Ahhhh Summer Camp… the phrase draws to mind many different images for many different folks. And those images can vary from person to person and they will vary depending on what kind of camp you went to when you were a kid. There were (and maybe still are) Bible Camps, Math Camps, Music or Band Camps, and of course the scouting related camps. Kids playing pranks on each other and the camp counselors, parents getting a respite from the duties of parenting all the while worrying about their kids getting poison ivy and bee stings or some other summertime ailment.
I went to some scout camps when I was very young, then when I got into my teens I went to fishing camps with friends and their families. I always enjoyed getting away from home, not because home was a bad place but because it was something different. And some great fishing for Crappy and Bass takes place in upper New York, Black Lake to be specific, and all throughout Pennsylvania in the summer time.
So imagine my joyful glee at hearing that Sierra Nevada was hosting a BeerCamp in six different cities throughout the country this year. And one of them was actually close enough for me to attend.
The overall concept was that 31 different breweries would get together and make six different collaborative beers representing different regions of the country. Then they were to host a beer festival in each region to show off these beers and invite a lot of different breweries from the area to show up and show off their wares.
The first BeerCamp to be held this summer actually took place yesterday in Tampa, FL. Some of you may be asking why Tampa? I would reply “Why not Tampa?” If you haven’t been to Florida then you are missing out on well over 100 breweries (that could be over 200 but I didn’t want to exaggerate) many of which can stand up to most of the other brewers in the country. The greatest conglomeration of breweries in Florida is around the Tampa area, so it makes perfect sense to those of us who live here.
The event was held at the Curtis Hixon Park which is on the west part of Tampa along the Hillsborough River. Not having been there before, but to other venues in Tampa, I have to say this was an excellent location for this event. It is located near many other venues, has access to public transportation, and has a natural amphitheater built into the site. And the views of the river walk are great!
Having been to a few other Beer Fests in Tampa or the surrounding area this time I planned in advance and scouted out for nearby parking. And luckily practically right next door to the park is the William F. Poe Parking Garage. So instead of setting my iPhone map feature to the event I mapped out getting to the garage instead.
The park itself is surrounded on three sides by tall and/or architecturally interesting buildings which provide a scenic surrounding even when you are not looking at the river.
Once you entered BeerCamp you immediately lay eyes one of the best party buses ever. Obviously a customized paint job, I will bet that this beauty will be at all of the BeerCamps. What lucky S.O.B. has the job of driving it and who do I have to bribe to get his job?
Nearby were the food trucks which numbered probably around a dozen. And on the other side of the bus were the beer tents. They had four large tents altogether, which housed the many brewery vendors. Also nearby were large vats of fresh water for folks to drink and rinse out their glasses, a stage featuring a band performing the whole time, a splattering of high top tables throughout the grounds and off to the side was a bank of porta-toilets.
The place was packed with folks there to sample the various beers. But even with the large crowd you didn’t have to wait long to get to most of the breweries and sample their brews. There were a few exceptions, one or two of the breweries seemed to have a long line to get a sample, and there was a line for getting your picture taken at the BeerCamp display, which is why I don’t have one.
I didn’t take pictures of all of my samples only a few, but those and some others are definitely worth a mention. Big Storm Brewing’s Oats in Hose Oatmeal Stout (pictured below left), Cigar City brew Pub’s Space Race Imperial Russian Stout, Smog City’s Coffee Porter (pictured below right), and the collaboration Stout of the Union all were great examples of a good Porter or Stout, with the Space Race winning by far out of the group.
Hourglass Brewery’s Beatrijs Belgian Dubbel with Gooseberries, Brew Hub’s Diver Down Red Ale, and Wynwood Brewing’s Guava the Hut a Berliner Sour Ale (pictured above), all came across very well too. I also want to give credit to the Tampa brewer’s Guild collab Guildy by Association which was a really refreshing Saison which hit the spot on a hot summer evening.
Food trucks all had long lines at them and nothing at them really seemed to tickle my fancy when I looked over the menu. Except the last one which didn’t have a line, probably because it was the furthest away from the beer. The Red Line Truck had three items on their menu: Korean Beef Lettuce Wraps, Hot Dogs and Sweet Potato Croquettes. All three looked good to eat, but I ordered a hot dog and a side of the croquettes. The hot dog had a good flavor and they didn’t drown it out with condiments, jst enough to enhance it. And the Sweet Potato croquettes had a goat cheese center that made it creamy as well as sweet. If you’re in Tampa and see this food truck again I highly recommend it.
After a couple of hours of beer sampling and sweating in the evening sun I decided to head out, but not before taking a last look across the river at the minarets for the University of Tampa reflecting the light on the sunset.
I also grabbed a selfie with the BeerCamp bus and took a pic of kids playing in the fountain outside the children’s museum which is beside the parking garage.
BeerCamp was great. The venue selected worked great and the various vendors all had great beers and foods to sample. Too bad it didn’t last a week or more like the camps did when we were kids.
I certainly hope they hold more of these next year. I would definitely attend it again. The only change I might suggest is allowing pets. Tucker doesn’t like it when I leave him at home and insists on showing me how much he missed me when I get back. Either that or he’s trying to get some beer and food samples out of my beard.