August 20, 2011

Beer Bloggers Conference, day 2

Things kicked off on Saturday morning with a panel featuring 'industry' bloggers Michael Busman of New Belgium, Matt Van Wyk of Oakshire Brewing (Portland), and Ryan Ross of Karl Strauss. The three guys explained how their blogs came to be and how they utilize them now. New Belgium uses their blog not just as a sound-off for news, but to talk about events and company culture. Oakshire uses WordPress to host their blog, which also serves as their website. This is a great solution for smaller breweries who maybe don't have the budget for a webmaster position or to hire an outside company. This also makes it easy for multiple employees to log in and post, providing a more intimate view of the company. Ryan took things further and talked not just about blogging, but other ways social media can benefit a brewery, how they can work with local bloggers, and even delved into what they can and can't do from a legal standpoint when it comes to what they post.

Some of the points from the first session played very well into the second, Working with your Local Brewery. This session featured Bill Manley, Communications Director at Sierra NevadaM, Ashley Routson aka The Beer Wench, Ben Edmunds of Breadkside Brewery, and Ben Love of Hopworks Urban Brewery (and also President of the Oregon Brewer's Guild). I took away the most from The Wench, as she explained how her hobby as a blogger led to a paying job in the industry doing social media for Bison Brewing. Even putting aside the desire to work in the industry, you can really help promote your local craft beer community by getting involved; get a part time job serving or bartending at a local beer bar, volunteer to pour at beer festivals, volunteer your time to help with any events your local breweries might be having. Simply put, the more you get involved, the more you get back. And, in most cases, the people you work with will notice the skills you have and it could very well turn into a job opportunity. Don't forget, your time at the very least will usually get you some free beer!

We were on our own for lunch from 11:30-1:30. I'd had breakfast and wasn't all that hungry yet, so I worked on my post on BBC11 Day 1 for about an hour before walking a few blocks over to Spirit of 77 for a PDX Beer Week brunch.

Spirit of 77 beer brunch menu featuring Double Mountain Brewery and Hopworks Urban Brewery, presented by PDX Beer Week:

I started with the Batch 1000 and the Red Rye. The cured salmon was delicious, and the malt and dryness of the Batch 1000 complimented it extremely well. The chicken wings arrived as soon as I finished the salmon. Let me just say, I wish all wings were like this. The sauce was not heavy; it was as it said, glazed, rather than slathered. I really liked the Red Rye, and although it was great for washing down the last bites of meat, I didn't think it actually added anything as a pairing.

I sat licking my fingers for a minute or two after I finished the wings, and when the lovely bartendress came over and asked if I wanted something else, I had to go for the Survival Stout with braised bacon. Best decision I ever made. The bacon wasn't just bacon. It was slab a few inches square, and at least an inch and a half thick. The egg was perfectly cooked and had been trimmed into a nice little circle and placed on top of the bacon. When I cut through the fat layer of the bacon, the rest began to fall apart. I took a bite. Wow! I can't describe how delicious it was. The apple cider and maple syrup added a nice sweetness to everything, including the egg, without being too over the top. I got 2/3 of the way through before I realized I had a beer to go with it.

I took a sip of the Survival Stout and realized at this point that I was having the best breakfast ever. This '7-grain' stout is brewed with Portland's Stumptown Coffee. It does not have the vanilla or espresso flavors nor the creaminess of many other "breakfast" style stouts. Instead, Survival Stout is crisp and dry, with just the right amount of bitterness. You could say it's more of a black coffee drinker's breakfast beer, something to pep you up rather than weigh you down. There is nothing better than bacon, eggs, and coffee in the morning, especially when your coffee comes as part of a beer.

I didn't finish lunch until right around the time the 1:30 panel, Lessons from Portland as a Beer (and Beer Blogging) City was starting, so I took my time walking back to the hotel. Unfortunately, my afternoon came to a halt as I started having blurred, tunnel vision, which signals a migraine. [I get a few migraines a year and it tends to be before, during or after large or frequent pressure changes, like the ones that lead up to a huge thunderstorm or that you might experience while flying or visiting an unfamiliar climate.] When I got back to my room I took my medicine (thankfully I had it with me) and passed out. I slept right through the next two panels, Blogging About (and Changing) Beer Laws and The Beer Steward program from the Master Brewers Association of the Americas. I woke up in time for Live Beer Blogging but was so out of it I could hardly function, and had to skip it as well. I didn't mind missing the other panels too much, but missing the Live Beer Blogging was a huge bummer. Just to explain, the Live Beer Blogging session is where everyone tastes 8 beers from 8 breweries in a round-robin, speed-dating format, and tweets or immediately posts their thoughts to their blog.

At 6:30 we headed to the west side of the river, the central downtown area of Portland for dinner and tours at BridgePort Brewing Company. We were provided a private room, open bar, and a surprisingly delicious buffet of food. Brew Master Jeff Edgerton stopped in to talk about the brewery and thank us all for being such a strong force in the craft beer community. During dinner I had the Hop Czar, which is an Imperial IPA based on BridgePort's original IPA recipe. For dessert there was a delicious raspberry purée and apple crisp with fresh made whipped cream. A tour was just about to start when I finished dessert, so I ran to the bar, grabbed a Cafe Negro coffee porter from the nitro tap and joined up with the group.

I certainly appreciate the opportunity to tour a brewery any chance I get, but I tend not to pay attention on quick tours like the one we had, because I hear a lot of stuff I already know about the actual brewing process. I think everyone was pretty much in the same boat. We were really given a guided "viewing" of the brewery. Just a couple little tidbits I did take away... BridgePort does over 100,000 barrels a year; they have a dedicated lab for testing yeast and shelf life; they have an average of 1000 people go through the brewpub in a single day and can kill over 40 kegs in a week; they have one small dumpster for trash that only gets emptied twice a week, everything else get's recycled including the water and grains. Pretty cool.

After leaving BridgePort, we took buses to McMenamins Bagdad Theater for the premier of The Love of Beer, a documentary about women in the beer industry by Alison Grayson, starring Bend Brewing's Tonya Cornett and Sarah Pederson of Saraveza and featuring Teri Fahrendorf of Great Western Malting, Lisa Morrison of Beer Goddess, Gayle Goschie of Goschie Farms, and Amy Welch of Lucky Labrador. The movie not only offered a look into their roles in the Oregon craft beer community but also their personal lives and background. I thought it was very well done and would love to see it screened elsewhere or see sequels based on other beer communities. After the movie, Rogue sponsored buses to take us back to the hotel, and we each got a grab bag with stickers, literature, a Rogue yo-yo, a bottle opener, and a bottle of Chatoe Rogue Single Malt.

Still have to write-up day 3...

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