Bonding with our Blogger Buddies at BBC13
Last weekend our Social Media & Marketing Manager Cambria Griffith attended our first Beer Bloggers Conference. This conference began a couple years ago to help beer bloggers have an opportunity to engage with beer industry professionals, meet fellow bloggers, tour new breweries, and learn how to sharpen their blog-game through different panels, talks, and tastings.
For 2013 attendees descended upon Boston, MA with a pre-conference excursion in Portland, ME. Cambria has been with The Bruery since April, but has been blogging about beer since 2009. Having worked in the beer industry since 2011, her background is filled with many learning opportunities she shared with fellow bloggers on the Industry Bloggers Panel. Here’s her extremely long but loving recap on BBC13.
I may be writing this from the sky while flying back from the 2013 Beer Bloggers Conference, and though I haven’t really slept yet, I am making myself be the awesome industry blogger that you deserve by cracking this laptop open to share what I took away from our time with friends and fans who came out to the 2013 Beer Bloggers Conference.
It seems the Twitter insanity around #BBC13 has yet to be silenced.
We’re excited for another opportunity to bond with everyone again next year and hopefully try more new brews in more new places (*cough* San Diego? *cough*) That said, let’s break it up this wrap up into Maine and Boston memories, shall we?
Made it to Maine
After a thoroughly bumpy red-eye from LAX to Portland, ME (that resulted in 16-hour checked luggage filled with amazing beer chase and phone tag with United Airlines for 2 hours) I met up with my old friend Randy Clemens and a new friend, Adventures in Beerland. They both watched me fall asleep mid-sentence before they graciously introduced me to Raise Your Pints and The Beer Babe, who so kindly hauled our butts to local eats.
Before noon I was holding a Geary’s Summer Ale in my weak grasp thanks to the recommendation of one very kind Tim at Flatbread Pizza Co., where I could stare at New England-esque boats and docks while shouting words with short “ehh” sounds in what I thought was the most authentic and hilarious east coast accent. D.L. Geary Brewing Co. has been around for over over 25 years, and has the distinction of being the first microbrewery in New England. I had the pleasure of talking to D.L. himself at Cabot Creamery and got to hear first-hand how he researched with English and Scottish gents to get his brewery going. Not a bad start to this journey!
Our chariot, meaning our own feet, took us to Speckled Ax coffee roasters, where I fell in love with their tasting notes (that sounded surprisingly like some of ours). Coffee with notes of citrus, chocolate, and Steven Tyler? Perfect. In my delirious-yet-caffeinated state I stumbled down the cobblestone roads towards Allagash Brewing Co. At last! I met some of the team behind the well known but opposite coast brewery and had a chance to look around while bonding with many a beer blogger who got to the party early.
One of the features that took our collective beer geek breath away was Allagash’s Koehlschip. You know that moment in Disney’s Sleeping Beauty where she is escorted through a forest to the little cottage where the fairies watch over her? Approaching the Koelschip was just like that, except it was daytime.
Nestled behind their brewery is a small little trailer-turned-cottage that houses a giant, flat, stainless steel pan which is wide open to wild yeasts and funks native to the painfully scenic birch grove outside. This is where the wort for their Coolship beer series can be cooled by the ambient temperature overnight before being put into barrels to ferment.
After wrapping up our visit, we were whisked away via Maine Craft Beer Tours to check out more local breweries and find ourselves at Maine Craft Distilling by surprise. Barely 3 weeks old, the owner has been studying moonshine for years. A carpenter by trade, he built the space himself to churn out spirits boasting intense flavors not often found in commercial brands. In addition to his bottles of very herbal gin and bright vodka, he also has Blueberry Moonshine and Carrot Gin available for sampling.
Dah Road tah Bahstahn
After a very early morning 5K with the unstoppable and the well-loved Craft Beer Program Director at the Brewers Association, Julia Herz, we headed to Portsmouth Brewing in New Hampshire. This place is in the same family as the widely loved Smuttynose Brewing Co. and has a shockingly itty bitty amount of space for brewing! Their own Minister of Propogranda JT Thompson was kind enough to show us around all their tanks and tubes. I thought this place looked really familiar, and I was right! A while back we were featured on BrewBokeh.com with a beautiful visual tour of our place — and so was Portsmouth!
My favorite part about sampling beers here was running into Stone Brewing Co. rep Jeff Nelson. He explained that one of the Smuttynose brews on tap was a collaboration with Stone that used American hops and was based off of recipes from the ’50s. After a little searching on my phone, I came upon this fascinating read by The Full Pint that explains the beer in depth. Portsmouth’s beer geek claim to fame is that it is the home of the American IPA — I was drinking history!
After a very delayed bus ride to Boston via an endless tunnel, we all bonded over our experience with Sam Adam’s own Jim Koch, who toasted the audience as he announced he was not a fan of speaking to sober people. He shared his excitement over crafting special glassware and packaging to maximize the experience of drinking his beers before he cracked open some Utopia’s to everyone’s “ooh” and “ahh” delight.
Though I am no stranger to barrels, it was fascinating to watch someone else explain how the work that goes into barrel aged & blended beers, especially those that are higher ABV. My favorite part of visiting Sam Adams was not only that tingly sensation that happens when you see a piece of history first hand, it was watching beer fans react to learning that so many different barrels are used and coddled to create such a big finished product. I understood this process, but I had never been just an observer watching someone else take in the “Aha!” moment.
The following morning kicked off the BBC educational panels, including the Industry Bloggers Panel where I had the pleasure of discussing my background, my role at The Bruery, and my role in supporting craft beer, its media, and its fans. Anne-Fitten Glenn moderated the panel, and shared her impressive story that lead her to write Asheville Beer — An Intoxicating History of Mountain Brewing, and eventually work for one of my favorite breweries newest locations, Oskar Blues Brevard. I had spent some time earlier with our co-panelists, Troika Brodsky from Schlafly and Devin Mason of Woodchuck Cider, and learned that we all operate a bit differently in our jobs while still upholding the same values and intense care for our industry. (photo credit: Randy Clemens)
I loved talking to our beer blogging friends, and sharing what I’ve learned on my path towards working for a brewery felt great. I even learned three key points from this panel myself:
- The marketing/social media people at all breweries wear many hats.
- We all deal with negativity from the internet, but we are happy to turn it around into a positive experience (and it usually makes a great story).
- Nobody sleeps! There is simply too much awesome stuff to be done.
After wrapping up the panel and enjoying the company of Dogfish Head‘s Justin Williams and his lovely wife during a little exploration Boston’s giant macaroons and chowda (it was actually spelled like that on the menu), we joined up with the masses at Harpoon Brewery.
A tour, a tasting, a beautiful view overlooking the city, Harpoon did not disappoint. They greeted bloggers with open arms and huge, beautifully paired and carefully crafted eats, including a massive cheese brick presented by the cheesemaker himself.
While the Beer Social raged on back at our hotel, I spent a lot of time chatting with staff from the Brewers Association. Julia Herz is a very active mother of two, and she had great suggestions on how to balance beer/life/work/sanity. It’s hard to imagine staying on top of all the craft beer happenings in the nation, let alone having a family life!
Andy Sparhawk is the Craft Beer Program Coordinator and CraftBeer.com, who is very enthusiatic about craft beer and food pairings. Since so many of our beers pair great with food, and often have ingredients that can be found in your favorite recipes, we spent a while discussing out favorite pairings and recipes, including a recent one for Mrs. Stoutfire cookies.
The evening turned into a late night bottle share boasting generosity from all over the US and faster than you could drain a phone battery by checking in to Untappd too frequently, it was already time for everyone to head back home.
Thank you BBC attendees, organizers and participants. We look forward to next year’s opportunity to spread beer knowledge and love (and we’re crossing fingers for it all happening even closer to us!!)