Discover ‘Magic Kingdom’ for craft beer lovers – The Daily Advertiser

Ask most any serious beer drinker what their dream vacation would be and they’d answer “To be given a name tag that I can hang around my neck that would allow me to drink as much free craft beer as I wanted for three days.”

Bayou Teche Brewing was recently selected to collaborate with four other southern craft breweries at the brand spanking new Sierra Nevada brewery near Asheville, North Carolina. We were invited to contribute to Sierra Nevada’s project called “Beer Camp.” Inspired by rock ‘n’ roll super groups, the legendary brewery teams up with 30 other talented breweries divided into six regional super groups.

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Sierra Nevada, along with these bands of brewers, will create an all-new mixed pack of beers that showcases the art, spirit and attitude of American craft beer – and then release the collaborative beers in 12 packs. Besides Bayou Teche, the other southern breweries were Funky Buddha from Florida, Austin Beer Works from Texas, Creature Comforts from Georgia, and Wicked Weed from North Carolina.

Those are four of the most exciting and imaginative breweries set in the South. And Sierra Nevada has long been known as crafters of some of the best beers brewed in America, and perfectionists for quality both in their ingredients and processes.

I arrived at my hotel, and checked in. Along with my room key I was given a Sierra Nevada name tag and lanyard. “Don’t lose this,” said the young lady at the desk, “because while you are at the brewery you can show this at any of the bars at Sierra Nevada and you’ll get a free beer.”

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She was not lying – and there are a lot of beer bars in and outside of the new brewery. And Sierra Nevada brews a LOT of different beers. I, however, only have one liver.

The nice folks at Sierra Nevada sent a bus to pick all of us up. It was still pretty top-secret which breweries were selected, so when I got on the bus and saw a veritable who’s who of famous and celebrated craft brewers, it was a little intimidating – and exhilarating.

The bus wound through very picturesque mountain roads and then pulled near the brewery. To say it was one of the most stunning buildings I’ve ever seen would be an understatement. Placed on top of a mountain and built of stone and more copper than the US Mint has – it was like Magic Kingdom for a craft beer lover.

Sierra Nevada’s Mills River brewery is just over a year old. They can produce about 850,000 barrels a year of beer there, and it is without a doubt the most beautiful brewery I have ever visited. The brewery facility itself sits on 50 acres of land, and the surrounding 200 acres feature walking and bike trails, music venues, and most important to a place where a lot of beer is consumed, lots of restrooms.

All of us from the visiting breweries were shown around by none other than founder Ken Grossman and his son Brian (who runs the Mills River location). We then broke up into our assigned groups and started working on a beer recipe and name.

The Southern team went to work with Sierra Nevada’s brewer Chris Richards, throwing out ideas for beer styles, unique Southern ingredients, and most importantly names. Owner Ken Grossman stopped by and seemed impressed with the direction our team was headed. We are not allowed to release the kind of beer we are brewing just yet, but there has never been anything crafted like it – and it’s very, very Southern! The brewers from Funky Buddha, Creature Comforts, Atlanta Beer Works and Wicked Weed were a blast to collaborate with. I don’t think any of us could have come up with a beer as amazing on our own.

We brewed the first of three test batches at the Wicked Weed brewery. They’ll send us a few bottles to sample in a couple of weeks to evaluate. We then brew the second pilot batch at Funky Buddha with any changes we decide on. After one last round of alterations to the recipe, we head back to Sierra Nevada in North Carolina to brew a final test batch there.

I hope they have another three-day, totally free beer pass waiting for me again.

The Sierra Nevada Beer Camp collaboration beer will be released nationwide in June. Sierra Nevada’s brewmaster Steve Desler says he intends this 12-pack to be “the best damn six pack on any shelf!”