You are going where, for what?!
I’m going to Colorado, in America, for a conference for beer bloggers.
That’s how it began. The whole notion of wanting or needing a conference for beer bloggers is a strange one to get your head around. What will it be? How will it be of benefit? Who will go? I didn’t know the answers before I went, but it’s very clear now I’m back. It’s about bringing people together, about having them discuss the issues specific to what we do, about looking at beer online and about drinking beer with new friends in the real world.
I landed the day before the conference and spent the first night in Boulder, a university town at the foot of the jaw-dropping Rocky Mountains with a population of 100,000 and a lot of breweries to keep them happy. Along with the conference organisers, we drank in three of the breweries: Avery, which was busy and brilliant, a long line of taps, a wide choice from 4.7% pilsner to a 16% Beast, where the 10.4% Maharaja IPA was one of the best beers I had all weekend, mango and pineapple, big and strong but dangerously drinkable; Draft House, with a bar out front and a brewery out the back with a large dining and drinking space between, serving Colorado Brewing Co beers, it also fed me a huge burger and a sampler flight of beers (above), including a kolsch, pale ale, fresh hop IPA and a porter; Walnut Brewery was our final stop (there was a sports beer in between where I had a Fat Tire) where the Brown IPA was fantastic. Jet-lagged and awake for 24 hours, it was time for sleep before the big event.
The conference itself began at 2pm. Jet lag being the bitch that it is, I was awake at 6.30am. I passed the time by: writing descriptions of the beautiful sunrise onto the mountains; walking to Liquor Mart and spending almost an hour walking up and down the looong beer aisle trying to decide what to bring home; getting a breakfast in IHOP, which was the most appropriately named place but pretty grim (not grim enough to stop me going back the next day); walking to a bar for a beer only to be refused because they didn’t accept my ID and wanted my passport (everyone gets ID’d in Boulder) and then when I left 30 seconds after entering a car was lying on its side in a narrow, quiet street lined beside the bar and a police car was already on the scene while a guy with a skateboard was just staring. I’ve no idea how that happened.
Then, finally, the conference began. A large room filled with tables facing the speakers at the front with attendees all staring into smart phones or laptops. Julia Herz from the Brewers Association kicked it off with an interesting string of facts, most of which I neglected to write down assuming there’d be some kind of handout. Then Jessica Daynor from Draft magazine talked about what bloggers can learn from print writing which was a great session but raised a number of questions about if or why bloggers want to learn from print or if the online medium allows for a freer style and approach – a fascinating discussion. There was an hour on SEO which would’ve been helped down with a few jugs of very strong beer – it wasn’t bad, it was just spoken in a language I don’t understand: computer. The final conference session was about beer and food, which was actually more of a drinking session in which you talk and think about food for two hours without actually eating anything, making everyone very hungry. After this we left the bright lights of the conference room and jumped on a bus.
Oskar Blues is the home of the canned beer apocalypse, or so says the sign as we walk into the bar and brewery, a silver and grey industrial cube which opens into a great, wide space backed with huge tanks of beer and a cage-like bar at the front. Everywhere you look it’s a warehouse of silver tins; some 12oz, others 100bbl. It’s a seriously cool place and somewhere I could drink everyday given the chance – it just feels good to be in there, as if you’ve come home or you’ve been there a thousand times before. The beers are great too. Dale’s Pale Ale stands out as being packed with tropical fruit and citrus with a balancing bitterness to finish, an Amarillo fresh-hopped firkin of the Pale Ale was even better, while a bourbon barrel aged Ten Fidy was rich and mouth-filling, intense, oaky and delicious. At 9pm we were sent back to the hotel for the final event of the day: Bring Your Own Bottle Night.
It’s exactly what it sounds like: every attendee brought with them a selection of their favourite or local bottles and they were set up in a large room for people to help themselves (over 100 people, six beers each – that’s a lot of beer). I literally beer-geeked-out. Just imagine that concept, imagine a room of amazing beers, most of which you’ve never seen before, all free and ready to drink: an all-you-can-drink beer buffet as I heard it described. And I treated it as all-you-can-drink, pouring a few mouthfuls at a time before moving onto the next and then the next, greedily knocking them back like a kid in the greatest free sweetshop the world has ever shown him. Sadly, because of the excitement, I don’t remember much of what I had beyond the first five beers. There was a Upright Four Play sour which had boobs on the label (so of course I remember that one), a Brooklyn Black Ops (wow), a Dark Lord 2008 and 2010 (woah that’s sweet), a Russian River Sanctification which followed the tongue-bruising stouts perfectly, and then just so many others as I moved around the room talking to different people, meeting new people, explaining to everyone that yes I had come all the way from London just for the conference and nothing else. At the end they had to physically remove us from the room, which was still half full with beer which the opportune among the group grabbed before going. Having had enough, I stumbled along the corridor to my room where my roommate Reno (possibly the coolest guy I’ve ever met) and I watched some Scottish guy on TV and decided the simplest of action plans for the next day: drink too much beer.*
*Yes, this post is mostly about the drinking. There are many more photos of the weekend here.