Alright, after some deliberation on whether to write this post or not, I was convinced to post something about the 2013 Beer Bloggers Conference. Apparently enough readers & friends care, and that's flattering, so thanks you guys and here you go. Beer Bloggers Conference 2013, Portland, Maine to Boston, Massachusetts... the best of the best! (And some of the worst.)
Best Beer In The New Orleans Airport: Abita Andygator! This was my first beer of the trip, while waiting to depart for Cleveland, and I think it's probably the best offering you're going to find in MSY. Honorable mention would be Abita Turbodog, but it was only in bottles, and I generally go for draft when available.
Best Place To Drink In The Cleveland Airport: Great Lake Brewing Company! That's what foursquare told us when we landed, and it was right next to our gate, so beers at Great Lake it was. Then the psychic ticket counter lady said, "Oh, you must be Eric, Jay, and Dustin" when we walked up... she even got the order right. Yes, we were the last three people on the plane to Portland... and yes the stop for a beer was necessary.
Best Name For A Brewpub... Probably Ever: Gritty McDuff's! The beer was pretty good but nothing amazing... but that's an awesome name. This was our first stop after checking into the hotel and walking to the old port section of town, which basically serves as a downtown in Portland. This would also be our last attempt to walk from the hotel to the old port... it turns out cabs are pretty reliable in Portland. Baton Rouge, take notice.
Best Place In Portland To Watch Tim Hudson's Career End: Commercial Street Pub! Really this place was a baseball fan's wet dream... they have about a dozen TVs and even though a lot were showing the Red Sox there were probably 5 other games going on around the room. We had a few local craft beers, watching Tim Hudson's ankle explode, and then we attempted to move on to Novare Res Bier Cafe'... which brings us to the next award:
Hardest Place To Find In All Of Maine: Novare Res Bier Cafe! Okay, it didn't help that we had been drinking, and that it was at night. It also didn't help that my phone was pointing us a mile or so away, and when we got there it turns out that was the Portland homeless shelter. It also didn't help that once Dustin found it on his phone (not an iPhone) and we started going the right direction, his phone lost connection to the maps and we were once again in the dark. It also really didn't help that the place is off of an alley and the address couldn't even be found on my phone. So yeah, we didn't make it... at least not until the next day.
Best Place To Get Breakfast With A Beer In Portland: Hot Suppa! This fresh and local focused spot came highly recommended, so we decided to check it out for a late breakfast after getting a solid night's sleep in. It lived up to the hype, plus they had 6 beers on tap, mostly local. Local beers, good quality breakfast food... I liked this place a lot. I tried an Farmhouse Pale Ale from Oxbow Brewing, the Pemaquid Oyster Stout from Marshall Wharf Brewing, and a Bar Harbor Real Ale from Atlantic Brewing. Plus some scrambled eggs with ham, bacon, and feta complete with grits and delicious toast.
Best New Brewpub In Portland: In'finiti Fermentation & Distillation! After leaving Hot Suppa! Dustin, Jay, and I walked down to the waterfront and headed toward to the old port. We were about to stop at an English/Irish-styled watering hole when I noticed a brewpub sign across the street by the harbor. Brewpub? Yes please! We caught them just as they were opening, found a seat overlooking part of the harbor, and went to work on all of In'finiti's offerings. My favorite was either the Sour Trouble (de Struisse collaboration) or the Transwesteit 12 Belgian Quad. The oddest offering was definitely the Mar-GOSE-Rita... a German "Gose" beer, which is a wheat ale with salt and sometimes soured. This one from In'finiti also had lime in it to give it a margarita quality. It wasn't bad, but it just wasn't my style. Unfortunately it didn't look like they had any of their own liquors ready yet... understandable, it takes a lot of time to produce good spirits.
Best Drink/Food Deal At An Irish Pub In Portland: Ri Ra Irish Pub! They had a deal where you could get a pint of Long Trail IPA and also a pound of either wings, mussels, or... I think fries? for $10. We went with the mussels.
Best Restaurant We Visited In Portland: Duckfat! If you're ever in Portland, go here. At roughly 3:00 on a Thursday they were already packed with a waiting list. Worth it. I'm not a foodie or a food blogger like Jay is over at BiteAndBooze, but I still know good food when I eat it.
Best Bar To Charge An iPhone: The Thirsty Pig! One challenge about a conference like this is keeping the phone juiced. While Jay was making a pit stop at a local area hotel Dustin and I stopped in at Thirsty Pig (we would be back later the same night... but so what?) to grab some pints and charge the phones. We went with the Peeper Ale and the Mo from Maine Beer Company... both American Pale Ales and both excellent. They also do house-made sausages and hot dogs... too bad we had just eaten and were about to eat again.
Best Second Appearance On The Awards Show: Novare Res Bier Cafe! With a little more time to kill before the pre-conference excursion officially kicked off we finally found this place (right across from The Thirsty Pig it turns out) and we ordered a round. And some t-shirts... my only non-beer or conference swag souvenir from the trip.
Best Cheese - Day 1 Edition: Cabot Creamery! Our first official conference event kicked off at the Cabot Creamery, with all the cheese being paired with beers from Geary's, a local brewery. Cheese would go on to become a theme of the weekend, this is absolutely not a bad thing. Anyone who doesn't like cheese can't really be a friend of mine.
Best Beer Dinner Host: Kai of Sebago Brewing! Kai was the man, making us all feel extremely welcome for the Sebago beer dinner. The dinner itself was pretty tasty as well, especially the lobster rolls. Excuse me... the lobstah rolls. In addition, Sebago had some really nice beers for us, inlcuding the Frye's Leap IPA, Patersbier, and Citra Saaz Down, a beer created especially for the conference in collaboration between Sebago and some of the local area bloggers. We were also treated to a sneak preview of their newest seasonal, a Bonfire Rye smoked ale.
Best Shameless Distributor Hookup: Patriot Craft Alliance! After the beer dinner at Sebago we all headed over to The Thirsty Pig for the after party... and Patriot Craft Alliance was nice enough to pick up the tab for all the Goose Island we could drink. Yeah, Goose Island is now an AB-InBev brand, but with Bourbon County Stout and Paradisi on tap, I sure as hell wasn't going to say no. Good beer is good beer, and those are some great beers.
Best Third Appearance On The Awards Show: Novare Res Bier Cafe! This was our last stop in Portland, after a few Goose Island beers at The Thirsty Pig. Most of the group eventually made our way across the street to the Novare Res Bier Cafe, but it was getting late and we had been drinking all day, so I called it a night after two beers here. Novare Res really impressed me in general, really fun beer bar and I highly recommend both it and The Thirsty Pig for anyone heading to Portland, Maine.
Best Place To Stop Between Portland And Boston: The Portsmouth Brewery! This turned out to really be a nice pit stop for lunch and beer. The food was great, the people were awesome, and the beer was flowing freely. The Portsmouth Brewery is a brewpub in downtown Portsmouth but they are sister-breweries with the larger Smuttynose on the outskirts of town. This means that we had all the Smuttynose lineup at our disposal in addition to the Portsmouth beers. Some of the highlights included the Bluebeery and Barleywine from Portsmouth as well as the Cluster's Last Stand and Durty from Smuttynose.
Best Beer Of The Trip, So Far: Portsmouth Royal Impy Stout! The brewmaster broke this one out for us before we left, and it was a real treat for the collection of beer bloggers present. Apparently the former brewmaster had left and in his absence Portsmouth has stopped making their renowned Kate The Great Imperial Russian Stout, so rather than make the same beer, the new brewmaster decided to make his own version of the ideal Russian Imperial Stout. And he nailed it. Rich, boozy, complex, just a real treat of a stout. Best beer of the trip... so far. There is still plenty left!
And with that, I think the first half of this Beer Bloggers Conference 2013 Awards Show is done... tune back in for the rest, starting with the conference itself in Boston!