The last time I packed for summer camp, I didn’t need to bring a valid driver’s license. Then again, the last time I went to camp, it wasn’t called Beer Camp Across America. Although, my mama’s last words to me before I left stayed the same: “Behave yourself.”
Sierra Nevada’s Beer Camp Tour, a seven-city traveling beer festival, ended its run at the California-based brewery’s new outpost in Asheville, North Carolina, or as it’s otherwise known, Beer City, USA. With over 90 craft breweries from the South converged and sharing their best brews, I did my best to conduct thorough research. Here’s what I found.
It’s not all about the IPAs
Berliner Weisse is the new black. The hop-driven ales that normally dominate the craft beer conversation weren’t the stars of this festival. Instead it was pilsners, saisons, and lighter styles like gose, a sour wheat beer that’s brewed with salt and refreshingly savory.
Trying to get a group of craft beer enthusiasts and brewers to agree on their favorite beer is like getting a group of preteens to agree on their favorite One Direction song, but the beer that was mentioned over and over as a standout was Raleigh-born Trophy Brewing Company’s Participant Berliner Weisse, beer’s answer to lemonade. Other favorites were Steel String Brewing’s Zupfen Gose and Fullsteam Brewing’s Summer Berliner Weisse, flavored with blackberry and lemon verbena syrup.
Tarheel State? More like Beer State
The number of breweries in North Carolina is growing so rapidly that not even some of the people I talked to who are supposed to keep track of them can keep up. And with recent moves by craft beer giants Sierra Nevada, New Belgium, and Oskar Blues to expand their operations there, North Carolina is making the South, once known for its austerity toward even home brewing, a craft beer destination.
It’s More Than Beer (and Beards)
There aren’t many industries that can throw a party like the craft beer community. Behind all the hype and stereotypes, there’s a group of people who are not only drivers of economic and social progress in the South, but also each other’s biggest fans and supporters. You could taste the camaraderie. Literally. The North Carolina Craft Brewers Guild, led, by Margo Knight Metzger took a trip together to brew their own beer together called Guildy Pleasures.
If this scene from the mystic craft beer holler that coalesced as beer camp ended is any indication, the Southern craft beer scene has arrived.