Saturday, July 9
You would think that after a night of binge-drinking, no one would be
in the mood for seminars as early as 9am on a Saturday morning, but
there was quite a turnout for them. Sessions included social networking
strategy, working with brands, analytics, and content creation. These
may sound boring and academic, but the event is called the Beer Bloggers
Conference – so there’s definitely an educational component to
it. In fact, I believe most first-time attendees are drawn to the event
in order to learn how to become a better blogger. They’re not just
going for all the beer and food (though I’m sure that has a lot to do
As much as I enjoy the conference and the company that runs it, a
complaint I’d have is that these educational components should be filmed
and put online for anyone to see. Put it behind a paywall if you want,
but it seems like a shame that this information should be so exclusive
that only a few dozen people get to see it once a year. It would also be
a disservice for me to try to condense the information of these
workshops down into a paragraph or two because there’s so much
information. Perhaps the presenters have their slides online (if I can
find them, I’ll link to them here).
For lunch we all took some tour buses over to the World of Beer on
Fowler Avenue near University of Southern Florida. This was a
four-course beer and food pairing meal put on by MillerCoors. Now, I
know many of you may be rolling your eyes at this: one of the world’s
biggest macro breweries hosting a lunch for bloggers who most likely
despise them? Well, nearly every #BBC has included a macro-sponsored
event in some form, probably because those companies can more easily
afford to host a shindig of this size. I’m sure they also do this to
extend an olive branch to us beer snobs. Even their reps are pretty cool
and don’t try to sell us on anything or compare their products to real,
classy craft beer.
So can MillerCoors host a decent beer lunch? Yeah, actually they can.
These four courses were pretty good, and so were the drinks that
accompanied them. Leinenkugel’s Beergarten Tart was a nice
starter/wannabe Berliner Weisse and the famous WOB hanging pretzel made a
great appetizer. The Blue Moon Belgian Table Pils was a decent lager,
but like most Blue Moon beers – was completely lacking in any Belgian
quality. I remarked to the table that I’d probably like this beer more
if I didn’t know who it was made by. The artisan sausage and cheese
board made a nice charcuterie (then again, have you ever had a sausage
and cheese board you didn’t like?). The main course was a little
country-fried pork patty with a fried egg on top and some greens on the
side. It was okay, though I liked the Pilsner Urquell much better (that
may be an all-time favorite beer for me). The pretzel bread pudding and
Crispin pear cider made a perfect desert – sweet, but not cloying. All
in all, I’d say it was a very nice lunch. I also liked the fact that we
were able to take home a bunch of free beer glasses, too.
After lunch it was back to the hotel for more talks; the highlight of
which was the keynote speech by Stan Hieronymus – one of America’s most
seasoned beer writers. He’s written several books, and he still works
as a full-time journalist. Not surprisingly, he regaled us with tales of
the days when he and Michael Jackson and a small contingent of authors
were the only ones writing about beer for fun and/or profit. He also
talked about the ethics involved in professional writing and soapboxed
about the Oxford Comma for a little bit.
As the afternoon went on we had another beer-centric event, but it
was also a highly educational presentation as well. Some of the brewers
of Petrus – a brand of sour Belgian beers – talked about what goes in to
making these beers: from picking the right ingredients, to the brewing
process, to the science of using bacteria in just the right way, to the
building of foeders, and finally to discovering the perfect ratio at
which to blend them. It’s a lot of hard, meticulous, tedious work (and a
lot of waiting). The time-lapse videos they showed were pretty impressive.
They gave each of us a six-pack of their “Sour Power” box which
contains their three core brews and let us experiment with different
blending ratios. Personally, I prefer the red the best as it has a
delicious fruity flavor akin to sangria. The brown and the pale are
pretty nice too. Experimenting with blends is a fun way of making a
great product even better.
One of the hallmarks of #BBC is the annual “Live Beer Blogging” event
in which 10 different breweries each have a few minutes to pour and
present their beer to 10 different tables. It’s essentially “speed
dating” but with pro brewers (or reps) selling you on why their beer is
great. I’m not going to go over all 10 beers we got to try, though I
will say Cigar City’s “Decoherence” – an imperial stout with coffee and
coconut aged in bourbon barrels – was far and away the best of them all
(and something of a tease, since it’s not a beer you can buy in stores).
JDub’s “Bell Cow” chocolate milk stout was also really nice and was
much better than I remember it being when I tried it just a month or so
Before we knew it, the evening was approaching which means it was
time for the round of three mini beer dinners at three local breweries.
Tampa’s own Brew Bus did all the driving and of course poured each of
their beers on each leg of the journey. The group I went with wound up
at Ulele Brewing first.
I had never heard of this place until Saturday evening, but I was
quite impressed with it. The facility itself is beautiful, and was
probably helped by the fact the perfectly landscaped lawn looked great
in the golden sunset. We only had two beers paired with three small
plates, but it was quite enjoyable.
Next up was Tampa’s claim to fame: Cigar City Brewing. I’ve been to
their restaurant uptown, but this was my first time going to the brewery
itself. We got a little behind-the-scenes catered meal and tour. Some
people even got to try their world renowned Hunahpu imperial stout. I
tried several of their tap-only releases from the tasting room. It
seemed like we were only there for a short while, as we all climbed back
on the buses en route to the final destination of the night: Coppertail
I love the look of this brewery and pub: built into a very old
industrial building, it’s got a vibe and look more commonly associated
with something you’d see in New York, Chicago or Philly. There was
another nice spread of small gourmet bites, though by this point I was
getting so full from eating and drinking for several hours straight that
I was starting to hurt.
When we arrived back at the hotel around 10:30pm I was exhausted. I
seemed to be in the minority though. Twitter was full of chatter of
#BBC16 attendees trying to organize even more drinking, bottle shares,
cigar-smoking, karaoke contests, and other fun activities. Some people
can party all night I guess; I can’t.
To be concluded…