Thursday, 16 August 2018

Beer Bloggers Conference 2018 - some initial thoughts

I'm now into my second week away from home and also, following my brief stop-over in Iceland, my second week in the USA. I am writing this post sitting in the front room of my sister's attractive, weatherboard house in an equally attractive small town, about 40 minutes drive from Cleveland, Ohio, having travelled here across country, initially by Amtrak train from Washington D.C. to Chicago and then a short flight across to Cleveland.

I found time for plenty of writing whilst on the train, but most of the articles I've written are still in draft form and have not been posted yet. Consequently I thought I'd better get something more definite posted, whilst things are still relatively fresh in my mind.

As well as affording the opportunity of visiting my sister and her family, I was primarily over in the United States to attend the 2018 Beer Bloggers& Writer's Conference. This was held at a hotel in Sterling, Virginia, which was a conveniently short hop from Washington Dulles airport.

The conference took place over two days, although there were both pre and post conference excursions either side of the main event. I was only around for the post conference jaunt, and I have written about that separately.

I had an amazing time at the conference and am pleased to say it fulfilled all my expectations. It was good to learn about the craft-brewing scene in America today, which appears to be in a strong and healthy place. Certainly there is far more beer and loads more breweries in the country now, than there was when I was last over here, 10 years ago.

What I have found is there are a lot of what I'd call "extreme beers" - more about that later, but there is certainly a very vibrant scene when it comes to beer and it is especially pleasing to see that craft beer has reached out to the American public at large, helped by an explosion in the number of local breweries.

I met some really nice people at the conference, and it was nice to have been welcomed to the event, as one of only two attendees from outside North America. There were some interesting talks and presentations, some of which I will cover at a later date.

We also had two evening excursions, the first of which was a coach ride deep into the heart of rural Virginia. Here Vanish Farmwoods Brewery acted as our hosts for the evening, showcasing not just their own craft beers, but also brews from some of the other Virginia based breweries.

In pleasant rural surroundings Vanish had laid on an amazing barbeque for us, which included some of the most delicious and tender roast beef it has been my pleasure to have experienced. What I liked about the place was it was very family oriented, with a large outdoor play area for the kids, plus a large off-sales section where visitors could load up with bottles and cans to take away, as well as filling up their "growlers" with freshly-brewed craft beer.

The second evening event was a dinner hosted by Lost Rhino Brewing, who were situated much closer to the conference hotel. We got to enjoy yet more beer and another great selection of excellent food to help soak it all up. This was a good session to just chill out at, and mingle and chat with fellow delegates. I did make a whole series of "rough" notes, as to which beers I enjoyed and those I was not quite so keen on.

The notes, together with a host of other beer and conference-related stuff, are buried somewhere in my luggage, so I will wait until I'm back in Blighty before I go hunting for it. In the meantime, I just wanted to get something about the conference posted, so read, enjoy and let me know what you think.


Russtovich said...

"Certainly there is far more beer and loads more breweries in the country now, than there was when I was last over here, 10 years ago."

I'd say that's about right, from a perspective north of their border. I arrived on the west coast (of Canada) 11 years ago this month. It only took a year to two to see that the offerings were far more than they used to be. Coincidentally, this was about the time I lost my strong affinity for Guinness and started with going with the (relatively) local brews. :)

"What I have found is there are a lot of what I'd call "extreme beers" - "

Again, more so from my experience north of the border, the U.S. still seems to have a fixation on super high ABV beers (and hops to go along with that). Up where I am we're starting to see a bit of a trend away from that (e.g. more Session ales this summer than last).

Nothing against the strong beers mind you (love a strong beer for bed, but not 3 pints of 8% whatever when it's 30C outside!).

"had laid on an amazing barbeque for us, "

In certain parts of the U.S. BBQ is almost viewed as a religion. :)

"This was a good session to just chill out at, and mingle and chat with fellow delegates."

Nothing against the UK (or Canada or elsewhere) but when they put their mind to it Yanks (and even 'Southerners') can be some of the most laid back people around. ;)

"so read, enjoy and let me know what you think."

It sounds like the trip is going well which is good to hear. Your views on train travel and airport security can wait till you get home.

Finally, when I mentioned the west coast has exploded with breweries I should qualify that by saying that is primarily in Canada. In the U.S. they're seeing that not only on the west coast, but also the east coast (Dog Fish and Brooklyn Breweries for example) as well as the mid-west (e.g. Texas). But even in the U.S. I'd say the west coast still dominates slightly in that regard.


PS - "which appears to be in a string and healthy place."

Strong vice string. :)

Etu said...

The Japanese barbecue techniques, using the "Green Egg" and "Komodo Joe" type ceramic ovens have really caught on in the US, and are spreading here.

I was a bit sceptical, but my stepson's slow-roast lean brisket by that method soon cured me of that, and so I can relate to your comment about the roast beef.

I liked the fact of your travelling four thousand miles, from Kent, to stay in a weatherboarded house especially too.

You seem to be having an enjoyable and interesting time, Paul, and I hope that the rest of the stay carries on in like fashion.

Thanks for the pleasantly readable update.



Paul Bailey said...

Thank-you for your comments gentlemen. The typo is now duly corrected Russ, so thanks for pointing that one out.

I've certainly been having a good time, but after all that travelling it's nice to be settled in one place for a while, and spend some time relaxing with my sister and her family. It's 10 years since I was last over, so we've got a lot of catching up to do.

My brother-in-law and I have been visiting a few local brew-pubs, and it's good to have the chance of drinking some beers which are less extreme than those I sampled earlier in the trip.