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Event Recap | Sierra Nevada Beer Camp Chicago

Event Recap | Sierra Nevada Beer Camp Chicago
Taylor Laabs

Feature image courtesy of Taylor Laabs

Sierra Nevada Beer Camp put together another impressive showing last Saturday at Navy Pier. Whether it was the pristine location, the bevy of good beer, or the friendliness of the staff and brewmasters, Sierra Nevada knows what it takes to make a solid craft beer festival – and they deliver on that successful formula time and time again.

Perhaps my favorite part of Beer Camp is the ease at which beer patrons can explore each brewery station, each beer, and the event as a whole. The Aon Ballroom at the Navy Pier was bustling with beer lovers but it never felt too crowded or overwhelming, which made for a fun and relaxing afternoon. Couple that with the scenic location overlooking Lake Michigan on a sunny day, live music, easy access to bathrooms and air-conditioning, and you get a very well-rounded craft beer experience that was both enjoyable and educational.

Photo Credit: Evan Richman

That said, I did get to try out some fantastic beers across the spectrum – all in the signature Beer Camp 3oz tasting glass. Whether it was Pils or Sour, DIPA or Kolsch, the craft breweries at Beer Camp Chicago delivered. Here are my thoughts.

Five Observations from Beer Camp

Non-IPAs Steal the Show

It seems like most craft breweries have started to shift their beer lineups from IPA-heavy into a more well-rounded selection that includes more sessionable ales, Sours and Pilsners. That trend was well represented at Beer Camp, as I came away impressed by the bold flavors brewers were able to infuse into some of their lighter brews. For Sours, I especially liked Penrose’s Session Sour Amarillo and Finch’s Taco Cat. Light, fruit-filled sipping beers were also prominent, including great additions from Uinta and their super flavorful Lime Pils and the bright, cherry-oriented Pink Pom Pom Hefeweizen from Horse Thief – both were light but delivered great fruit notes throughout that made them memorable.

Location, Location, Location

When you’re planning such a massive event like Beer Camp, location is everything. It needs to be scenic but also have enough space and access to bathrooms to keep the crowds pleased. The Aon Ballroom location at Navy Pier delivered on every front. The gorgeous event space provided a Instagram-worthy backdrop, air conditioning and a scenic view of Lake Michigan just a few steps outside. While the taxi to and from Navy Pier wasn’t cheap, it was definitely worth the experience.

Photo Credit: Evan Richman 

Half Pours Are a Good Thing

If you’ve been to a beer festival, you know that over drinking is definitely something you need to cognizant of as those 3oz pours add up after a while. The novel solution: half pours. After several full tasters, I decided to switch it up to ensure that I got maximum variety without being over-served. Plus, when you have so many good IPAs and barrel-aged wonders to try, it’s a good strategy to follow. Speaking of, there were some fantastic hop-heavy and dark beers that I got to try out. My favorites: Half Acre Beer Hates Astronauts IPA, Noon Whistle Gummypocalypse DIPA, and 3 Floyds Sicario Pina barrel-aged Saison.

Rare Beers Not Worth the Wait

Sierra Nevada does a great job of offering rare beer pours at different intervals throughout the event, but I found myself not wanting to wait in line after experiencing the first pour at 2:30. This wasn’t because I didn’t want to try the beer, but it was more so because the wait time to try these rare brews grew too long. And with many somewhat rare and new beers out there, like Sierra Nevada’s own Know Good IPA, I decided not to wait and try more beers instead.

One Tea-Infused Beer Stood Out

Disclaimer: I did not try every beer at Beer Camp – that would be borderline Herculean. Of the beers I did try, my favorite has to be Cruz Blanca’s Palm Shade IPA with white tea and guava. I love tea-infused beers, like Milwaukee Brewing’s O-Gii, as it adds a sort of refreshing sweetness to an otherwise bitter IPA. Palm Shade was so good because it delivered flavor on so many levels. First it was the brightness of the guava which was accompanied by the familiar hoppiness of an American IPA. Then it delivered with that great white tea flavor that made for a delicate and crisp finish that had me going back for more. 10/10.

So, those are my thoughts on Beer Camps. Anything additional to add? Let me know in the comments section below. Cheers!

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