south of Asheville, where Sierra Nevada is scheduled to open a new brewing facility on Aug. 3.
Clark said that the exposure from being included beyond Cigar City’s distribution range, as well as the thumbs-up from Sierra Nevada, is huge. It’s also a way for craft beer fans to try brands they can’t get in their home stores.
“Every brewery in this 12-pack is amazing,” Clark said. “You never get 3 Floyds out of Indiana. You never get New Glarus outside Wisconsin. They both make great stuff!”
For the Cigar City crew, there is an added benefit to being included. Clark, as well as CEO and founder Joey Redner and brewmaster Wayne Wambles, will take turns attending each festival stop. In between, they’ll travel on the Sierra Nevada bus with the other brewers and participate in fun activities. Redner and Clark, for example, will raft through the Grand Canyon in Arizona. Clark also has a skydiving adventure planned.
Along with the marketing exposure, Sierra Nevada also is helping foster emerging brands to make the industry stronger, he said.
“They really still believe in the collaborative effort,” Clark said. “They’re older. They’re the grandfather in the industry. But they show you can get as big as you want but still do stuff like this if you want to. It’s not a guy behind a calculator saying you can’t put this in a beer because. They’re still doing what Ken [Grossman] wants.”
Taste of the week
One of the many highlights of last week’s inaugural supper club at the Epicurean hotel in Tampa was the Sherry Cobbler cocktail served with dessert last week. Hotel food and beverage manager Eric Hale said the cocktail is a callback to the sherry cocktails made in the early 1900s, when port sherry had to be doctored with other flavors and older sherry to be more drinkable.
Hale’s cocktail included Lustau East India Solera Sherry with simple syrup, mint and muddled orange. The Sherry Cobbler just became my new favorite at a place that makes many great cocktails.
The five-course supper club, which includes wine pairings and adventurous dishes such as roasted salmon belly and halibut and geoduck tiradito, will be a monthly event, General Manager Tom Haines said. For tickets and reservations, go online to epicureanhotel.com/learn.
Get out and taste
Tampa is never lacking in chances to try new beer, wine and spirits. Restaurants, wine stores and liquor retailers routinely offer tastings to entice customers to visit.
Next Thursday, for example, ABC Fine Wine & Spirits at 14729 N. Dale Mabry Hwy. in Tampa will host a craft beer tasting with 60 brands to try and a souvenir beer glass included in the ticket. For $10, it’s a fun way to spend two hours on a week night.
The tasting runs from 6 to 8 p.m. For tickets and information, call (813) 264-1881.
Summer in a box
One of this summer’s happy surprises was a box of Beso del Sol sangria I tasted. At $17.99, the sangria is a great value beverage perfect for outdoor get-togethers and backyard parties. Add a couple slices of oranges and apples for extra flavor.
The product recently rolled out in Florida, so it isn’t easy to find, but I picked up a box at ABC Liquors on Kennedy Boulevard in Tampa. I’m told you also can find it at Whole Foods and at Leuken liquor stores in Dunedin, Clearwater and Oldsmar as well as Party Liquors in Thonotosassa.