Beer Camp Video—Behind the Scenes

IF YOU DON’T READ ANY FURTHER: Go to and vote for the “Send Leslie to Beer Camp!” video—once a day through March 31!


Beyond the PaleSince I uploaded my Beer Camp video to the Sierra Nevada website last Friday, people keep asking how it came to be.

A few weeks ago, I read Beyond the Pale: The Story of Sierra Nevada Brewing Company by founder Ken Grossman. Toward the end, he writes about Beer Camp. I’d seen those 6- and 12-packs and the banners, but I didn’t really know what the whole Beer Camp deal was.

Turns out it’s a big deal. The camp originated as a 2-day event for Sierra Nevada distributors and vendors. The intent was to further educate the folks selling the company’s products. During the process, the “campers” get in depth tours of the brewery and work in teams to create a recipe and actually brew the beer. No surprise that, before long, all sorts of people were wanting to attend Beer Camp. Sierra Nevada’s response evolved into a fabulous promotional campaign.

Central Coast Writers Anybody 21 and over can submit a creative 2-minute video about why they need to go to Beer Camp. The 2015 submission period runs February 1-March 31. The 21-and-over public can vote once a day for their favorite video. The ten videos with the most votes assure their stars a place at Beer Camp. Another 14 campers are chosen, based on their videos, by a committee of Sierra Nevada employees and past Beer Camp graduates. As of Monday, March 23, the #1 video (out of 32) had 1626 votes.

I studied the rules and every bit of advice on the website. I watched past winners’ videos multiply times. I wrote out a script and talked Danny Cook, a 27-year-old homebrewing friend, into filming the video. I emailed him my script and soon got a reply: “I think this is a little too boring.”

MarthaBack to the script room. Danny and I kept tweaking things for a couple of weeks. We shot every scene at least three times—with the exception of the literary agent. My delightful octogenarian friend, Martha, agreed to play the role of “the snooty agent who’s pretty clueless about craft beer.” In real life, Martha is anything but snooty or clueless. The day we filmed, she mentioned that she had Sierra Nevada beer in her fridge.

Molly Malloy'sI texted Martha’s clip to Danny, along with the one of Luke and Jimmy at Molly Malloy’s in Philadelphia and the one at the Central Coast Writers meeting, which friends filmed. I also sent him one of musician daughter Laura singing “Send Leslie to Beer Camp!” Unfortunately, I forgot to tell her to film in landscape and, by the time, we were editing, Laura and her band were occupied with South by Southwest music festival.

With the patience of Job and a perfectionist, Danny cut and assembled the bits and pieces. Then we experimented with recording the voice over–directly into the laptop, into a mic, into an iPhone. Danny would start the video and I’d read as the scene played out. We’d pause and evaluate, re-record, cut a second of video, going on only after we were satisfied with each scene.

Danny and Ellie

Danny and Ellie

About those charming canines, they all belong to my walking buddies. The indefatigable Ellie belongs to Danny.

Thanks to Charlie Papazian, guru of homebrewers, whose famous mantra—“Relax, don’t worry, have a homebrew”—I borrowed and changed slightly. A shout out to Duane, owner of Bottoms Up Homebrew Supply in Seaside, California, and his assistant Jeff, who graciously took time on a busy Saturday to help with the video. Thanks to all my writing pals at Central Coast Writers. The biggest shout out goes, of course, to Danny Cook.

Even if I don’t make it to Beer Camp, creating the video counts as one of the funnest things I’ve done this year. I was awed by the creativity and experience of some past and present Beer Camp applicants. And if ‘m lucky enough to make it to Chico, you can be sure that I’ll come home with a Sierra Nevada T-shirt for Danny!


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