Saturday, July 21, 2012

Beer Blogger Conference 2012 - Summary Part 1.

Alright, I've had a couple of days to think about how I wanted to do this... and mainly came to the conclusion that I really doubt most readers want to know the exact details of a beer bloggers' conference that they weren't even at.  I mean, other than a few beer blogger friends, does anyone else really give a shit?  I didn't think so.  However, I'd still like to use this space as a bit of a journal, and attempt a little different type of entry... a play by play of the weekend.  My hazy story of the 2012 Beer Bloggers' Conference... pieced together by my hazy memory, Foursquare, and UnTappd. 

Thursday, July 12th: 

03:30 AM: Holy crap, it's early.  Jay Ducote of BiteAndBooze.com and I were flying Southwest Airlines on standby buddy passes thanks to the lovely and talented Amanda Ball, and the flight with the most seats was the 6:30 out of New Orleans.  Knowing we needed to be there at least an hour early and were looking at an hour drive plus some time to get ready and wanting to give ourselves a little cushion... yikes.  You know what's worst than flying at 6:30 AM though?  Not flying at all because there's no standby room... or paying for your flights.   

05:15 AM: Well the drive was fine, we made it to New Orleans, the flight had plenty of room, and everything was looking smooth so far!   The best thing about Southwest Airlines, other than the buddy passes, is the free checked bags.  Especially when you have a case of Tin Roof Beer to bring for the hyped "Night Of Many Bottles" Saturday night.  Oops, we have cans.  They'll get over it. 

06:30 AM: Take off, nap.  Wake up during the flight to notice that the barely out of high school (if even that) kid next to me was reading "50 Shades Darker" and laugh.  It was a dude, not even a chick.  What the fuck, kid?  Resume napping...

08:30 AM: Attempt to land at Chicago Midway... decide 50' off the ground that there is someone in the way and pull up.  Well, I guess that's better than landing on top of another plane and dying in a massive steel and plastic fireball and cutting this blog post a bit short, right?

08:45 AM: Arrive at Chicago Midway, take the El downtown, find our hotel, take a load off for a bit... still tired!

A room with a view.

11:30 AM:  Jay and I took off on foot to Frontera Restaurant in Chicago. This wasn't actually part of the conference, but we were there early and met up with good friend Kevin Hebert at this acclaimed Mexican restaurant and were thoroughly impressed.  They also had a pretty nice selection of regional beers, which had me smiling.  I love it when a restaurant pays attention to their beer selections and at least makes an effort.  The ceviche and mole was all awesome, highly recommend anyone go there if they are in Chicago and want an alternative to deep dish pizza.  Beers: Goose Island Marisol, Tyranena Rocky's Revenge Bourbon Brown, Wild Onion Hop Slayer DIPA.

Wild Onion Hop Slayer Double IPA, can't you read the can?

02:00 PM: After plenty of food, conversation, beer, and dessert it was back to the hotel for us.  While walking I decided to make a short detour and check out the Cloud Gate sculpture, or "the bean," which was pretty close to our hotel, and I'm glad I did.  It was there the last time I visited Chicago on Guys' Trip 2.0 but we never made it downtown that time.  What was even more cool though, was the adjacent stage at the Jay Pritzker Pavillion.  I'd read about it but seeing the architectural marvel up close was pretty fantastic.  And that's going to be it from the architect side of me... but when in Chicago... 

If you look really hard you can find me in the reflection.

Apparently this was permitted as a sculpture, not a building.


04:50 PM: Another nap back at the hotel after checking out some of Millenium Park was nice, plus my phone was dying... but we had a pub crawl to catch.  About a mile walk later we were at the lovely HoJo Downtown motel.  This was the designated hotel for the Chicago excursion but by the time we decided to get a hotel rather than crash with friends it was booked and we went with the Hyatt instead.  Oops! 

06:00 PM: We met a bunch of the bloggers, took a quick walk to the El, played a game of clown car on the train with beer bloggers, and then had a quick walk but around 6 the group made it to the Goose Island Clybourn pub.  I've been to the Goose Island Wrigleyville pub before and loved it. In fact my experience with Bourbon County Stout there years ago was one of the catalysts toward my love for craft beer.  Unfortunately there was no Bourbon County Stout on the menu tonight.  I was actually expecting more of a free-for-all at the pub, with bloggers ordering what they wanted and trying various brews but what we had in store was a full beer dinner!  The Goose Island beers came out in order: Sofie, Lolita, Matilda, Juliet, Madame Rose.  The food certainly satsified, and the gift bags were far better than expected.  I now have a Goose Island 312 Urban Wheat coffee mug sitting at my desk!  Plus some bottles of beer and a sweet bottle opener. 

Goose Island Sofie... isn't she pretty?


08:00PM: Time to move on... the next stop, Piece Brewery & Pizzeria.  The beers: Worryin' Ale Rye, Dysfuntionale IPA, and Roland the Headless Assistant Brewmaster Oatmeal Stout.  I've gotta say that the beers were all really good and I loved the vibe of the old building this place was in.  The pizza also looked and smelled fantastic, almost enough to get a piece even though we had just been fed four courses!  Would go back in a heartbeat. 

Our three beers at Piece Brewery & Pizzeria.

09:00 PM: I'm kind of making up the times now... I don't remember how long we were staying at each place or how long it took to bus between them, but I do know where all we went.  And after Piece Brewery & Pizzeria we went to Revolution Brewing Company, another brewpub somewhere in the Chicago area.  We were on a party bus with a funnel and three-way shot pourer... I wasn't really paying attention to directions!  The place was nice and we were ushered into a room upstairs where I was able to try the Revolution Coup D'Etat Biere De Garde, the Revolution Iron Fist Pale Ale, and a Hop Juice DIPA from Two Brothers Brewing Company.  I love the themes that Revolution plays on, and all three beers were pretty fantastic.  

10:00 PM:  Or somewhere around 10... shit if I know anymore... we pulled up to Haymarket Pub & Brewery.  The head brewer was there to chat with us and talk a little about his beers, which was fantastic.  He also had a special Simcoe IPA tapped just for us.  We started with the Indignant Bourbon Barrel Imperial Stout and a Blacksox Porter.  The porter was quite good but it was really overshadowed by the insanity that was that bourbon barrel stout.  In fact, I wanted to say that this was the Templeton Rye version, but I can't say for sure and either way it was whiskey heavy and reservation free.  One of the biggest and best beers I've tried in a while.  Between sips of those two I also had a chance to try the New Holland Dragon's Milk thanks to some new beer blogger friends.  After those were over Jay and I decided to have another round before we caught a cab back to our hotel... so it was time for the Girl And The Goatee II Saison which is a collaboration between Brewmaster Pete Crowley and Top Chef winner Stephanie Izard, and the Lizzie's Simcoe IPA we had been told about.  As much as I enjoyed the saison it was the simcoe IPA that really stood out... mental note, brew more with Simcoe if I can get my hands on some!  Alright... all that beer later it was time to head out.

Nothing pairs with dark beer better than more dark beer.

12:30 AM: Or so... back to the hotel to crash, tomorrow is a busy day.

Stay tuned for part 2 (of 4... unless I get lazy...) coming soon!