Friday, April 3, 2015

Beer Bloggers Conference 2015 Preview

This July, a group of both citizen and professional bloggers in the beer world will be converging on Asheville, NC, to discuss all things blogging and beer.  My wife and I attended last years conference in San Diego, and it was a great time.  This year's agenda should be shaping up to be great as well.  A few highlights that I'm looking forward to include touring the Asheville branches of both Oskar Blues and Sierra Nevada as well as the Social Expo and Speed Blogging.  One other thing I'm curious about will be a "3PM Tasting" hosted by a certain megabrewer.

The conference is about beer, so there are always brewery visits involved.  Two on the agenda this year are Oskar Blues and Sierra Nevada.  Considering Louisiana is about to start getting Oskar Blues, I'm pretty stoked to be touring their Asheville location.  They were one of the first craft brewers to embrace the canning movement including their fantastic imperial stout, Ten FIDY.  Sierra Nevada's Asheville location is new (just opened this year), so I'm expecting it to be a great experience and we'll probably have Ken Grossman himself showing us around (he is typically a speaker at the conference).

The Social Expo is going to combine the Trade Show and Beer Social this year.  It will basically be a mix of vendors promoting their wares (last year included items like the Spirited Shipper and an app to suggest similar beers to the one you're checking in that are in your area), and breweries giving some samples of their beers.  Last year included Lagunitas, Goose Island, and Firestone Walker (mmmm Double DBA).  Speed blogging was a similar thing where 10 breweries bring your table a different beer every 5 minutes.  They have 5 minutes to explain their beer, have everyone taste it, and discuss or blog about it.  Some people make one big blog entry for everything, and others go pro level and live blog each one in series.

Finally, the other thing that I'm interested in will be ABInbev bringing their 3PM tasting to us.  This may wind up being a little controversial considering their Super Bowl ad last year talking about how their beer isn't meant to be 'fussed over' or picked apart.  The description of the 3PM tasting, though, sounds like exactly that, where their tasters meet and analyze current batches and ingredients to make sure they meet their standards.  I hope the Bud guys are ready to get some ribbing.  Cheers!

Saturday, August 30, 2014

#BBC14 Pre-Conference Pub Crawl: Independent Style…

We already had travel arrangements to fly into San Diego when the Pre-Conference Excursion was announced.  Since another couple from NOLA, friends of ours, were in the same boat we decided to split cab fare and create our own pre-conference excursion in beautiful, temperate San Diego.

First stop?  For lunch and beverages of course at Blind Lady Ale House (BLAH).  The décor is welcoming.  The color scheme is a palette of browns but the place is well lit so it’s welcoming.  There are skateboard decks lining the walls (they could have used a Gnarly Barley deck) and nostalgic beer lighting (a turning Miller Genuine Draft Light was near our table).  The music was loud enough to hear but low enough to talk over.  These guys have a lot of things going right in this establishment.  Most tables seat six, so this is really a place to come and hang with a group of friends and share some food, drink, and fun.  Favorite beer?  The Golden Ticket, a Belgian golden strong infused with vanilla beans and oak with Dark Horse Coffee.  Think Coffee Stout has a stepchild with something gold and it ends up being blonde but having a delightful coffee kick.  BLAH also had St. Louis Geueze and Monk’s Café Flemish Sour Ale on tap, so I traded off Coffee and sour for the time we were there.  The Cheese and Charcuterie Plates were awesome!  I would definitely hang out here again if in San Diego again.  Once we were done here, it was time for an afternoon nap to cut the time zone confusion.

Then we were back out and about at Toranado.  The selection included several local beverages.  I had a New Belgium Love-Felix and a taste of Toby’s Chip Shot Coffee Porter.  The establishment was on the small side and not well lit.  Toby had the Smoked Mac and Cheese.  It was very cheesy and seasoned with smoked paprika.  It was good, but the serving size was huge.  I had a BLTA (the A is for avocado) with a cucumber salad.  It was all right, but the bacon was on the soggy side (I am a stickler for crispy bacon) and the cucumber salad was heavy on a white dressing.  We did have window side seating that allowed us to look out at what was going on outside on the street.  This is not a stop I would be inclined to repeat.

Our final stop was Waypoint Public.  I loved the campy décor, the bear logo, and the bar rail around the perimeter which allowed for rail seating facing the street to see what was going on outside.  I enjoyed a Berry Nice and Bacon & Eggs by Pizza Port and a Three Sheets by Ballast Point.  The beer was good, the lighting was good, the setting was good.  I loved that they accommodated couples with young children by providing a toddler play ground and a big screen that was playing Harry and the Henderson’s while we were there.  I wish I had waited on eating, because I think the menu would have delivered.  I would definitely make a return visit if I chance to visit San Diego again.  And then, it was time to turn in for the night to gear up for the conference day that was to come…

Sunday, August 24, 2014

2014 Beer Bloggers Conference - San Diego

This conference was perfect for the way I like to schedule recreational travel: a four-day weekend with a pre-conference day for independent wandering and a full conference schedule.  We selected a direct flight from New Orleans International Airport to San Diego International Airport on Southwest Airlines.  We took a taxi from the airport to the conference hotel, the San Diego Mission Valley Marriott.  For our independent ground travel, we used UBER for the first time.  The trip went well, what follows are my thoughts on our lodging and transportation services for the duration of the trip.

Things I appreciate about Southwest:
1.  Select your own seat.  I prefer the exit row on the wing because you get extra legroom.  On the A/B/C side of the plane, you get more elbow room as well.  The extra space helps with the cooped up feeling on the long flight.
2.  Direct flights.  It's worth the drive to New Orleans.
3.  The planes are roomy.  No worries about hitting your head on the ceiling while entering the plane or walking down the aisle.
4.  The seat belts don't make me feel like I need to lose 25lbs to fly.
5.  The flight attendants are friendly and have a sense of humor about the long flights.
While my butt was hurting for half the flight, that is more about my butt than it is about Southwest.

Marriott properties are my favorite for travel.  There is a consistent quality at a good value that I've come to appreciate, and the San Diego Mission Valley Marriott was no exception to that expectation.
1.  The room rate was a great value for the site. 
2.  The staff were courteous and responsive to my requests.  I was able to get a feather free room with a king size bed for a small wait on check in.
3.  Strawberry enhanced water was available in the lobby 24/7.  This is quite refreshing and beats bottled water.
4.  The room was spacious.  There was a sitting area with a love seat and coffee table and a work space with a charging station.
5.  The dining area provided a variety of breakfast options.  We ate there every morning.  The fruit was fresh and the bacon was crispy.  The coffee was Starbucks, so it was decent.
6.  The conference center was connected to the hotel by covered walkways.  The weather was beautiful, but this was a great feature for a conference in the event of rain.
7.  There were beautiful outdoor seating areas.  Landscaping ranged from palm trees to rose bushes.  The sofas and chairs were oversized and comfortable.  There was an outdoor breakfast area and a lounging area with a fire pit.  The pool was inviting, and they played family movies on a big screen at the pool at night.

1.  The vehicles were clean.
2.  The drivers were well dressed and pleasant.  It was like being picked up by a friend for a ride because you were in town.
3.  We never waited more than 10 minutes for a ride (most waits were around 5 minutes).
4.  You don't need cash and your credit card information is shared with only one point of contact.
5.  The UBER app lets you confirm if your driver is on course to the destination you selected.  This is a great feature when you are traveling somewhere that is unfamiliar.

On a return trip to San Diego, I would definitely use all of these transportation and lodging services again.

Saturday, August 23, 2014

Mini-review: Rough Draft Weekday IPA

Aroma is grapefruit with a little cattiness.
Appearance is deep gold with a white head.
Flavor is grapefruit hops with a very low malt backbone.
Mouthfeel is light-bodied and crisp.
Overall Impression is a nice session IPA with a nice fruitiness.

Lost Abbey - Deliverance

Aromas of brandy and chocolate.  Reminiscent of carmalizerd fig.  Good mouthfeel, it's not thick, but there is substance to it.  Coats the palate and finishes with a cholate taste as the palate dries.  It can deliveru from a rough day.  Curl up with a blanket and a good book and don't plan to go anywhere for the night.

Mini-review: Lost Abbey Deliverance

Aroma is boozy with dark fruit (raisins and plums) with a hint of vanilla.
Appearance is dark brown with nice legs.
Flavor is warm alcohol and raisins and plums.
Mouthfeel is thick and viscous.
Overall Impression is decadence.

Fireside Walker - PIVO Hoppy Pils

Light blonde, lemony and spicy smell.   It literally makes the tongue tingle.  Definitely has a lemony tang to it.  Love the carbonation level!  Would go great with grilled fish or boiled shrimp.  Great gateway beer if you're not sure about trying craft beer.