#22 It’s just a dinner!

For many couples, when they decide to have friends over for dinner the majority of planning goes into the food menu, activities, and music. While they select a bottle of wine or other alcoholic/non-alcoholic beverages to contribute to the evening, that is usually something that just takes a couple of minutes. At our beer geek embedded household however, the food to be served, the cleanliness of the space, and everything else that goes along with entertaining takes second place to the selection of beers to be offered.

Recently we invited another couple over for dinner. It was to be a simple evening of catching up since we’d last seen them back in the summer. I had provided Alan with the menu being served several weeks in advance because I knew he would want to pair an appropriate beer with the main course but I seriously under-estimated the time it would take him to select that beer.

Alan keeps an inventory of his beer. He has an app on his iPhone that allows him to scan the bar code on the bottle or can and he can log when a beer goes into or out of one of his beer fridges. He also keeps a spreadsheet of categories on his computer so he can easily print off lists of his beer. So theoretically at any point in time he should know exactly how much beer he has, what types, etc. However as with most things in life, a system is only as good as the person managing it. Apparently Alan got busy, or in too much of a rush to taste that brew, therefore some beers weren’t entered or properly logged as having been consumed. Now most people would just quickly peruse the shelves and select a few bottles for the evening. Unfortunately those people probably aren’t beer geeks (or should I say fortunately for their spouses?) My beloved beer geek upon discovering the error of his ways decided he couldn’t possibly just make a quick selection because of the potential for missing something hidden at the back that would be better than the more obvious front of shelf choices. So at a mere three hours before the guests were to arrive, Alan decided to do a complete beer inventory. This involved taking all the bottles out of the fridges, and boxes (because now it won’t all fit into two fridges), examining them, checking them against the database, and making updates. With approximately 150 bottles to inspect this wasn’t quickly done and while it was mildly entertaining to listen to the various muttered comments or exclamations of pleasure as he worked through his list, with the clock ticking towards guest arrival – I had foolishly planned his assistance with other preparations. Finally after 45 minutes the inventory was updated and he emerged, only to disappear back into his office with a notepad. Now that he knew what he had… he still needed to make the evenings selections!

Non beer geek households probably only serve one brand of beer for an evening or for larger gatherings might offer 2-3 types. In a beer geek household you are offered 2-3 types before you start dinner! Over the course of an evening you may taste 8-12 different beers. Now before you have images of very drunk rowdy gatherings … dinner hosted by a beer geek is all about sharing the tasting experience. Offering up numerous samples of beers from around the world to share and discuss is a huge part of the enjoyment they get and often the samples are only a couple of ounces each so a single bottle goes a long way. Add to that the careful consideration that goes into their educated assessments for perfect food pairing, the selection of beer for an evening is a complicated process. Having just completed his inventory all his beer was fresh in his mind so this actually only took Alan another 20 minutes.

I have already mentioned in a previous post (#5 The Insidious Creep of Glass) that Alan has a sizeable beer glass collection (which has grown by another dozen glasses since that post), so even though by now he had collected his beer offerings together and put them in a cooler close by for quicker access, he still hadn’t selected the glasses to use for each beer type. Most hosts wouldn’t go through 20+ beer glasses in an evening with just 4 people but those hosts aren’t beer geeks who are extremely careful that the shape of the glass brings out the best of the beer’s nose and flavour. Fortunately Alan does that selection quite quickly on the fly depending on what his guests select or how he adjusts the order of the offering but even there – on this occasion he ran out of a certain style of glass and had to go to another room to collect the appropriate one.

Is he obsessed? Absolutely, frustratingly, but enjoyably for the beer loving guests who come to our house. It isn’t just dinner … it’s a beer education experience.

Advertisements

#21 2 Sacks = 15 Distinctive Beers

Craft Brewers tend to be a fairly generous group that are supportive of each other, however they do occasionally indulge in a little friendly competition for various awards. So if someone you love starts thinking about possibly entering a brewing competition… prepare yourself for several months of planning, preparation, coddling, anxiety, and anticipation in advance of the final judgement day.

When Alan first described the Ontario Craft Brewers Iron Brewer Competition, I thought it sounded pretty cool. Like Iron Chef on TV where the best chefs have to create something wonderful out of the same pre-determined ingredients, the Iron Brewer competitors have to create a beer from the same ingredients. Little did I think he would apply to compete, and even when he told me he was thinking of it, I didn’t think he would be lucky enough to get one of the spots. However when it comes to beer, Alan is a pretty lucky guy so of course he applied and got a spot.

Here’s how it started: There are 15 competitors each year. Four spots are pre-determined, Spots 1-3 go to the top 3 winners from the previous year, and Spot 4 is given to the brewery that hosts the event. The remaining spots are awarded based on a lottery where the first 11 names drawn from the pool of applicants get to compete. The successful competitors are notified by email and then a few weeks later they are told where to go to pick up their ingredients.

Once Alan found out his name had been drawn, he became a wee bit obsessed. At first he was just anxious to see what ingredients he would have to work with so it was a bit of a relief when he could finally go pick them up and see what wonders were within. I wasn’t expecting two VERY large bulging sacks to come home. That was when I found out that the brewers could use any combination of ingredients as long as the ingredients came out of those sacks, and they didn’t have to use all of the ingredients. There were several different types of hops (fresh Canadian and pellets) plus grains, and even a few odd things like a chunk of wood and cinnamon sticks. It was impossible to walk in the kitchen when Alan had them all spread out which then started phase 2 of the process … thinking about what he wanted to do. While I had assumed it would be pretty straight forward – everyone would be trying to make the same beer and the competition was to see which one tasted better – in fact I had it all wrong. With the presented assortment of ingredients, there were actually a wide variety of styles, strengths, and flavours of beers possible and it was really up to the individual’s imagination and ability to create a great tasting recipe. My dearly beloved beer geek is a rather analytical guy so deciding on what ingredients to use and what style to brew became weeks of deliberations, calculations, and uncertainty. But finally off he went with his trunk full of ingredients, a borrowed beer cylinder, and his recipe (which looked to me to involve a horrible amount of math) and I thought that was that. Silly me.

Craft beer takes monitoring and coaxing, with different ingredients being added at different times in the process and different temperatures along the way so Alan had to periodically drive to the brewery to check up on his special beer. With each visit and check came worries – was it too sweet, was the yeast finished too early?

Then began the selection of a name for the brew, designing a label and wording to describe the beer nectar within. Having decided to use both the chunk of wood and the cinnamon, as well as a variety of grains, etc., Alan was striving for a dark winter warmer type of beer to consume on a cold night in front of a fire (or at least in a toasty room). Friends were consulted, with some very creative and naughty holiday type suggestions coming forth, but in the end he used his own literary twist naming his Christmas beer ‘A Winter’s Ale’ with a nod to Shakespeare.

Finally the day of the competition dawned. It was nothing like the quiet refined judging shown on Iron Chef. In fact there wasn’t even a small panel of qualified judges sitting at a head table. It turned out that the judges were in fact all the attendees. Everyone who purchased a ticket to the event was given a large tasting ballot. As participants moved around the room, they could enjoy a sample of each of the 15 beers and write down notes so that by the judging hour they could identify their top picks. (After 15 tastings in a relatively short period of time I understood why taking notes was important because by about the 10th tasting I’m sure many people couldn’t really remember what the first beer tasted like!) All the ballots were gathered, data entered into a computer and from that the Iron Brewer and the 2nd and 3rd place brewers would be identified.

Now not being much of a beer drinker, I was really there just to support Alan so I had a lot of time to wiggle my way through the crowd. I say wiggle because this was a really popular event with many more attendees than the room could really support so it was crowded and hot however the majority of the tasters seemed totally oblivious to the conditions and seemed very happy to be chatting up each brewer while trading comparison notes with each other. Some took very serious detailed notes while others just seemed to jot down a word or two, and there were a few that didn’t take notes at all and at the end raced around the room to remember which ones they preferred.

Some competitors had made careful displays with bowls of differing levels showing the portions and types of grains used. Some had artwork and signs to showcase their beers, while a small number had hastily scrawled the name of their beer on the sign with their table number and name. Names were creative and descriptive of the grains or types brewed: “Rye Another Day” “Ryedemption Amber Ale” “Cinnamon Vienna Lager”. There were 4 women brewers, and the ages seemed to range from mid 20’s to mid 50’s. There was a slide presentation that showed photographs that each brewer took of their brew in progress. Watching the slide show, I was surprised at the number of beers that were concocted on private stoves and in large plastic garbage bins in backyards – a real tribute to the efforts and creativity of home brewers working along side more professional set ups.

What does the winner of all this work get? Well the glory of the title ‘Iron Brewer 2013’, a small iron nut type trophy, $100 (which is donated to charity – this year Prostrate Cancer Research), a t-shirt artistically displaying hops, and along with the 2nd and 3rd place finishers – an automatic entry into the 2014 competition as well as the fun of spending an afternoon talking non-stop about their beer.

So did Alan win the title? No. But he did place 3rd – so next fall I’ll once again see large sacks with mysterious ingredients spread about as he contemplates what wonder he can brew.

#21 It’s all about the nose

Over the past few years I’ve come to realize that there is something wrong with my nose. Oh sure it looks okay (well except for the bump where it got broken as a kid), but I seem to be smell deficient which l believe contributes to my lack of appreciation for beer.

Much like the people hired by perfume companies for their ability to smell subtleties in flowers, oils, spices, etc., or the vintners and their grapes … I’ve come to recognize that one of the differences between beer drinkers, aficionados, and beer geeks is the ability to smell.

Through years of listening to Alan’s conversations, brewery tours, reading his blog and his personal tutelage, I have learned a great deal about beer styles, descriptors, hop, grain & yeast varieties, bottling, packaging, and marketing, etc., but I simply haven’t improved my ability to smell what he smells. And it isn’t for a lack of trying … Alan really does thrust glasses of beer under my sad excuse of a nose and encourage me to describe what I smell, but I mostly disappoint him when I can only come up with a word like ‘fruity’ or simply “I smell beer”. Oh over time I’ve become somewhat better at picking up the really strong fruit smells of a raspberry wheat beer, or sometimes I can detect coffee or chocolate, and I suspect if I was blindfolded I could detect between a stout and an ale but that is nothing compared to what Alan and other beer geeks can smell.

Blindfold Alan and set up a table of beer and he’d be able to distinguish beer types, hop types, possibly brewing methods, additional ingredients, and sometimes even the company and specific beer. Now that wouldn’t all be from his ability to smell, but it is quite something to see what he can detect through smell without taking a sip. Then when he does take a sip… the sensory combination of tongue and nose takes him places that most non-beer geeks cannot go.

Alan also likes a lot of smells that I don’t. Hops for instance. A few weeks ago, Alan went with a number of Niagara College students hop picking up north of Guelph, Ontario. He came home with a large cooler and two large bags full of fresh hops for the college to use in some beers. The smell of fresh hops is quite strong and not a smell I enjoy so those hops quickly got banished from the kitchen to the back deck. For me fresh hops sort of smell like slightly rotting broccoli or brussel sprouts but Alan thinks they smell great. So is it any wonder I don’t like the taste of hops?

They say noses and a person’s ability to smell play a huge part in their enjoyment of food and ability to taste subtleties in flavour, so I’m going to say my smell deficiencies contribute to my lack of appreciation for beer. But I can be in a florist’s shop with the heady bouquet of flowers, or a store with hundreds of scented candles with no problem yet they give Alan an instant headache, so I guess a good nose can be as much of a problem as a bad nose!

#20 An Impulsive Stop in NY – Saranac Brewery

When does a beer geek tire of visiting breweries and tasting beer? In my experience never. Oh sure they can fade after a really long day of multiple breweries and endless tastings… but give them a good sleep and point them in the right direction and they will happily visit yet another brewery. So even though we had already visited numerous breweries and brewpubs during our Beer Blogging Conference long weekend, knowing Alan’s passion I actually suggested another stop when I spotted a brewery advertising tours in our CAA guidebook along the route home. And it is a good thing we gave in to the impulsive stop because we visited a lovely brewery.

20130916-175139.jpg

Located in Utica, NY just off the I-90 thruway, Saranac Brewery (http://www.saranac.com)
is a gem in many ways.

1. It offers regular tours during summer months (small fee attached but you get free beer/soft drinks and munchies at the end) and scheduled tours in off season months.

2. It has a lovely gift shop with a wide variety of products including the most eclectic collection of beer steins I’ve ever seen. Yes beer, beer clothing, beer bread kits, pet apparel, soft drinks, artwork, glassware, steins, golf gear… Saranac has a history and they are proud to display it on a lot of items.

20130916-175344.jpg

3. Saranac’s tours are family friendly. I was surprised to see children on our tour but they seemed to enjoy it.

4. The brewery has a long history for a North American brewery and managed to survive the American prohibition period by brewing root beer and other soft drinks. They have continued brewing those soft drinks (the carbon dioxide given off during the beer brewing process is used to carbonate their soft drinks) which is partially why the tour works well for children too. At the end of the tour children and adults get tickets for drinks which for children equates to two full glasses of pop! (Which also works well for adults who don’t want beer or are the designated drivers).

5. A well managed family business, Saranac was very profitable over the decades. Along the tour we saw not one but two genuine Tiffany lamps,

20130916-175948.jpg

a spectacular glass fronted grandfather clock (now valued at over a million dollars),

20130916-180054.jpg

and guest welcoming rooms in dark wood panelling. The warm public areas contrasted nicely with the very typical brewery spaces that were suitably cold and wet as we walked through, but be forewarned, if you have a problem with stairs, this may not be a good tour for you.

20130916-180159.jpg

6. Unlike the more modern breweries we’ve visited to date, Saranac offers a blend of the old and new. The large brewery wort & fermenter tanks date to the fifties and lie horizontally instead of vertically.

20130916-180316.jpg

Still in full use it was very different to observe. However due to a fire in 2012, when Saranac lost their entire bottling production facility, they now have a state-of-art bottling, labelling, packaging line for different sizes of bottles.

20130917-091134.jpg

It really was quite fascinating to watch how it all moved up down and through the building, especially when there were different sizes going into different packaging all weaving in an out at the same time.

7. The tour offered isn’t merely a casual walk through, it is led by a guide who is personable, welcoming and happy to answer questions. The company has deliberately invested in this type of public connection.

8. The odd collection of beer steins and cartoon-like characters are in step with two animated characters that were integral to the advertising used by Saranac in the 1950’s.

20130917-091300.jpg

Back in the early days of television some brilliant advertising executive created short cartoon ads that became so popular in the local area that they were listed in the television listings. They still surface on some branding and while sipping our drinks and munching on pretzel bites post tour – these old-time cartoons were shown on monitors in the lounge.

We ended up spending two hours at Saranac which is one of the longest times we’ve spent at a brewery tour – indicative of not only how much Alan was enjoying asking a zillion questions and taking photos, but of how much time I was willing to let him! We both got in the car for the remaining six hour drive back to Burlington happy we’d added one last brewery stop to our trip.

#19 Big, Clean, Sparkly – Harpoon Brewery

Some showcase breweries like Boston Brewing Company excel at welcoming visitors, making them feel valued, ensuring they have a wonderful time in their space but without actually taking you into the main brewing area where all the actual work takes place. Others invite visitors into their actual brewing, packaging and warehousing areas so you can see for yourself just how big their tanks are and feel you have been allowed into a special place. Located in Boston, Harpoon Brewery is that sort of show-you-everything facility.

20130823-181816.jpg

20130823-181511.jpg

While serving pretzels, mustard and beer pre-tour may have been something specially laid on for the Beer Bloggers Conference attendees… their tour path is marked out and clearly regularly used. The sheer scale of the place (for a craft brewery) is meant to impress and it does.

20130823-181631.jpg

Beginning in the warehousing area, surrounded by towering stacks of skids of beer, we were welcomed by one of the founders Rich Doyle. He gave a brief history of the brewery (it was founded in 1986) and explained Harpoon is the largest craft brewery in Boston. Their large facility has ample parking for tourist buses, public dropping by to purchase beer, and party goers.

20130823-182023.jpg

Harpoon is a destination for many social events and corporate functions. It has long tables and benches for food/beer pairings and an incredibly long bar which serves from all sides, which means Harpoon can easily entertain hundreds of people at once with separation between groups.

20130823-182211.jpg

However I have to point out that when you have a room with hard wooden surfaces, music and 300 people all drinking and talking, it becomes incredibly difficult to hear and they would be well served by bringing in an acoustical engineer to do some sound dampening or they potentially will have lawsuits from employees affected by significant hearing loss. That however is the only negative I can offer about Harpoon’s operation.

For us, the reason Harpoon was an interesting highlight of the weekend was the actual brewing facility tour.

20130823-183042.jpg

I was impressed by how big shiny and super clean everything was. But even after so many brewery tours and visiting Alan at the Niagara College teaching brewery, I can only start to recognize fermenters, test systems, etc. However a tour like Harpoon’s for a bunch of beer geeks is a real treat. With the Beer Bloggers, it quickly became apparent there were three types of people in the crowd:

20130823-182412.jpg

1. Those who were the beer aficionados (for whom the tour was interesting for a quick look-see but don’t actually know or care a lot about the brewing process.) Once they downed their welcoming beer and the tour started, they moved very quickly to get to the end where they knew more beer tasting would be waiting for them. First up and last up to the bar, these folk were generally the group that drank the most. Some of them snapped a few quick photos but some of this group of conference attendees don’t actually even blog – they simply attend to try more beer and connect with other people who love craft beer as much as they do.

2. The serious bloggers who wanted photos for their blog, details on what is brewed there, and jotted notes along the way. They were more knowledgeable, took time to appreciate the tour and made notes during the tastings afterwards.

3. The all out beer geek bloggers who know a great deal not only about craft beer styles and the brewing industry, but brew themselves and along the way asked questions, took dozens of photographs, and were impressed with the operation on a totally different scale. This was a smaller group but because home-brewing is more commonplace in the U.S., this was a fully engaged group. Alan fell into this category so for me a lot of the enjoyment was really just watching him as he peered into every nook and cranny and tried to explain to me what I was seeing and why I should be impressed. When you are married to someone so passionate about beer, following them on a tour like this is just like taking a child to a candy factory or large toy store – their enjoyment is infectious!

20130823-183441.jpg

Harpoon also provided a lovely food beer pairing menu and sample sheet which provided information about what was provided to taste. Good brew pubs also provide this ‘flight’ of beers. I have no idea why beer samples are called flights (as are wine samples) but here’s a good article that gives as good an explanations as I could find: http://craftbeertasters.wordpress.com/2012/10/16/todays-word-beer-flight/

20130825-122750.jpg

There are several advantages of a flight. The serving size is usually small 2-4 ounces so you can try a variety of beers and don’t order and pay for a large glass only to discover you don’t actually like the taste. Flights are usually placed on a tray in a specific order (some places don’t serve their flights in a linear line but hopefully in that case the server does their job and indicates what they recommend as the starting beer and what order to move around the circle). Sampling in the appropriate order means that the taster usually is moving from a lighter more delicate tasting less hoppy beer towards a more full flavoured or very hoppy bitter taste. Sampling in the wrong order means your taste buds may not be able to pick out the subtle nuances of flavour of delicate beers which means you’ve just paid for something you can’t appreciate. If the server doesn’t make a suggestion, the flight isn’t presented left to right, and you don’t know the differences between an IPA, wit, pilsner, porter, etc., gamble on starting with the lightest coloured beer and move to darkest colour. The great thing about a flight of beer is that when you finish – you’ll have a good idea of what you like and if there was something you really loved, you can then order a full glass of it (and not the one that made you gag with its bitterness, sweetness, etc.) Unless Alan has already a good knowledge of beers on draught, he’ll often order a flight. Some flights are only 4 beers but some places we’ve been offer 8 samples.

20130825-122948.jpg

As you can see by the photos, Harpoon really is an impressive facility to visit so if you are in the Boston area and you like visiting breweries, check their website for tour times.

http://www.harpoonbrewery.com

20130823-183455.jpg

#18 Some Cool Experiences – Boston Brewing Company

You might think that after having seen one or two craft breweries you’ve seen pretty much what the rest look like. You’d be wrong. They are all quite different and often speak strongly about their founder’s values, brand, and personality type as well as reflect the business case and funding behind the initiative.

For some more introverted, just-care-about-the-beer types, the appearance of their brewery doesn’t matter because their primary interest is their product and they don’t want members of the public to visit. Don’t expect spotless floors, uncluttered areas, and gleaming fermenters, they won’t be there. When visiting these types of breweries I usually just let Alan go in so I live in blissful ignorance of the scum on the floor.

Most of the breweries we visited while in Portsmouth, Portland, Boston and Utica (yes we stopped at another brewery on the drive home), fell into the showcase brewery category. These facilities tend to be larger, pristine places, where outreach to the public is a key part of their strategy. Each brewery tries to be distinctive, welcoming, and memorable so following the tour you have warm memories of what you saw, the beers you were offered, and you speak about the experience to your friends, tweet/blog/post and therefore help the brewery in the positive promotion of their beers. Touring these types of facilities is interesting even for the non-beer drinker, but an awesome experience for the beer geek. Needless to say – Alan was SOOOOO happy, asking a million questions, filling up his camera media cards, and making notes furiously (not to mention laying down a few dollars on memorabilia).

I won’t bore you with descriptions of every brewery and brewpub we visited while at the North American Beer Bloggers Conference but I will highlight 3 that should you be in the area, you may wish to visit.

Boston Beer Company:

20130817-180704.jpg

A very large craft brewery well known in the U.S., even many Canadians are aware of its Samuel Adams Beer. It is often carried in specialty beer stores in various provinces and where we live, in the LCBO (Liquor Control Board of Ontario) stores. Boston Beer Company makes a variety of good quality craft beers,

20130817-195812.jpg

and has won numerous awards through the years for its beers.

20130817-202740.jpg

Started in 1984 by Jim Koch, it was one of the pioneers of craft beer making in the US and apart from Sierra Nevada Brewing, the only one to have survived and thrived for the past nearly 30 years. It isn’t in an impressive building from the outside and Jim Koch told us stories about the gangs in the neighbourhood when he first started out, but inside is a different story.

20130817-200213.jpg

We didn’t see every area but the space open to tours and visitors was clearly designed to impress. Spread throughout the area are a variety of rooms with different bars to ensure that no matter where guests are, they aren’t far from obtaining a glass of beer.

20130817-200354.jpg

There is a very nice gift shop where people can take home wee momentos

20130817-200542.jpg

or more expensive items like jackets and of course purchase some brew to take home.

BBC has always been a strong supporter of the craft beer industry and has a program to support start ups.

20130817-200706.jpg

As a company they have realized that it isn’t good enough to maintain a steady stream of a solid performing beer. Jim Koch’s vision is to ensure they are ‘fiercely innovative’ and always pushing the envelope of experimentation, new taste sensations, and expanding the market.

An excellent example of Jim’s craft beer innovation was when his team crafted a special beer called Utopias. When this beer was released it made headlines around the world because it took beer in a totally unique and rare direction. Here in Ontario a bottle of Utopias costs approximately $115 and the LCBO held a lottery for the first two years for the 200 bottles it was able to procure, but down in the States they often went for much more (upwards of $200 if you could get one). That much for a single bottle of beer??? Yes but it isn’t an ordinary beer.

20130817-200845.jpg

At 27% alcohol, Utopias is meant to be savoured in small quantities and unlike most beers, stores well and doesn’t need to be drunk in one serving. It is cask aged in barrels previously used for different spirits like Bourbon, so has a very strong, dark, rich flavour, not dissimilar to an after dinner fine Port. One bottle will last for a long time or make for an extremely special evening for a gathering of friends.

20130817-201027.jpg

It ages for 12 months and for a variety of reasons is made in very small batches contributing to the demand for it by true beer geeks with deep wallets (or extremely understanding wives). I still remember when Alan first told me about Utopias and after some pleading (you know when your pup gives you those sad hopeful eyes while parked in front of his treats?) we enlisted various people to enter the lottery to try to obtain a bottle for him but to no avail. A few months later he came home happy one evening having tasted it, with a photo of himself holding a Utopias bottle (one enterprising brew pub sold 1 oz samples for $20 which included a photo). So imagine how happy he’s been when for the past two years he has been able to purchase a bottle. Now imagine how even more happy Alan was when we not only were given samples of 2012 Utopias at Boston Brewing Company, but the tasting session was in a room surrounded by barrels of aging 2013 Utopias and personally led by Jim Koch.

20130817-201203.jpg

Participants were given a glimpse into Jim’s inspiration for the brew, and also taught how to serve it (the amount and shape of the glass made for a startling difference in the sensory enjoyment). Had they sold Utopias glasses in the gift shop I actually would have committed the unthinkable – supported Alan in the purchase of a couple more glasses for his collection! (See post #5)

While I suspect the Utopias sampling was a special treat for participants of the Beer Blogger’s Conference, even without it a visit to the Boston Brewing Company is a great example of the passion and vision of one of the great craft beer makers in North America.

#17 100 Bottles of Beer on the Table, 100 Bottles of Beer

Our trip to Boston was after all to attend a Beer Blogging conference, and it was pretty clear from all the pre-conference materials posted on-line that drinking beer would be an important part of the experience. I know the idea of sampling a wide variety of craft beers was something Alan really looked forward to but we were both surprised at the quantity of beer consumed per day. I can certainly understand why the conference has been gaining in popularity and loyal returning attendees, if only for the opportunity to sample so many local to the host city beers, but also beers brought in by the beer distributors and conference attendees. Some beers were sampled at organized events (i.e. brewery tours, official lunch beer/food pairings, the infamous ‘live beer blogging event’, welcoming and end of day beer socials, etc., but there was also a great quantity and diversity of beers available on the tour buses, and during the day at the conference sessions

20130812-172156.jpg brought in by participants who carefully transported beer in from their regions to share. All of this beer made for a very jolly time, so if you’re looking for a conference that is really serious, discussing possibly contentious issues – forget the Beer Bloggers conference because all I saw were people really happy to be there and having a great time. And as more beer flowed – they just got happier.

Interestingly enough, with all that beer flowing, I only saw a few ‘tipsy’ people (largely women who due to their physical size just couldn’t metabolize the beer as easily as the larger males), but there were no visibly drunk or obnoxious people ever. All that said, I did observe some things which strangely reduced the diversity of beer consumed while increasing the quantity of beer drunk.

There were only a few events that actually offered food pairing samples or the beer tastings in sample size glasses.

20130812-171251.jpg

Often courses were accompanied by full bottles, pint size glasses, 6 ounce glasses, and an endless supply of free refills.

20130812-171416.jpg Continue reading