After our adventure the previous night with A Plus Limos, it was time to get into the official start of the 2014 Beer Bloggers Conference. While the day was short, smartly starting at Noon to allow everyone plenty of time to recover from either the official Pre-Conference excursion or whatever entertainments folks had scheduled for themselves, it was time to get to work.
The conference kicked off with registration and a luncheon hosted by the Reyes Beverage Group. A great lunch and a good hour and half to meander amongst the crowd and reconnect with old friends and new. As befits a conference of this sort, many tasty beers were pulled out and shared during the first hour and a half.
From the luncheon, we moved on to the Trade Show, hosted a short walk from our location where we were treated to a great variety of sponsors, hosts and participants. The list is too long to name them all, but some of the best in the house were Warsteiner, Stone, Firestone Walker, Craft Beer Hound, Goose Island, Sucuri, WordPress, Uber, Karl Strauss and many, many others. Schwag was abundant, and gobbled up by all in attendance and I managed to score a sweet bottle opener trailer hitch from Craft Beer Hound (and by score, I mean I paid for it). Probably my favorite thing I picked up at the conference (next to a bottle of rare beer from one of my favorite breweries which I will talk about in a later post).
Once the Trade Show was over, it was time to move back to the conference hall for the kick off with Julia Herz from the Brewers Association/CraftBeer.com. I always look forward to listening to Julia talk as she is to my mind, one of the best and most passionate advocate for the craft brewing industry. The main gist of her message was to advocate to, and educate those that are interested in craft beer and not alienate. It’s something that you don’t think you need to hear or be told twice, but it’s funny how often this message gets lost, and I am glad to be reminded of it often, especially how it fits in to my job and one of the things I love most. If you have never had the opportunity the hear Julia speak, trust me when I say, once she is done, you will charge forward on your steed of choice and be inspired to preach the craft beer gospel. And do so in a balanced, respectful way. In light of some of the BA’s past missteps in communicating their message, I think they are finally finding the right path and the right message. There is still some work to be done, but the message has come a long way in the last couple of years.
Following Julia was a panel of the craft beer cognoscenti from the San Diego brewing scene. Specifically, Tomme Arthur from Lost Abbey, Chuck Silva of Green Flash and Peter Zien of AleSmith Brewing Company. A very informative history of the San Diego brewing scene of the last 20 plus years and the extraordinary amount of collaboration and support that existed and still exists to this day in the San Diego brewing scene.
The next panel was a panel that has existed in some form or another for every year that I have attend. The topic? “Working Together: Bloggers and Beer Brands.” Never boring, never short on insight, and always a good learning experience. Each year we have heard a different perspective from an always changing panel of bloggers and representatives from different breweries.
Following the last panel, it was time to board the busses and head to Karl Strauss for dinner. Karl Strauss is a brewery that is in an unlikely location for success, yet successful they are, located just off I-5 in an industrial area, and interestingly enough practically next door to an AB-InBev office. We had the opportunity to sample a number of their beers, enjoy some straight up legit street tacos and listen to their CEO tell the story of their brewery and how they should have never been successful with the obstacles they faced, and yet, still were very successful naturally as the result of a lot of hard work and blood sweet and tears. We enjoyed a wonderful tour of their brewery, sampled some really good rare beers and then it was off back to the conference hotel for a nightcap party hosted by Lagunitas Brewing.
Things got really interesting from here on out and very entertaining to say the least. Including more beers, a green screen against which to film your own “Couch Tripping” video (here is Mike Besser’s version on BrewDad.com) and a great band. Things got fuzzy for me at this point so I won’t try to relay specifics, but between the beers being poured, the green screen “Couch Tripping” set up and the long day we already had, I was certainly in a happy place. Add in to that my friends I only get to see once a year, that by itself was worth the price of admission. I decided early on that discretion was the better part of valor and headed back to the room I shared with a bunch of good friends to get a good nights sleep and be ready for the following day.
More on day three to come……
A few pictures below. Sorry, I wasn’t quite on my picture taking game the first official day of the conference.