(Apologies for a later than normal wrap-up blog post. It’s been quite the busy summer for our family!)
After having a rough start to our trip, we had a few hours of sleep and then went downstairs to the conference rooms to say hello to friends we have known from previous Beer Bloggers Conferences and introduce ourselves to new friends. We chose a table and sat down for a warm introduction from Reno Walsh (conference lead from Zephyr Adventures who puts on the Beer Bloggers & Writers Conference among others). Then, Julia Herz kicked off the conference as she always does with fascinating information and stats from the Brewers Association. I always enjoy her style of speaking and the way she engages her audience, if you ever get a chance to hear her talk, GO! LISTEN! LEARN! Beer and the industry is always changing and evolving. Local is huge and homebrewing is growing!
We then learned about the Beer industry in Tampa and Florida (hint: it’s growing… rapidly!) Next, Lester Jones, the Chief Economist from the National Beer Wholesalers Association, had a talk on Beer by the Numbers. He gave much information and had a sense of humor to keep things light with all the data he provided. One huge takeaway for me is that “samples matter”, 71% will order a full size pour after they find what they like. YES. YES. YES! I always ask for a sample because it is common where I live and I decide what I will drink at that time based upon what is available and what is to my taste buds.
Changing things up after the initial kick off, we went downstairs in the Tampa Marriott Waterside hotel and were greeted in what is normally an Italian restaurant transformed to our private party from Green Flash Brewing. There were food/beverage pairings and we moved from outside to inside (i.e., heat and humidity to air conditioning) and chatted with old and new friends (still, can you see a pattern… lots of learning, but also lots of socializing/networking).
As for the food and beverage pairings, I am picky, so I had a lovely lemon fennel salad on top of a proscuitto crostini that paired with Barroque Belgique. I am not a fan of IPA, so after an initial taste, I asked for Lustrous Frumento with coffee, which was a one-off keg that was brought special for the Beer Bloggers after selling out of the initial bottle run. This is my favorite of the next few hours (and might be of the night). I also sampled some potato crudite and Jon sampled all the food with most all the beer Green Flash provided.
While we were at our pre-dinner party, we found that our conference room had been transformed from conference table and chairs to an elegant dinner reception. There were several stations around the room serving up beers from Florida (Cigar City Brewing, Funky Buddha Brewing, Coppertail Brewing, and Green Bench Brewing) along with food pairings. The best of the night for me was a breakfast sausage with hollandaise and a goat cheese cheesecake that paired with Funky Buddha’s french toast. It balanced both well and was my personal favorite of the dinner!
After filling up on food and more beverages, we were off to the Beer Social Expo, which showcased many businesses/breweries and you guessed it, more beer samples! It’s a chance to talk to the reps and try new items or revisit those you haven’t had in awhile. And did I mention swag, we weren’t going to take anything home and oops! I may have t-shirts and beach towels, etc. My favorite samples were Crooked Stave Petite Sour Raspberry and I was excited to see a bottle of Avery Brewing there (there was a bit woody character for me that lingered in Uncle Jacob’s Stout, but at a 17% beer, it was one to try!).
Now, almost being up nearly 24 hours, I was quite tired, but the can’t miss of the conference is the “Night of Many Bottles” in which everyone brings bottles from (typically) their home state/city. We brought Worthy Brewing‘s Kama Citrus IPA and Bend Brewing‘s Metolius Golden Ale in Crowlers that were purchased from The Growler Guys and shipped out before we left. They were among many, many bottles that were shared and consumed.
A few of my favorites were Wicked Weed’s Montmaretto, New Glarus Cran-Bic, Allagash Brewing Company, D9 brewing and a special bottle of Trappist Westvleteren 12. A bottle of Deschutes Brewery Abyss with Cognac was also there! Finally, we headed up to the room for some much needed sleep. Goodnight!