Monday, July 23, 2012

Beer Blogger Conference 2012 - Summary Part 3.

Time for Part 3 of my hazy story of the 2012 Beer Bloggers' Conference... pieced together by memory, Foursquare, and UnTappd. 

Saturday, July 14th:
09:30 AM: The first session of the day covered the three-tier system and kicked off at 9:30 AM, but I missed it. I could have forced myself to get up and get ready, but I already know what's up with the three-tier system... it's shoved down our throats in Louisiana more than most states.  Anyway, Jay was on the panel for the 10:30 session, and I wasn't going to miss that one.

10:30 AM: Back to the conference, I grabbed a spot at the very front so I could take a few pictures for Jay during the session.  He was panelizing on the topic: Networking with Local Breweries, Distributors, and Retailers.  Now as a beer blogger networking with local breweries is a no-brainer and something I've done a pretty good job of.  I've worked some with the retailers although more through Raise A Glass than the blog, but I am hosting my first ever beer tasting July 26th at Roux Wine & Spirits!  So that will be fun, and it's a product of networking with retailers.  I've never had much luck working with the local distributors though... Mockler invited Jay and I out there for a tour of the place one time and we had some good talks with them about the craft beer world and their plans but nothing developed past that, which is a shame.  Randy Clemens was on the panel from Stone Brewing, and he absolutely cracked me up, with one of the best answers to a question yet.  When asked what could be done when someone just doesn't seem responsive to networking, he simple said, "Fuck 'em." and left it at that.  Jay did a great job presenting but was a little rushed for time.  It happens.  Here's a picture though!

Jay loses the facial hair part of the competition.

11:30 AM: International Beers in the US! First off, they supplied a few beers, and the Pilsner Urquell helped me get a beer in before noon.  And we all know you can't drink all day if you don't start before noon!  They had some really interesting information regarding how they are trying to keep their beer as fresh as possible and temperature controlled all the way from Pilsen, Czech Republic to New York and then throughout the country.  Fresh Pilsner Urquell is good Pilsner Urquell.  Skunked Pilsner Urquell is fucking nasty.

Fresh Pilsner Urquell,  before noon!

12:30 PM: We all headed upstairs where the Jacob Leinenkugel Brewing Company had the place set up for us.  We were started off with their Hefeweizen which I really enjoyed, then moved on to the Summer Shandy, which is a mix between beer and lemonade.  Um... if you like hard lemonade you'd probably like this one, because that's basically what it was.  The next beer on the docket was the Big Eddy Imperial IPA, from their "Big Eddy" series of bigger limited beers, and it was quite impressive.  I think this one turned some heads around the room as far as what Leinenkugel's can do.  We get some Leinie's in Baton Rouge but it's just the standards... if this one makes it we are in for a treat.  The final beer was a Big Eddy Wee Heavy and it was also very good, so props to Leinenkugel for putting out some really good beers and thanks for the lunch!  Oh, and as a bonus they gave us each a Big Eddy Russian Imperial Stout to take home, I'll try it at some point and give a review!

Proof that they can (and do) make really good beer.

02:00 PM: It was time for the next session, but I had a beer run to make, so I made a quick trip up to the room to drop some beers off and then headed to Crown Liquors, which was about a mile walk from the hotel.   I wasn't the only one with the idea, as there were plenty of beer bloggers looking through the beer racks!  I settled on a trio of Three Floyds beers and an Indiana mixed 6-pack, then it was another mile walk back to the conference.  See, conferences are good for my new years' resolution

A few of the beers that made it home!

03:00 PM: It was time for one of the sessions I was looking forward to the most, and I don't think I was along in this one, the Spiegelau comparative tasting featuring the Brooklyn Brewery and Garrett Oliver!  The rumor was already floating around that some Brooklyn Black Ops was in the house, so we were pretty geeked about that.  First though, we learned exactly why Spiegelau is superior, and it had a LOT to do with the quality and relative thin-ness of their glasses.  If you get to chance to use them, they are far thinner than a typical beer glass, and also more clear.  The first beer we tried was the Brooklyn Sorachi Ace in the tall pilsner glass side by side with a shaker pint... and yes it made a difference.  The beer had a much more powerful aroma and held its head longer in the Spiegelau glass.  From there we tried the Brooklyner Whear beer in the wheat beer glass and the Brooklyn East India Pale Ale in their lager glass.  Up next was the tulip glass so we were all hoping for the Black Ops, but instead they rolled out some Local 2.  A great beer, yeah, but there was a definite bit of disappointment in the room... greedy beer bloggers!  After enjoying the Local 2 and a few more words from Garrett Oliver and the Spiegelau rep they gave in and announced that as a special treat we would be getting some Black Ops.  FUCK YEAH GARRETT OLIVER YOU'RE THE MAN!  This is one that I'd been longing to try for quite a while, especially since Brooklyn is available down in Baton Rouge, and it did not disappoint at all.  Talk about ending the session on a high note! 

So good.  So very very good.

04:15 PM: As if we needed any more beer, it was time to roll out to the Indiana Microbrewers Festival.  Wait, so there's a beer festival going on the same weekend we're in town (good timing, organizers!) AND we get to go, AND our admission is included in the cost of the conference?  This weekend just keeps on getting better doesn't it?  So everybody basically hauls ass upstairs to drop off their glassware sets and extra bottles and then hauls ass back down to catch the buses... and we're off.

04:45 PM: We make it to the festival and everyone heads in... from where we walk in it appears to be a large softball field with a row of port-o-lets on the left side and then two really big tents serving up beer... well alright, I like tents serving up beer!  Once we got closer it became apparent that there was far more down the hill behind the tents, in fact there was another entire lawn ringed with tents from some breweries that I recognized from earlier in the conference like Ram and Upland.  I wasted no time grabbing a beer and getting right back in line for a second one.  After a few more brews I realized that there was even more to it... another lower area filled with tents featuring local breweries.  (I guess everyone here was a local brewery now that I think about it... it is in the name!) I just kept trying different beers, not bothering to check in, and marveling at how many options there were.  Eventually I found Jay again and some other beer bloggers and we made sure to catch at least one of Sun King's beer releases, which were timed for every half hour!  In what seemed like no time we were headed back to the bus... man I wish I could have spent the whole afternoon here but there were other things to do!

Oooh look, we're in the VIP line!  Or is it the DD line?

06:30 PM: Bus it out to Monarch Beverage, which is part of World Class Beer, the largest beverage distributor in the nation!   We arrived in two groups and started off with a catered dinner... nothing special as far as the food goes but there were a few selections of good beer! I tried a Bell's Lager Of The Lakes and Atwater Grand Circus IPA before we were treated to a Gulden Draak 9000 Quad, and then a Bell's Black Note Stout.  I must say the Black Note Stout was fantastic and I enjoyed the Quad as well.  Then we were off to the tour!  We started off with an HR lecture about how awesome the healthcare benefits are at Monarch, and I've gotta admit that they put my cushy government job benefits to shame.  Good for them!  Then it was on the warehouse, which was extremely impressive.  I want to say they said it was over 2 million cases of alcohol, which would last them about a week and a half if they got no new stock in.  So basically they process over a million cases of booze per week.  Incredible, and even more incredible to see it stacked up across a massive climate-controlled warehouse.  It puts the role of the distributor in a different perspective to comprehend all of that inventory getting to the right place at the right time.  And with their new sorting/tracking systems we were told they were at 100% order accuracy.  I mean, I can't prove that, but it was an impressive display of technology.

Tour group #1 goes in search of the Ark of the Covenant.

09:00 PM: After the tour it was back to the buses and back to the Marriott for the infamous (or so I had heard) Night Of Many Bottles, of NOMB.  All of the conference attendees and sponsors had brought beers with them to share, so the tables were filled with beers from across the country, sorted by region.  Within a few minutes of walking in I had tried a Three Floyds Apocalypse Cow, an Alchemist Heady Topper, a Bruery Black Tuesday, and even a Westvleteren 12.  The hits kept coming all night long, and it got pretty hazy, but man, what a night full of good beer.  The Tin Roof that Jay and I brought received good reception among the beer nerds, which was nice to see.  I don't think anyone would put it on par with the beers I just mentioned but some session beers hit the spot as well.  So much beer... and the conference wasn't even over!

Southern Beers!

Check back for part 4 tomorrow!

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