On Sunday, December 13, 2009, 30 people converged on my house to taste a bunch of beers and hear a lecture about them at the very first Camp Beer. My Christmas tree was up and I had to turn my whole living room upside down in order to accommodate the three tables necessary for the group. At the time, I didn’t have a clue that I was about to embark on a journey that would change the course of my life – but I’m really glad I did. The goal was not to do the traditional “chicken dinner” fundraiser, so I created Camp Beer along with Cocktail Camp (now a little defunct due to lack of time) and the Monsters of Beer Charity Festival as a method of getting people to support charity but have a great time too. We strive to keep the prices low so that you don’t have to be a wealthy person to attend and we intend to keep it that way.
March 10th will mark the 10th Camp Beer lecture and tasting event. Wow, I can’t believe that we are here! I never thought we would hold more than a handful of Camp Beer events. It just goes to show you what happens when you put a bunch of great beers together with a guy who can artfully talk about each one.
As background, Camp Beer is a fundraiser for my little charity Live It BIG. We raise money for start-up and small charities with great ideas, but little or no money to get started. It was formed in memory of my best friend, Kelley Frederickson, who passed away unexpectedly on May 20, 2008. We hold four Camp Beer events a year (one a quarter), and have held the Monsters Of Beer Charity Festival for the past two years. Big changes are afoot for that beer festival, so if you are a fan, stay tuned. You’re going to love what we have in store.
Anyway, as I approach the 10th Camp Beer, I want to say a huge “thank you” to the craft beer (and even non-craft beer) community in Houston, TX and also to Kevin Floyd for leading each Camp Beer. I should also give a big “thank you” to Ronnie Crocker of the Houston Chronicle, who gave me great advice early on and has consistently supported our efforts at both raising money for charity and spreading the word about craft beer.
I know I say it at each event, but it’s honestly true – without support from our community, we would never be able to accomplish what we do. Camp Beer is an extraordinary event that we love to put together. You should see me go beer shopping! (I always make the highest sale ever for the store I’m in.) And it’s a ton of fun seeing people try many of these beers for the first time. I can honestly say that I believe we were responsible for many Houstonians’ introductions to Hoppin’ Frog and Southern Tier beers.
After the first 2 Camp Beers, we kind of hit our groove and began to have specific focuses for each event. Before this, it was just a haphazard mix of whatever I found. Since then, we have focused on “golden” beers, Scandinavian beers, Christmas beers and had two Stoutapalooza courses. Next month, we embark on our first Sourpalooza, which I know will be a unique experience for many people. (sorry, it’s already sold out)
I should admit that at the first Camp Beer, my fellow Live It BIG Board Member, Christy Batten, and I drank mimosas and not the beer. I thought I didn’t like beer – a statement that I find hilarious now. Which brings up a great point, Camp Beer has done as much to change me and my opinions of craft beer as anyone else. And that’s what the courses are ultimately all about – educating people about great beer and expanding people’s awareness of the breweries that are producing it. But, as it turns out, Camp Beer isn’t just educating people who know nothing of craft beer. Let me share another story with you.
A while back a friend of mine (and fellow Open The Taps Board Member), Chris White, was in Washington, DC. He was at a place called Church Key and he was drinking some amazing stuff. We were back here in Houston jealously reading his Twitter stream. Then something really touching happened. Chris wrote this:
“So tonight has reinforced how much @campbeer has taught me. Thanks @cathywonderful and @kevin_floyd.” And “ I know a remarkable amount about a large number of breweries and their product line I never would have before @campbeer”
Chris has been home brewing for years and was a beer nerd long before I ever stumbled upon craft beer – so those Tweets were high praise for my little event. Yes, I was strutting around like a damn peacock that night and was also truly stunned that our little classes could have that level of impact. By the way, if any of you out there have stories about Camp Beer experiences you would like to share – I’d love to see them in the comments. I never have enough time to visit with everyone at the event, so I miss a lot of what happens.
Anyway, I truly feel like I’m somehow cheating at life because I get to do these kinds of amazing events that raise money for my charity that then, in turn, gives money to other charities who provide great services to the citizens of Houston. I’m having a freakin’ ball doing this!
If you haven’t made it to one yet, try to get to one in 2012. They tend to sell out very quickly because we can only host 60 people at a time. The next event, after Sourpalooza in March, will be sometime in June and will likely focus on Ciders and other tart beers (ßand don’t turn your nose up at this, it’s these kinds of off-the-wall classes that make the biggest impacts). September will see the reprisal of our always anticipated “Stoutapalooza.” And the last of the year, December will see something amazing if I can pull it off (an all Cantillon class). I have to go shopping. J
To find out about the next event, follow @CampBeer on Twitter, read Ronnie Crocker’s blog, Beer, TX, on the Houston Chronicle’s website or “friend” Live It BIG on Facebook. We hope to be pouring a cold one for you soon!