On Aug. 1, the traveling beer festival sponsored by Sierra Nevada Brewing company called “Beer Camp” will make it’s fifth stop on a seven-stop national tour in Portland. This epic festival will feature over 100 breweries and will include many amazing beers. In support of the festival, Sierra Nevada also set out to do a collaboration series with eleven breweries and a brewer’s guild – producing a 12-pack of different brews with wildly different perspectives and tastes. One of the breweries featured is Portland’s Allagash Brewing Company – and they brewed a Belgian Pale Ale named Myron’s Walk, after the founder of the Appalachian Trail. I was able to catch Allagash founder Rob Tod before he left for the Beer Camp kickoff celebration in Chico, CA to ask him more about this collaboration.
1. We’re all very excited that Beer Camp chose Portland Maine as a stop on the tour and that Allagash was one of the breweries involved in making a collaborative beer. How did the plans for that beer develop between Allagash and Sierra Nevada?
It’s kind of a long story that goes a little ways back. Sierra Nevada called us last June, almost a year ago, and just said – Ken Grossman, he’s a friend of mine who runs Sierra – he wanted to setup a time to talk to me. He set the time up and he explained that they were going to do a collaborative twelve pack with 11 different breweries and one brewer’s guild – and explained that they were going to be doing a collaboration beer at each of the breweries and would we be interested in doing it? And I, of course, jumped at the opportunity. Sierra is a company that we have a tremendous amount of respect for on a lot of fronts. They were a pioneer of course in the craft beer business and I think they just celebrated their 30th anniversary recently – I actually went out there for that. We just have a tremendous amount of respect for the level of quality and the importance that they place on quality at their brewery. They’ve always been really good friends of ours, so I jumped at the opportunity to be involved in the collaboration.
It really has been a great collaboration. Jason (our brewmaster) and I went out to California to brew pilot batches of the collaboration on their 10 bbl system. Worked very closely with them formulating the recipe, and then Jason and I along with Mat Trogner who’s in our marketing department, went down to the new facility in Mills River in North Carolina and brewed the first of the actual batches of the beer which ended up being bottled and kegged.It is a pleasure working with those guys – it’s a lot of fun. It’s been a cool relationship. We’re looking forward to these festivals. In a couple hours I’m heading to the Jetport to go out to Chico for the kickoff fest – the first of seven festivals.
2. Will you be attending all of the festivals?
3. I want to ask you a little bit about the beer itself – Myron’s Walk – it is described as a Belgian Pale Ale and I know it uses the Allagash yeast, can you tell us a little bit more about what people can expect if they try it?
What we wanted to do with this particular beer – and it really has been a collaboration – this wasn’t a recipe that just Sierra came up with or just we came up with, we worked pretty closely with them to develop the recipe that was very collaborative. We looked at it as a way to embrace two important components from each of the breweries. Of course, Sierra, very well known for their Pale Ale. It’s a beer that everyone here at Allagash loves, and the Pale Ales have got that very distinctive Pacific Northwest hop profile. And we have always been brewing in the Belgian tradition. We kind of tried to meld the two. We fermented it with our house yeast. We took some of our yeast here from the brewery, flew it out to Sierra Nevada, and made a Belgian Style Pale Ale. It’s a Pale Ale-ish beer fermented with our house yeast. It takes some pretty key elements from each brewery and combines it.
Bittering hops are Bravo, finishing hops are Cascade, Citra and Mosaic. I think the beer does a good job, it’s a pretty simple beer, not over the top with a ton of ingredients in it. You get a good feel of that Pacific Northwest hop character and the Belgian ale yeast. You can really get both out of the beer. It is a blending of two important cultural elements at each brewery.
4. The name of the beer, Myron’s Walk, is named after Myron Avery – do you want to talk a little bit more about why you chose his namesake for the beer and what that means?
Myron Avery is the founder of the Appalachian Trail and that just popped into our head as a great name for the beer because the trail doesn’t literally connect the two breweries, but comes very close to connecting them. It starts pretty near their brewery in North Carolina, and it ends north of here, but it does end in Maine. The whole spirit of the beer is bringing together a lot of the elements of the two breweries, and in some ways that’s what the trail does – a way to physically connect two breweries.It popped in our head as a great way to symbolize the connection of the two breweries.
[For more – check out this fun video produced by Allagash about Myron and the beer]
5. What do you think of the big idea of Beer Camp, the idea of a multi-stop traveling beer festival?
I think number one it’s a daunting endeavor for those guys. Obviously it’s a huge amount of work. I think it’s a great idea. One of the very unique, cool, parts of being in the craft beer business is brewers coming together, working together, spending time together, it’s just very collaborative. It is kind of what this beer camp symbolizes. I think there are going to be over 100 breweries coming together for this fest up in Portland, and that’s going to be happening all over the country. For me, personally, it’s a great opportunity. When I get to Chico I’ll be able to see tons of my friends in one place, just coming together, enjoying great beer and celebrating the craft beer movement. It’s going to be like that all over the country. I’m sure that they would have wanted to do even more but there is only so much that they can do. It does get to each chunk of the country – to the Pacific Northwest, the West and the South, the Denver and mountain region, Chicago in the Midwest, the Northeast and then the Mid-Atlantic and Southeast. So it kind of does that in each of the regions of the country, brings all of these brewers together. It’s going to be a lot of fun.
We’re very excited to be doing this in Portland. When we were out in Chico the brewer in Sierra was filling Jason and I in on their plans, we were talking with Brian Grossman, Ken Grossman and Joe Whitney and I think that we started almost joking around about taking it up to Portland, Maine. I think the Portland stop got born out of that casual conversation at the picnic table, the day after we brewed the collaboration beer with them. I guess one thing lead to another and they called us and said that they were actually doing this thing in Portland. I think Portland will be a great spot for it. There is just so much innovation in this town on a culinary front and on the beer front there are so many exciting breweries that are opening up now in Portland. There is just a lot of energy up here with the craft beer movement. In my opinion – and of course I’m biased – but I think they couldn’t have picked a better place to hold the fest. We’re just really excited to be so much a part of the project by being in the twelve pack.
The twelve packs of Sierra Nevada Beer Camp sold out at places like Bier Cellar as soon as they came in, but there are some still kicking around if you look hard enough. I found a bunch at a gas station in South Portland, just waiting to be picked up. However, if you can’t find the twelve pack, there are a lineup of events that are happening before the festival itself where you can get a taste of the brews.
I hope that this has piqued your curiosity and inspired you to seek out the fruits of these collaborations. If you do, I am certain it will be worth the walk.