Beer Bloggers Conference 2011 - It Drank Pretty Good

Well, I've been home for a week now since my record-breaking-quick, cross country venture to Portland, Oregon for the Beer Bloggers Conference and I'm sorry to say I haven't written down my thoughts from the conference yet. Between catching up on emails, other office duties and, of course, dealing with the insane end-of-summer weather of both an earthquake and hurricane rocking the east coast, the D4TH blog just fell lower on the to-do list.

BUT! Here we are now :)

Portland is such a wonderful city and I wish I had had a longer excursion to visit Beervana. Within an hour of my arriving (finally!) at the conference host hotel, the group was off on a trip outside the city to the Goschie Hop Farm to tour the facilities as they are amidst the bustling harvest season. What a picturesque site to walk, see, smell and hear all the action as the farmers busily prepare for the harvest!

Friday night concluded with the ever-popular "Night of Many Beers", an event that finds attendees bringing some of their brews from around the country to share with other bloggers that may not have these brews distributed in their region. Disclosure: as Heineken USA paid for my travel and attendance at the Beer Bloggers Conference, I brought some samples of Newcastle's exciting, new, yet-to-be-released seasonal offerings: Newcastle Werewolf and Newcastle Winter IPA.

Saturday was jam-packed with seminars on a variety of industry-related topics, ranging from dissecting beer laws to working with and learning from industry beer bloggers. Following the seminars, we hunkered down for Live Beer Blogging, otherwise referred to as speed-dating for beer bloggers. The event consisted of eight breweries pouring samples in a speed-dating format, talking with groups of bloggers in five-minute intervals to explain the brewery and how a favorite brew is prepared. Valuable takeaway: no matter how cautious you think you are, beer is magnetically attracted to electronics and will manage to find its way into every crevice of you computer (read what was to be my last tweet on my computer from the Live Beer Blogging event: "Last but not least #8 is and karl strauss pouring Boardwalk Black Rye 8i,n][j").

Before departing on Sunday, the conference's morning sessions were all about tools for bloggers, by bloggers. Dan of Life on Tap captured the eight blogger presentations in a blog post better than anything I could attempt to write up, so please give his article a read. Jay Wilson was our keynote speaker and delivered a really great presentation on what it takes to come up with a great idea and execute it in a blogosphere where there already exists so many authors and so much content it can sometimes be hard to determine who the influencers are.

Many influencers within the beer blogging community were most certainly at the Beer Bloggers Conference this year! I encourage you to try to attend next year's conference either in Europe or in America (or both!) if you have the opportunity. The experiences to network, socialize, share and learn from one another are unlike anything else one can pick up from participating in these spaces online alone. I'll look forward to seeing you there.

A final lunch - and Bloody Mary, to boot - were all else I needed before heading back to PDX Airport on the Tri-Met for the long trek back to Hartford. Here were a few of my favorite cell phone pictures captured during the conference, but there are many more if you look at the BBC11 group page on Flickr or visit individual blogger posts.


Before cracking open a bottle, here are the Newcastle Werewolf and Newcastle Winter IPA, as part of the Night of Many Bottles

A gigantic pile of hops at Goshie Hop Farm waiting to be compressed into bales.

...While swimming in said pile of hops.


Small Brands Can Shine in New Competition

Making the latest splash in the spirits competition scene is MicroLiquor.com and the launch of the site's latest campaign, the MicroLiquor Spirit Awards.

Unlike many other spirits competitions, the MicroLiquor Awards are unique in that entry to the competition is tailored exclusively to small and emerging brands in the US marketplace. To be eligible, liquor brands must currently sell 50,000 9-Liter Cases or less in the USA.

The competition will have three judging components for the small liquor brands:
  1. Quality of spirit
  2. Brand packaging and design
  3. Overall value
For a small brand, this is a great launching pad to receive feedback - and, perhaps, a gold medal! - surrounding launch efforts. According to the awards website: "Liquor entrepreneurs, brand managers and marketing professionals have the opportunity to gain entrepreneurial thought and insight to their brands while enjoying the benefits of competition."

The MicroLiquor Awards stem from MicroLiquor.com, a industry specific website and blog about entrepreneurship within the beverage alcohol industry. The website features new product launches, event news, and spirit and wine reviews, all surrounding the carefully crafted and uniquely marketed beverages in the alcohol market today.

To read one of the site's latest reviews about Mandarine Napoleon, visit their post on MicroLiquor.com and visit MicroLiquorAwards.com to find more information about entering your brand into the spirited competition. The deadline to enter is October 17.



Gary Vee Calls it Quits

In a surprise announcement yesterday Gary Vaynerchuk of the erstwhile Wine Library TV aka "The Thunder Show" and most recently host of Daily Grape announced his retirement from wine.

So what? Well for those of you who don't know Gary, he's been a force in revolutionizing and democratizing the way wine is tasted, reviewed, promoted and sold. With nearly 900,000 twitter followers and videos viewed by upwards of 90,000 people a day, the guy had some major juice. And don't forget he also literally wrote the book, ah...books..."Crush It" and "The Thank You Economy" that served as latter day Cluetrain Manifestos on Social Media Marketing.
More important than reach, though, has been his impact not just on consumers, but on the trade and influencer set as well. While some may have winced at the "F-bombs" he dropped at our US Drinks Conference last year (and I'm not talking about "Fruit"), his in-your-face, stream-of-consciousness and high-energy delivery reset the mode button for winespeak.

Now the question becomes, what's next? Dr. Vino (Tyler Colman) posted his thoughts yesterday and got me thinking. Tyler himself caused a tipping point in wine criticism with his outing of Robert Parker's Wine Advocate policies and everybody in the world of citizen wine blogging is still talking about that.

I don't have the answer to what's next, but it sure will be fun to watch.


Brancott Estate - A Taste with Jim Robertson

Wednesday night Steve and I met with an elite group of NYC bloggers to taste through the delicious offerings of Brancott Estate and hear about the brands ins and outs first-hand from Global Brand Ambassador, Jim Robertson.

The weather was one that New York City does not often have - perfect. Not too hot, not too cold and the warm breeze circling the space was just what we needed. The event was held on the XVI Rooftop bar on 48th street and 8th overlooking midtown Manhattan and a fantastic sunset that is what summertime in the city is all about.

Jim brought us through the line-up of Brancott Estate's classic range: Pinot Grigio, Pinot Noir and Sauvignon Blanc. Although we did not have the opportunity to taste, there is also a Pinot Noir and a Sauvignon Blanc available in limited quantities from the letter series which is a higher end product produced by the estate. All of Brancott's wines are appellation Marlborough, NZ.

We began with the 2010 Pinot Grigio - a wine that many exclaimed, "restored their faith in Pinot Grigio." This wine is in the style that to that of one will likely consider closer that of a Pinot Gris - big fruit, lots of a flavor a delightful bit of acid that would allow the wine to stand up to food.

Next we tasted the Pinot Noir. Why the Pinot Noir and not the Sauvignon Blanc? Well, for one, it was a special request by one of the attendees and, second of all, this order as decided to demonstrate the intense flavors and high acid of the Sauvignon Blanc that could actually follow a red wine and still come through showing beautifully.

The Pinot Noir was fruity and fresh, decent amount of a spice and far surpassed expectations for a wine at this price point. This was a wine easily sippable in the sun as it would be on a chilly fall day - with or without food. Here's a fun fact about Pinot Noir from New Zealand that Jim taught us: 52% of all Pinot Noir grown in NZ is grown in Marlborough with only a small proportion coming from Central Otago despite its popularity in recent years.

Finally we rounded up the bunch with a taste of the Sauvignon Blanc. This is easily the most widely recognized wine from Brancott Estate and most widely available - we instantly saw why. This wine is a delightfully easy-drinking white, with distinctly intense flavors of gooseberries and citrus that can really only come from NZ. Despite the fact it came after the Pinot Noir, as I mentioned, the wine was full and vibrant and instantly took over.

It was a fantastic mid-summer event in an excellent location with great company and delicious wines. Special thanks to all to attended!




International Beer Day 2011

It's here once again - today is International Beer Day! It doesn't take much twisting of my arm to convince me to open up a beer in celebration, especially one with such widespread camaraderie as this. However, it is really nice to be reminded just how connected our niche community of beer enthusiasts really is.

That is why I thought today would be a good opportunity to announce on the blog that I will be headed again to the 2011 Beer Bloggers Conference later this month in Portland, Oregon. I am looking forward to returning to the conference (though I should note a change in locale from last year's Boulder, CO outing) and again learning from some great minds in the industry, from brewmasters to brewery reps to beer bloggers, of course. Among the MANY activities that have sparked my interest, I am personally looking forward to Saturday morning's seminar "Learning From Industry Bloggers". Here's the panel description as it's listed on the conference website:
The focus of the Beer Bloggers Conference (and, indeed, the beer blogging community in general) is on what we call “citizen bloggers”, those not associated with a brewery or other business. However, at the same time there are hundreds of “industry bloggers” writing about or simply connected to a specific business. This panel will talk about how industry bloggers use their blogs to promote their specific business, gain customers, and enhance their own communities, all with an idea towards learning things we Citizen Bloggers might be able to apply. We will hear from Ryan Ross from Karl Strauss, Michael Busman from New Belgium, and Matt Van Wyk from Oakshire Brewing in Eugene, Oregon.
There will be lots of action to follow from the conference and if you want to follow at home, I would suggest starting by following the #BBC11 conversations taking place on Twitter (I'll be tweeting from both @Drinks4TheHouse and @stephaniejerzy).

For those looking to participate in International Beer Day in their communities tomorrow, check out the IBD web page to Find A Celebration in your area. As for me? Well, you'll likely find me at my local brewery, Thomas Hooker Beer, sampling the taps at their bi-monthly Open House. What a great kick start to the weekend!