Tuesday, July 17, 2012

Beer Bloggers get the full treatment in Indy

2012 Beer Bloggers ConferenceWhile the 3rd annual Beer Bloggers Conference in Indianapolis is now wrapped up, the conference sessions lessons, the memories of the people met, the places visited and the beers tasted linger on. Oh what a busy 3-day weekend it was and for a beer blogger like me, I came away with a better understanding of the beer business and a better appreciation to what it really takes to get a beer from the brewery all the way to the drinkers hand. This is Part 1 of a multi-part report of the conference. This part will cover Friday, the opening night of the conference.

So why go to a beer bloggers conference? If you ask any of the 120+ bloggers and industry reps who attended that question you may get entirely different answers, but for this beer blogger, it was primarily to get a better understanding of the beer industry itself, to meet and network with other bloggers, and of course to experience the beer culture of another area of the country that I wasn't as familiar with.

Many of the beer bloggers got an extra day thrown in on Thursday with a tour of the Goose Island brewery in Chicago and a Chicago-area pub crawl the day before the conference. The rest who missed out (including me) flew or drove in on Friday into Indianapolis to the Downtown Marriott hotel for the main conference. Little did I know that I'd be getting up at 3:00am that morning to catch a pair of flights from Denver to Chicago to Indy. I was tired even before the conference started!

BBC Trade ShowThere was a opening "trade show" where bloggers could have some refreshments, meet each other and talk with some beer industry reps before the conference started. It was a nice way to unwind before getting down to "business". Once the conference opened, we were met by the wonderful organizers at Zephyr Adventures (Allen Wright, Elle Potter) and were given a warm welcome. They put in a lot of effort to get this conference planned, and set-up and they made the entire weekend run smoothly. They helped to meet out every need for the conference.

Julia HerzWe were then introduced to our first speaker Julia Herz, Craft Beer Director of the Brewers Association who also came out from Colorado. I had met her once before at a Beerdrinker of the Year competition at the Wynkoop in Denver. She updated everyone on the state of craft beer and gave us some fascinating stats to ponder. Craft beer still has a long way to go to catch up to the volume of the macro beer business as craft beer accounts for only just over 5% of the volume of beer sold in the US. They are targeting 2017 for that number to nearly double. (Picture by Dave Butler)

Garrett Oliver - Brooklyn BreweryThe keynote speaker on Friday was Brooklyn Brewery's own brewmaster and book author, Garrett Oliver. I had the pleasure of working side-by-side with him in the Brooklyn Brewery booth at the 2011 GABF last year. Garrett is one of the best dressed and classiest brewers I've ever met. Garrett shared some funny stories as well as well as focusing beer bloggers attention towards the "personal" and visual side of beer. All too often he warned us that bloggers simply rattle off the stats of beer and often forget that there is a human side and a story behind the beer as well. The people and craftsmen who create and supply the beer are just as important. "Beer is all about people". He also warned the bloggers that we should not assume that just because we meet someone new to craft beer that they won't appreciate a complex and sophisticated brew. (Picture by Dave Butler)

Live Beer BloggingAfter the talks from Julia and Garrett, we were treated to one of the more famous conference sessions - the Live Beer Blogging event. You could in a sense call this segment "Beer Speed Dating". Representatives from 10 different breweries were on hand giving out samples of one of their beers and had 5 minutes to describe their beer. During this time bloggers would ask questions and "blog" or "tweet" about the beer using the hashtag #beerbloggers. After the 5 minutes were up, a new brewer would visit your table and repeat the process. This lasted for a full hour and we had tasted 10 unique beers, many from breweries I had never tried before. Breweries included: New Belgium, The RAM, Boulder Beer Company, Karl Strauss, Schlafly, Barley Island, Fountain Square Brewing, Flat 12 Bierwerks, Triton Brewing, and Three Floyds. By far my fave of the bunch was Flat 12 Bierwerks' Pogue's Run Porter. Yum!

Indiana City Brewery pours at Tomlinson Tap RoomAfter the fast round of beer tasting / blogging, it was time for a dinner break. The masses huddled up and walked through downtown Indy and headed to the Tomlinson Tap Room located inside the Indianapolis City Market building where we were treated to more tempting beers and a meal cart full of salads, sausages, and BBQ sandwiches. One upcoming Indiana brewery was on hand, Indiana City Brewery, to pour samples from growlers of their soon to be released beers. A full beer bar was also on hand with several brews from around the state.

Pub crawling in IndyAfter getting full of food and drink, the bloggers were all invited to explore downtown Indianapolis with an optional Pub Crawl. There were a handful of suggested pubs to visit and the crowd seemed to separate and head to a pub that suited their fancy. This was also Indiana Beer Week and many pubs had specials going on with Indiana breweries. I managed to attend a couple of pubs including the Mass Avenue Pub and MacNiven's, a Scottish-American bar. Most managed to stay for 1 or 2 drinks at each place before moving on. Given that the day had already been a long one, most opted to head back to the hotel by midnight.

All this was just Day 1 and we had two more days to go! I'll follow-up with more on the other days events in some posts coming up. Continue to Part 2.

(Click on any of the above images to enlarge them)

Related articles:
- Beer Bloggers flock to Indy for 2012 conference.
- Beer Bloggers take it to the next step. (Part 3)
- Colorado Brewers Guild releases economic impact study.

This article came from FermentedlyChallenged.com - a Colorado beer blog.
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