Monday, July 11, 2016

2016 Beer Bloggers Conference in Tampa: Day 1

Tampa is quickly becoming one of the biggest, most enthusiastic craft beer cities on the East Coast. Just a few years ago there were only a handful of breweries in all of Florida, but now the greater Tampa area is home to well over 50 production breweries, brewpubs, and micro/nano breweries. With the craft beer culture in this town growing exponentially and organically, it’s not surprising the seventh annual Beer Bloggers Conference was held here this past weekend.

This was my second conference; I attended the 2013 gathering in Boston which was a lot of fun. I’ve changed and evolved a lot as a beer blogger and writer in just three short years. The biggest change is that I no longer do much vlogging, and have stopped doing video beer reviews altogether. Writing is a lot more demanding than simply shooting and editing video, and I’ve found I actually prefer taking the path of more resistance in recent years. To wit: I co-authored The Handbook of Porters & Stouts in 2014.

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Anyway, back in 2013 I chronicled just about every minute of the conference and that was a lot of work. This time around I’m going to keep the recap pretty basic, so here’s we go:

DAY 1: Friday, July 8

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The conference (or #BBC16 for short) kicks off in the early afternoon with Julia Herz – the Craft Beer Program Director of the Brewers Association – giving the opening presentation. Not surprisingly, she talked about what a great time it is to be a craft beer drinker, brewer, and blogger. The numbers she presented were pretty impressive; so much so that they’re almost a little scary. At the rate the industry is growing, there’s a lot of concern that a “craft beer bubble” is getting ready to pop. Julia was able to assuage my fears with her presentation since it was so comprehensive, well-research and she’s a pretty charismatic speaker (though I can’t help but remain just a bit skeptical).

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There were two more beer industry talks that afternoon. First up [above] was a panel on the Tampa and Florida beer scene featuring Eric Criss, Mark Denote, Joey Redner – the founder of Cigar City, and Gerald Whalen – writer of the Beer In Florida blog and author of the book Florida Breweries. Then, there was an educational segment by an economist who works for the wholesalers. He offered some interesting and funny insights to the biz; his slide about breweries name was pretty memorable.


After a few hours of lectures seminars, it was time for our first beer drinking event. Green Flash held a tasting sampling featuring six of their beers as well as two Alpine brews (Green Flash now owns Alpine). They gave away two bottles to each participant and a cool little “swag bag.” One of the best beers I had at this Green Flash event (and of the entire weekend) was a magnificent bourbon barrel-aged imperial (13.5% ABV) coffee stout called “Lustrous Frumento with Coffee.” Apparently, it’s a tap-only release, so I’m thankful I got to try this limited brew. If this were in bottles I think it could garner a reputation akin to Founders KBS or Goose Island Bourbon County Brand Stout.


Since the entire #BBC16 was beer-centric, I’m sure I don’t have to tell you there was a lot of beer being sampled over 72 hours. Unlike some of my other blogs, I’m not going to describe every single brew I drank nor every food item I ate.

I met fellow Floridian beer bloggers Kelli Matheny of and Linda Johnson of

I met fellow Floridian beer bloggers Kelli Matheny of and Linda Johnson of
After this event, we all went back to where we started for dinner. It was a buffet with four different breweries in each corner of the room pouring samples while the hotel’s chefs cooked up small plates. Funky Buddha’s French Toast Ale paired with a mini sausage and egg muffin was the best pairing of the evening. Cigar City was also pouring their Marshall Zukhov Imperial Stout which made a great liquid dessert.

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Dinner wrapped around 8pm, with a “beer social” scheduled for immediately thereafter (it’s essentially a little beer festival held in one of the adjacent ballrooms). Also, “The Night of 1,000 Bottles” went down at 10pm – a title which is no misnomer since pretty much every attendee brought beer from their region to share. Unfortunately, I missed these two events because I was in my room sleeping. That’s right, I’m just that lame. I got drunk pretty quickly and thought a two or three hour nap would be refreshing, but next thing I knew it was the middle of the night. D’oh! X(

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