What a conference! What a week! First and foremost, I would like to thank the Brewers Association for providing media credentials for both Jon and I for a peek into the world of today’s craft beer brewers, breweries, and industry for the 32nd Annual Craft Brewers Conference in Portland, Oregon last week. We had no idea of what to expect, except a number of 11,500 attendees and over 600 exhibitors would descend into our state and the City of Portland.
Thanks to Travel Portland and the conference organizers, blocks of rooms were available throughout the city. We were given the option to stay at The Benson Hotel in the heart of downtown Portland. What a lovely hotel and I wish I had taken more pictures, but you can find them online and it’s one of the most exquisite, beautiful hotels we’ve stayed at (we prefer more modern, but I’m glad we chose to stay in the 102 year old hotel). Having stayed in many downtown Portland hotels over the years, the “standard” Queen room in the Benson was spacious (the bathroom was tight). We were not in the room very much, but overall, it was quite nice and quiet. I’d stay there again.
The Oregon Convention Center was the epicenter of the conference. Registration, German Hop Growers hospitality suite, First Time Attendee Orientation were held here the day we arrived (Tuesday afternoon). We made it in time for the crowning and presentation of the Hop Queen. The doors soon opened for the First Time Attendee orientation. I’m glad I poked my head in and was greeted with cheese/crackers/fruit/chips and salsa along with tubs of bottles of beer. An introduction to the conference greeted us along with some stats and sage advice (drink water and EAT when you see food). I didn’t know how important that would be, because I was eating, yet I was ravenous every time I thought about or saw any food. We walked over to the Welcome Reception, held in the Memorial Coliseum and met up with Pete Dunlop as we waited to be let in.
We went one way and quickly found more sustainable food. I wish I had walked around a little bit more because there were more stations that I could have gotten food more to my liking instead of the first thing I saw. 😀 The Flamebuoyant Productions company entertained us with fire dancers, clowns, break dancing dance-off, and more.
After awhile, we decided to head over to Deschutes Brewery’s private party for attendees in the Pearl District. This was the first of the lines outside for “overcapacity”. The line moved quickly and we entered the restaurant that had been closed down for the DAY to prep for this party! There were stations with food and beer pairings and a special sour tapping straight from the barrel. Obviously, I had to go there first! Amy poured S’Quad straight from the barrel and it was great! We found some seats (they had removed most of the tables from the restaurant!) and ran into many friends during our time there enjoying some Abyss and a PDX pub “Kiss from a Rose”. The band was rockin and when we decided to head back to the hotel, we were satisfied with a great first day!
Wednesday morning, we headed back to the Memorial Coliseum for the Keynote Address and General Session. Inside the Benson elevator, we ran into Stan Hieronymus and sat with him inside the stadium. One note, if you want breakfast, get there early, there was quite a line for continental style, but the breakfast burrito line was empty. We grabbed some and got in our seats. The General Session and Keynote was exciting as many addressed the stage. Jon stayed around for the Press Conference, I decided to head on back to the convention center. I found some food and a bit later, Jon and I headed into the trade show exhibition area. Over 600 exhibitors! Saw some really great items in all shapes and sizes and talked with some people we knew and just tried to take everything in. I tried some hop popcorn, had a hat made right in front of me (see slideshow below), and saw some really nice equipment on the trade show floor.
One comment about the Oregon Convention Center. The Internet and Cellular connections. If you do attend a conference within that space, please be prepared to come with a cord to charge at a laptop station and advise your family, friends and coworkers that you might not have service while inside and will be incommunicado during that time. It was apparently as I was skirting the floor by the entrance (in line with the escalators, so very close to the door) and could not get online. We weren’t sure if it was a Convention Center issue or a cellular tower issue, but it became my only frustration within the conference itself, although it seems to be a OCC issue. I was very thankful for the Media badge that allowed us to go into the Media room (although it was on the far end of the area) to connect to the media wifi. That’s why most media went dark and while it would have been good for a brewer to shut off for awhile, it frustrated me trying to do my best to cover the CBC as it was going on. We were also busy from the time we woke up until the time we went to bed and only a short post or two went up during this time.
Wednesday night, we knew we had to “party hop”. We started out the evening at the Multnomah Whiskey Library for a private party for a “media happy hour” courtesy of Danny P. and Rob and Kurt Widmer. The Widmer brothers threw a wonderful low-key happy hour with cocktails. It was a get together that I thought was a great small celebration with media that went along with their recent expansion news. Thanks Rob and Kurt! We then went for a bit to the Central Oregon Brewers Guild event at the Crystal Ballroom (thanks for the tickets John R.). It was early and we didn’t stay very long because Lardo was calling my name (I’d seen it when we were walking to the Crystal). Sorry, no pics of the Turkey Cubano that was consumed, as I was starving! I hadn’t slept well our first night and was dragging Wednesday and our conversation turned to, If *I* went back to the hotel to get some rest, Jon would go out, as he was AT the CBC and didn’t want to miss out on anything. I said, in that case, we needed to then scrap our plans and go to the Aladdin Theater for the Pain Relievaz and Tone Loc . I’m SOOO glad I rallied and decided to go because that was a great show by Sam and Bryan and Tone Loc. Great beer was served and a great time was had. We connected with Brian Yaeger and set out to find him some food after the show.
We attempted to go to the Drinking Lot, but he stopped short and said “I swear this was here”. It was 11:05pm and a quick search showed they close at 10pm. We chose Sizzle Pie for a quick slice of pizza and I surprised myself by texting Jon to get me a salad when he got up to the front of the line. Again, I’d just eaten a few hours ago and was hungry at 11:30pm. Yes, eat when you see food is a great mantra to pass along.
That’s just the first two days….stay tuned for part 2….