It’s been a couple of weeks since Sierra Nevada brought Beer Camp to a close in Mills River, NC. However, I’m still raving about the event to anyone who will listen. While I cannot speak for how the other 6 festival dates went, I can say without a doubt that Sierra Nevada’s Beer Camp in Mills River was one of the best festivals out there. It’s certainly the best one I’ve ever been to.
The venue, the new Sierra Nevada brewery (parking lot), was incredible. The paved lot made getting around very easy and comfortable. The brewery always in the background also made for an incredible backdrop to a really great event. Despite initial thoughts that the event would be overcrowded, festival-goers had plenty of elbow room. Yeah, there were generally 2 breweries to a tent, but lines moved quickly and no one was ever elbow to elbow for very long The food truck and concert stage setup kept people spread out enough throughout the event to make you forget there were 5000+ people roaming around.
The attendee support was by far the best I’ve ever seen at any kind of festival. Before we even got to the gate, there were tons of port-a-potties and water stations to accommodate those waiting in line. The same quantity of facilities was replicated within the gates. Additionally, Sierra Nevada did a great job prepping attendees before the festival by sending out an attendee guide. It was a great reminder of what to bring and how to prepare for the festival. The EMT tent was a nice bonus as they provided everything from sunscreen to bandaids to emergency care (nothing serious was needed as far I know). The sprinkler tent gave attendees a much needed break from the unexpected full sun and heat.
The beer was incredible! All the brewers really brought their A game to this festival, which was great to see. Often times, we see breweries bringing their standard faire to festivals,
and the real beer nerds will always complain. But there was no complaining from my perspective. Sours were refreshingly pervasive. In fact, I don’t think I’ve seen that many sours at a “normal” (non-sour-focused) festival. It was really exciting to see so much good beer coming out of southeast region of the country. A highlight for me was Steel String’s Zupfen Gose, a nice salty and sour example of the style. I went back for multiple tastings of it.
There’s very little negative to say about the event but to be fair, it wasn’t perfect. While the free shuttles were an awesome feature, they seemed to get moving a little sooner than later. As one of the first attendees on the bus from downtown Asheville, I was at the front of the line to get into the festival. We arrived at the gate 1.5hrs before they opened, and had to sit in the sun awaiting entry. Granted, I would’ve waited (probably in the sun) that long for a shuttle, so…there’s that. It was one of the few things I had to complain about.
The brewer representation was also unexpectedly low. There was a lot of hype around the various breweries participating in the beer camp festivals, and very little definitive info on which breweries would actually pour at the Mills River festival. I understand NC distribution rules, so I didn’t get too mad when I heard we wouldn’t be tasting any Russian River or Three Floyds (along with others). I just wish the messaging had been more clear. Again, not a big deal. The breweries that showed up came with their A game.
The festival was amazing. I’m still talking about it weeks later, and I will be comparing all festivals to it from here on out. I can’t speak highly enough of the effort that went into building the festival. And I can’t wait to visit the Sierra Nevada Brewery in Mills River when it officially opens its doors to the general public.
I leave you with this gem…it should help you understand just how good Beer Camp was. Ford at the end of Beer Camp: