I consider any day in which I can wake up in my own bed in Nashville then be drinking beer straight from an oak barrel in Colorado by lunch to be a good day. This was my introduction to the 2010 Beer Bloggers Conference, held Nov. 5-7 in Boulder, Colo. And it only got better from there.
Highlights from this first-of-its-kind gathering of Internet beer reviewers, reporters and documenters included insightful visits to area breweries Avery, Oskar Blues and Boulder; an amazing bottle-sharing event at which favorite beers from around the country and world were there for the tasting; a lightning round beer review session in which attendees sampled and critiqued 12 beers in a 60-minute span; and the community, education and growth that naturally happen when you have over 100 dedicated craft beer fanatics in the same city for three days.
For me, it’s tough to single out one experience as my favorite of the event. The accumulation of so many new and interesting beer opportunities seemed to make the conference greater than the sum of its parts. The fact that most breweries in town treated us a bit like rock stars didn’t hurt, either.
Take, as an example, the aforementioned invite into the barrel room at Avery Brewing Company. A group of us from the conference took a “non-sanctioned” trip to Avery for lunch on Friday afternoon, packing two vehicles in true clown-car fashion for the 2.4-mile ride from the hotel to the Avery tap room. After savoring many $1 samples over the tap room counter (is there a better bang for your beer buck anywhere?), we were treated by Avery to rounds of two small-batch beers and then invited into the warehouse to hear (and taste) the latest from Avery’s sour-beer barrel program. Wielding a pair of channel locks used to pull the lone nail that would start the flow from the barrel, senior brewer/barrel herder Andy Parker generously shared his knowledge, enthusiasm and two delicious, aging beers.
Understandably tardy to the conference’s first educational session as a result of our field trip, the group slunk back into the Marriott meeting room for afternoon seminars on a variety of blogging topics. I felt a kindred spirit when Jessica Daynor, managing editor of DRAFT magazine, professed her love for the AP Stylebook during her presentation. I also learned a some “search engine optimization” (SEO) tips from web expert Dustin Woodard, who gave practical reviews of a few bloggers’ sites. The last of the sessions for the day, featuring local restaurateur Ray Decker speaking on the art of pairing food and beer, included more Avery beer (which, incidentally, my clown-car, piloted by the kind Mariah Calagione of Dogfish Head Craft Brewery, had couriered back to the conference—just in case anybody wants to get prickly about us being late).
Next on the agenda was a short bus ride to Longmont, Colo., and a beer dinner in the shadows of the towering fermenters inside the Oskar Blues Brewery. With bottomless pints of Dale’s Pale Ale and Old Chub in hand, conference attendees mingled, took tours of the can-based brewery, and purchased specialty draft beers available only at the adjoining tap room, The Tasty Weasel. I opted for a pint of the rare barrel-aged Ten Fidy imperial stout, which was boozy and rich but oh so delicious.
The good beer kept flowing once we returned to Boulder, as a dizzying selection was available for tasting at the bottle-share event—or, as it came to be known, “The Night of Many Bottles.” Attendees provided a six-pack (or more) of their local and/or favorite craft brew and then roamed the stocked hotel meeting room choosing chilled bottles to sample. I, for one, had tastes of some great beers that I can’t get in Tennessee, like Goose Island Bourbon County Stout, Firestone Walker Parabola and Union Jack, and Chimay Grande Reserve vintage 1999. From a name recognition standpoint those might pale a bit in comparison to the ones I missed, like 3 Floyds’ Dark Lord, Russian River Sanctification and BrewDog’s gimmicky The End of History. But that’s OK, because at the event I discovered Bull & Bush Brewery‘s Royal Oil—a 12-percent ABV English-style barleywine that was easily my favorite beer of the night and possibly my favorite beer to date. (Watch a short video of the bottle-sharing event created by fellow blogger Tatiana Peavey.)
My first day’s activities at the conference wrapped up with a hotel room after-party, where I had an audience with the infamous Beer Wench, Ashley Routson, and spent time chatting with several other new friends. Stocked with hand-picked leftovers plundered from the bottle-sharing event, the gathering was augmented with cigars and a homebrewed beer I had heard a lot about on the Internet: Peter Kennedy’s Peanut Butter Porter. All in all, a fitting end to a great opening day of the 2010 Beer Bloggers Conference.
View my photos from Day 1 of the Beer Bloggers Conference: