This is my fourth year attending the Beer Bloggers Conference and it is an event I really look forward to. It’s a great opportunity to meet people in the Craft Beer industry, allied trades, and of course those behind the beer blogs that many of you, including myself, read. It is a wonderful opportunity to network with people inside and outside of the industry, hone your social media and blogging chops, and experience some amazing breweries and their beers, many of which can be difficult, if not impossible to find outside of the conference.
This years conference was held in the California craft beer mecca of San Diego and it most certainly did not disappoint. The Beer Bloggers Conference (I’ll refer to it as BBC14 from here on out) typically starts off with a pre-conference excursion prior to the official start of the conference that consists of a tour of a number of fantastic breweries aboard a bus that starts at geographical point some distance from the actual conference location. This years tour started in Los Angeles and wound it’s way down to San Diego. Unlike previous years, I didn’t attend the pre-conference excursion, but you can find a link to the description and itinerary here.
Instead of attending the pre-con excursion, I choose instead to head directly to San Diego for a tour of San Diego breweries sponsored by A Plus Limos. This is a new venture for them, and, as this was their first tour, they were looking for our input to help them refine their product (see disclosure notice at the end of this post).
As luck would have it, I was delayed getting to San Diego by a broken airplane departing Seattle and had the join the tour about half way through, so I missed the first few stops and joined up with the gang at AleSmith Brewing Company located just north of Miramar Airstation (Top Gun) thanks to the always impressive Uber.
Stops prior to my arrival included Societe Brewing Company and White Labs. While at AleSmith, I had the opportunity to try samples of their Sorachi Ace Dry Hopped IPA, 2013 Speedway Stout aged in bourbon barrels and Speedway Stout brewed with Vietnamese coffee. No surprise that they were all stellar but the Speedway Stout with Vietnamese coffee was the stand out for me. I also had the opportunity to chat with General Manager George Allen about AleSmith’s operation and ongoing projects, growth, and distribution challenges. No secret that I love talking shop so it was a blast getting a few minutes of his time on a very busy evening in the tasting room.
Next stop was Council Brewing which was a short distance away from AleSmith. Council is a small three barrel nano brewery located in an industrial warehouse area. They have a lovely wide open tasting room that shares space with their small brewhouse with 12 of their brews on tap. I grabbed a tasting flight of five of their beers, all very solid with the stand outs for me being their Pirate’s Breakfast (an Imperial Oatmeal Stout) and their Quorum IPA brewed with Jarrylo hops, which was new to me. Great brewery, very nice people, and solid beers with a bright future ahead of them.
Last stop of the night was Benchmark Brewing Company. Another new nano brewery in San Diego that focuses on session beers. There I tried tasters of their Blonde, IPA and Oatmeal Stout. None above 5.1% ABV, and all very solid beers. Definitely a place I would go back too as I am growing fonder of session beers and they do a very good job of them.
That was our last stop, if you don’t count the small Mexican restaurant before heading back to our hotel. While I didn’t get to do the full tour, we had a lot of fun. The Cadillac Escalade stretch limo was very comfortable, well stocked with water and snacks, and they were gracious enough to accommodate me mid-tour even though I showed up directly from the airport with all of my luggage in tow. I think they have a great product on their hands doing brewery tours in the San Diego area and I think the mix of well known stops and breweries you may not have ever heard of was a nice blend. Our driver, Robert, and our host, Michael were extremely kind and accommodating and fun to boot. Kudos to them for what I consider, after 23 years in the airline business, outstanding customer service.
Day Two to follow…..
The following is a list of our swarthy band of bloggers borrowed with permission from my friend Alan at GrowlerFills.
The crew: Michael (A Plus Limos), Astrid (@BKLYNbeerbitch), Craig (@msbrewblog), Tom (@QueenCityDrinks), Ryan (@thirstynobeard), June (@nashbeergirl), Kendall (@beermakesthree), Cheryl (GrowlerFills), Alan (@GrowlerFills), Gina (@CraftBeer_Hound), Amber (@aljpeace), Amy (@CraftBeer_Hound), Ryan (@mtbeerfinder), Sean (@2beerguys) Ryan (@thirstynobeard), Tom (@Tom_Aguero) and (not pictured) Duke (@Dukester).
Disclousure: While we tipped our driver generously for his efforts, A Plus Limos provided the tour to us free of charge so that they could garner feedback from us about their product and any suggestions to improve it before they launch it publicly and with the hopes that if we were satisfied with their service, that we would mention them in our posts about this. I do so unreservedly and it is most definitely a service I would have gladly paid for and recommend to others.