Yesterday was the first Friday of September, and though we just came back from a terrific conference that celebrated, among other things, collaboration among bloggers, I did not have a post ready for this month’s edition of The Session—the monthly collaborative beer blogging project where we all write about a common topic. (To be fair, this week I’ve been immersed with reviewing page proofs of the book, which is rather time-consuming.)
This month’s Session was hosted by Breandán Kearney of Belgian Smaak, and he suggested the topic My First Belgian.
The rules are that there are no rules. There is incredible opportunity at your fingertips; whether it be to write about the first time you tried a Flemish red brown ale or the time you got your taste buds around a traditional Belgian witbier.
But if you have never tasted a Belgian beer, don’t worry. Now is your opportunity to jump in at the deep end. Have you found an excellent Saison amid the current global trend for producing this dry and thirst quenching traditional summer farm ale? Have you ever drunk a Speciale Belge which took you by surprise? Or perhaps you love being soured by lambics, geuzes and faros.
He goes on to offer up a wide variety of examples and suggestions, essentially inviting everyone to write about Belgian beer in some form.
Our aim here is to explore, discuss and hopefully celebrate the ways (if any) in which this fascinating beer culture has personally impacted on each of you, the passionate beer blogging community.
I’ve been drinking beer for a long time—much longer than I’ve been blogging about it, or even keeping notes on what I’ve been drinking. So in all honesty, I cannot recall just what my first actual Belgian beer was—though if I hazard a guess, I would say it’s just as likely as any that it was Lindemans Framboise (raspberry lambic). I remember reading about lambics in Papazian’s books at the time and was impressed with the story of the open, wild fermentation taking place in old buildings, open to the elements, with cobwebs, dust, bugs and more floating freely throughout the brewery. And then to taste the amazing flavors coming from the bottle that Lindemans had concocted, it was a revelation—miles beyond the American-made fruit beers of the time, tart in a crisp and appetizing way—it was the first glimpse into the rich and deep brewing culture Belgium has to offer.
There have been other revelatory Belgian beers over the years: Saison Dupont, Chimay, Trappistes Rochefort, many more. And watching the American craft brew culture grow and be inspired by the beers of Belgium over the years has been amazing as well—I think it’s fair to say that of the various foreign influences that have impacted American beer, the most significant have come from Belgium, whether in the direct emulation of styles or in the melding of Belgian characteristics with other existing styles (Belgian IPA comes immediately to mind). But when it comes back down to Lindemans, that’s a tough beer to beat. I know, purists will object that it’s not a proper lambic because it’s infused with fruit syrups and is more akin to soda pop than lambic… or something. Ignore that; it’s a Belgian beer brewed by a Belgian company and you’ll be hard-pressed to find another fruit beer as well received by the general drinking public as Framboise.
And that’s kind of what Belgian beer is about, at all levels.
First of all, there’s this:
Click to embiggen
That is the front cover to my forthcoming book, Bend Beer: A History of Brewing in Central Oregon, the one I’ve spent the first half of the year researching and writing. It looks great, due in no small part to the beautiful photo taken by my friend Gina Schauland (who also works at Deschutes Brewery).
And there is an official release date! October 21, 2014 is the day! You should be able to find it in major bookstores and of course online at both History Press and Amazon.com as well as other online retailers. Mark your calendars!
This came in from Portland Brewing yesterday:
Their fall seasonal, Noble Scot Scottish-style Ale. Available through October 15 in 22-ounce and 12-ounce bottles (as well as on draft), it’s 6.5% abv, brewed with “2-Row Pale, Smoked, Carapils, Roasted Barley, Melanoidin” malts and Northern Brewer, East Kent Goldings and Willamette hops. Should be a nicely malty and hopefully slightly smoky amber ale. Good style for this time of year (the mornings have gotten nippy!) so I’ll enjoy drinking these.
Jon and I woke up refreshed and renewed for Day 2 of the conference and were excited about our breakout sessions. He went to the WordPress.com session and I went to the Beer Blog Photography session. I learned quickly that this was over my head because the focus seemed to be on how to get the perfect shot with lenses/tripods, etc. I immediately thought of Gina Schauland, who is an amazing photographer and Bend Brew Daddy’s Beertography, and how much they would have gotten out of this session. I learned on the Twitter #bbc14 feeds that I was not the only one who felt the topic was a bit over their head and others wanted to know about how to maximize cell phone photos for their blog. It was a great session overall and I enjoyed learning.
Jon and I were both in the next session together, Beer Journalism Ethics. Alan McCormick from Growler Fills led the panel with Jay Brooks and Brandon Hernandez. It was a great discussion and I’m glad to know that most bloggers disclose if they get something free or discounted, like Jon does, as I personally think that’s the right thing to do (in exchange for a discounted rate to accompany Jon to the conference for a different perspective than he gains from this conference, a few blog posts before and after from me are warranted, which I’m happy to do). And thank you Dolly at The Growler Guys for the t-shirts that we wore during the conference.
Turns out, I was quite hungry as we arrived to the Yard House for lunch. After a little mis-communication of downstairs vs. upstairs, we settled downstairs for small bites and then once a warm welcome was had, I raced upstairs for some cider, sour, and to my surprise, Framboise on tap! I took them back downstairs to finish my lunch and was satisfied with some good food & drink! That followed with a very cool (literally) tour inside the cooler that houses 130-140 taps (depending on the restaurant).
We arrived back to the hotel in time for Ken Grossman’s Keynote speech. I loved hearing about his journey with Sierra Nevada and how they are continuing growth by building a new location in North Carolina. To me, it seems the theme of the mainstay, older craft breweries seemed to have the same struggles and overcame it with persistence, patience, and a determination for the love of the craft.
After Ken’s speech and before the main evening events, came Cindy Molcheny’s presentation of Advanced Social Media strategies. Then on to the event I was looking forward to: Live Beer Blogging. It’s fast paced and you have to be quick on your feet to come up with a tweet/instagram/live-blog. Your table gets five minutes with a brewer to describe their beer to you and like in the Portland session, it fast and quite fun. Look at our instagram/twitter feed for descriptions as well as Jon’s live blogging post. One thing to note: in addition to the beers, we had a variety of beer bread from Boardwalk Food Company, the 4 types of bread were all fantastic. I enjoyed Goose Island’s Bourbon County Stout warm vs. cold and really wanted to spend more time with the Mexican hot chocolate beer, but that was our last one and we had to hurry to catch the bus for Stone Brewing.
I’m glad we did hurry as we were on not just buses, but PARTY buses! Once we got to Stone Brewing in Liberty Station, the magic happened! We were told we must have our badges on and we also got Stone Brewing badges with ten 4-ounce pours of any of their amazing beers. We quickly filled up our glasses, grabbed some of the dinner they provided and wandered about the property. I’ve been to Stone Brewing World Bistro and Gardens in Escondido several times before and this property is just as impressive. I would love to come down to San Diego area and have lunch at both Stone properties. They are both experiences.
On the way home, the party bus became an experience in itself! I noted balloons were added from the ride there and once we were on our way, the music pumped through the bus. A beer social from our sponsors (some with different beers) was awaiting us when we got back to the hotel. We met David Walker from Firestone Walker while drinking Parabola. The party continued for a bottle share.
We represented our town of Bend, Oregon with beers you can only get within the general area, Ale Apothecary‘s Sahalie and El Cuatro, Crux Fermentation Project‘s first bottling of Doublecross, and Boneyard‘s Suge Knite. Like the Portland bottle share, epic! Trying beers from all over the county is a fun one! After pulling ourselves from the fun, we retired for the night.
The next day for the blogger reports, the room was noticeably empty, but filled up more so for Marketing in the beer industry and the cooperative blogger reports. A few more exclusive beers (including Hunahpu Imperial Stout, Viking Blod, and a green Berlinerweisse beer in a can from Cycle Brewing) was passed around the tables for those to try. A strong focus on blogging is a great way to conclude the conference.
Once the conference was over, we opted for a trip to Alpine Beer Company for lunch (about 30 minutes out of our way), but were disappointed once we got there and we saw it was closed (HINT: look all the way around the building, we found out about an hour later… the brewery was closed, but the pub on the other side of the building was OPEN!, we were obviously spent if we didn’t walk 2 doors down… sigh!). A quick trip around LA and back up to the Bay area was our Sunday afternoon.
Monday morning brought opportunity and a trip up to Santa Rosa for Russian River Brewing made up for the disappointment of the day before. Jon had a taster tray and I had a glass of Consecration. Yummy food was consumed with the beverages before a long trip back home to Bend. Just before midnight on Monday, we pulled into our garage. 2155 miles in six days with a conference mixed in there.
My takeaway: The beer community is an amazing community (and not just this past week). Everyone from the owners, brewers, brewery/pub people, bloggers, etc. are amazing. They are eager, genuine, generous, knowledgeable and wanting to share that knowledge, and friendly. I’m glad my husband is a part of this community thus I’m there at times to share and learn and become a small part of the community with expanding my repertoire and finding out I like more than I say/think that I do.
We’re still recovering from our whirlwind trip to the Beer Bloggers Conference, but here’s a few notes and my takeaway on the fifth annual conference that took place in San Diego this past weekend.
We left early Wednesday morning to drop the kids off in the Bay Area with Jon’s brother’s family and then the two of us took off to sunny San Diego early Thursday morning. The slowdown from an accident on the LA freeway seemed to follow us all the way to San Diego, yet we arrived around 6pm. After a few errands, we set off for the Blind Lady Ale House, which was recommended by Jon’s brother Ben. It took us a few minutes of trying to find parking and then we were at the entrance where the guy at the front door if we’d been there before (we had not), he then directed us on how to order from the bar and then find a spot at a communal table. We did just that and enjoyed a fig and Gorgonzola pizza with prosciutto added along with a salad. It was just the right amount for us and we enjoyed the atmosphere after two solid days of driving. Once we got back to the hotel, we enjoyed a drink by the pool and relaxed with the soothing sounds of the waterfall.
The next morning, we met a friend that we hadn’t seen in awhile for breakfast at the hotel and then met up with Tiffany from 99 Bottles to explore the Best Damn Beer Shop where we found some beers that we can’t find back in Bend. It was a successful trip. We went back to the hotel just in time for registration.
At noon on Friday, the 5th annual Beer Blogger’s Conference got underway at the Marriott Mission Valley. For lunch, a taco bar was served that was sponsored by The Reyes Beverage Group for lunch with ice tea and of course, beer. After that was over, we headed over to the Dome and the Trade Show got underway with, you guessed it, more beer. You could tell it was the beginning of the conference because everyone was getting their bearings and introducing themselves while sampling beers and collecting swag from the sponsors (NBWA, Warsteiner, Goose Island, Sucuri, Craft Beer Hound, WordPress.com, .beer, Sip Snapp, Reyes Beverage Group, Lagunitas Brewing, Stone Brewing, and Rogue Brewing). (I apologize if I left anyone out.)
By 3pm, we were back in the conference room and after a warm welcome by Alan from Zephyr Adventures, Julia Herz of the CraftBeer.com was giving her introduction of the conference. She’s always amazing to listen to and a wealth of knowledge. The next panel was of San Diego Craft Brewers and was an amazing talk involving Tomme Arthur from The Lost Abbey, Chuck Silva from Green Flash Brewing Company and Peter Zien from AleSmith Brewing Company. Amazing discussion and we learned a lot of the San Diego Brewing history. We also gained insight into Social Media practices from Red Door Interactive before we hopped on the buses to Karl Strauss Brewing for dinner.
If you’ve never been to the tasting room for Karl Strauss on Santa Fe Street, make it a point to go. They have created a wonderful beer garden and we got to enjoy authentic street tacos and beer (I can’t remember the name of the lady sadly). There was a cooler of four beers for us to try, but it was also observed that many of us were buying taster trays and other full beers. I’d noticed a comment on Twitter #bbc14 that another blogger commented on how it was great seeing so many of the bloggers inside BUYING beer and taster trays instead of just taking advantage of the free beer provided with our meal. I totally agree and observed not just Jon buying a beer there, but lots of merchandise, etc. being purchased at all the places we went.
After dinner, I know Jon and I thoroughly enjoyed Chris Cramer’s (CEO and Co-Founder, Karl Strauss Brewing Company) talk about his company’s history and we both noted the similarity of Central Oregon’s history with Deschutes Brewing’s forging the way for industry growth in the city and when we introduced ourselves to Chris after his talk, we discussed Central Oregon’s history paralleling San Diego’s. Karl Strauss’s early struggles paved the way for San Diego’s rich brewing history. Bravo!
Day one was nearing a close, but we had to first go to Lagunitas‘s Couch Trippin’ party! We arrived and the lights were dimmed and a band was playing! There was a bunch of Lagunitas’s beer around the room and I tried (blindly, thanks Jon) Mandaraison and Farmhouse Sour. I liked the raison-y character of the Mandaraison, but I liked the Sour slightly better and got a glass of that to go with my cheese and dessert plate. They had a cool couching trippin’ video station in the corner and many bloggers took advantage to film themselves and watch themselves couch trippin’ on the screens that filled the room. We bloggers were the lucky ones hearing the exclusive announcement for their fresh hop beer, Born Yesterday. The fresh hop Pale Ale will soon be in bottles, with it hitting the stores within 24 hours after it’s packaged!! We’re grateful Lagunitas took to the bloggers to announce this special beer!
A little while after the announcement, it was time for bed. It’d been a long few days for us and we’d wanted to rest up (and for Jon to blog) for the next day!!
Stay tuned for the 2nd half of the trip!