Monday, August 8, 2016

Camp Coolship, The Arizona Wilderness Brewing adventure.

Wow, what an amazing week. Spontaneous fermentation on-the-go was supposedly at the heart of the adventure, but, it was the relationships and amazing company that took center stage. When #campcoolship was originally discussed, we hadn't the faintest idea what it could become. When we hosted Brooklyn's Other Half Brewing Co. back in April, we trekked up to the Mogollon Rim for what would be an unforgettable experience. You see, taking 2 wine barrels worth of wort and the mobile coolship certainly isn't the main point and can technically be viewed as an arbitrary amount. We disagree and oblige to the idea of more is better. Rather, we view it as a showcase of this industries unrivaled camaraderie. Not only are we showing our friends the state we dearly love, not to mention our regions culture, but we are also stepping away from the daily grind that inhibits us.  It's taking the operations out of the equation and purifying the brewing process to its simplest form. After our experience in April, Other Half and us knew we wanted another shot at this, and we knew we wanted to bring friends! Matt Coats (, the incredibly talented photographer/videographer (he recently did a photo shoot with BeyoncĂ© and numerous different projects in the brewing community.), was the perfect fit for documentation and a catalyst for this event. So...who else to invite?

We decided on breweries that represented their areas respectively and dabbled in the wilder side of brewing. We certainly wanted to add more, but there was too many elements in play, so we avoided chaos as much as possible. Many of the breweries were ones that we had previously worked with and we comfortable with. Some we poured next to at festivals. Some we met the week before. All in all, we needed a group that was cohesive and at the top of their game in this industry.

Once the lineup was chosen, the arduous task of planning, communications and, let's be honest, rolling the red carpet out for our fellow brewers began! After months of emails and focusing on the event,  I'll admit I was exhausted and thrilled all at once as it approached. It was finally here! The schedule went like this:
-Monday: Brewday at Monkish in L.A.
-Tuesday: Bring Monkish Henry to PHX via the I-10. Back home, Tired Hands Brewing was collaborating with Patrick and our Head Brewer, Chase. We teamed up with Welcome Chicken and Donuts to create a unique culinary IPA.
-Tuesday evening: A majority of the brewers arrived in hot and steamy PHX. We fed them, drank with them, pulled nails from barrels, and had an amazing night! Our staff really showcased the team effort, and I couldn't say thanks to them enough! Cocktails at Brickyard and  beers at Champs, then off to bed with the big adventure looming!
-Wed morning: I'll admit, I couldn't get an hour of sleep - 40 people were counting on me to make this thing work! As I made my way into the brewery, our staff high-fived me and I knew it was going to be a special day. Our AMAZING kitchen staff made breakfast. They could have whipped up eggs, bacon, and toast - But no way! They created bowls of woven bacon to be filled with the accouterments. So good!
-Wednesday afternoon: John, the Hero that he is, showed up in his @azbrewerytours buses. Hearding cats is difficult, especially if you have ADHD and are a sporadic plan changer. But we loaded up nicely...and off we went!
The destination was near Hart Prairie at the base on Mt Humphreys. I rode with the film crew for interviews and an AZ topography lesson. The Bradshaw Mountains put on an awe inspiring summer monsoon show! We arrived at Hops On Birch for an Almanac/Wilderness tap takeover.  The out-of-towners  got to see the REAL AZ as a MASSIVE monsoon nailed we did some swimmin' of course! It was great to showcase the AZ high-country with all its glory. We headed to camp, where Todd and Jay, good friends of the brewery,  had selflessly set up the camp for the nearly 50 people in the mud and rain. Those guys really made this happen!
- Wednesday eve: Patrick and team Wilderness showed up with the hot wort and mobile coolship to applause and elation from the brewers. The cameras were rolling, and I am anticipating something amazing from the crew when the footage is released. We wracked out the wort into the coolship, with many curious eyes gazing in. Imagine, some of the best brewers on earth standing in the rain, in the mountains of AZ, watching the wort steam and rapidly cool. What a moment! The rest of the night was....'ll never know.
-Thursday morning: We wracked the now cool, spontaneously inoculated wort back into the barrels for the drive home. Nico in Gilbert was the dinner choice, and we all went to bed extra early. We all were exhausted!
-Friday morning: Creatures Comforts Blake joined us for a collaboration brew. He brought his house mixed culture and Georgia wheat. We combined cultures and wheat for a cereal mashed saison to be fermented in the brand new 30HL foudre. I took several brewers to The Crack in the Wet Beaver Wilderness, I snagged a photo, and we swam the day away. Dinner...Elote in Sedona of course!

Obviously I left out a massive amount of details. There is no way I could come close to covering all the amazing moments. Draft Magazine was there, along with Good Beer Hunting and the film crew for solid documentation. Just imagine what 45 or so like-minded brewers in their natural element would act like.

I'll end with this: I couldn't have scripted this any better. The trust that people from all over the country placed in us was humbling. No one knew what to expect, yet, they still came out full of ambitions and willingness to explore. That is the art in all of this. I believe that Craft Beer is in an awkward position. Massive growth, corporate buyouts, stress--Oh the constant stress to perform. For two days, I do believe we all forgot about what we left back in the city. I believe that we were a part of a snapshot that will be viewed 100 years from now. Folks in the future, the ones in flying cars and shoes that self inflate, will hopefully say, "Those people brewed with pure passion and no artistic barriers. They stretched the limits., creating more that liquid. They created culture. They represented the Craft Beer industry with honor."

The snapshot will forever live in my heart.
Thanks too:
-Jester King-Almanac-Holy Mountain-Tired Hands-Perennial-18th Street-JWakefield-Stillwater-Other Half-Creatures Comforts-Prairie Artisinal/American Solera/ -Monkish Brewing-Firestone Walker Brewing Co-Jackie O's