Last post we told you about the fun and adventures we had just getting to the 2014 Beer Bloggers Conference (BBC14) site, before any real business took place. Today we want to tell you about the highlights of our first day of the conference. Spoiler alert: we had more beer.
We arrived to our San Diego hotel in the wee morning hours on Friday, so it was fortunate that the conference didn’t kick off until noon. By that time we’d recovered from our escapades of the night before and were ready to start again. Good thing too, because the Reyes Beverage Group sponsored lunch and provided several more beers. Brewers from Belching Beaver Brewery, New English Brewing, and Green Flash were in attendance to talk about their brews, and there were additional beers from Ballast Point, Coronado Brewing, Mike Hess Brewing and probably more we forgot to write down because our hands were too busy holding drinks. My favorite was the Belching Beaver Peanut Butter Milk Stout, which was the best combo of milky chocolate and peanut butter that I’d ever experienced in a glass! I also loved the Zunbar Chocolate Coffee Imperial Stout from New English Brewing. Clearly I was feeling love for all the stouts. Jeff’s top picks were decidedly hoppier: the Green Flash Hop Odyssey White IPA and the Hess Brewing Solis IPA. The food and the beers were all top-notch.
Lunch was followed by a trade show with fun vendors, a little HopVapin’ courtesy of Lagunitas, and even more beers (Stone, Firestone Walker and Goose Island, just to name a few.) After the trade show the conference introduction was given by Julia Herz, Craft Beer Program Director from the Brewers Association. Julia was wonderful, speaking about the beer industry in general an also specifically to us, the beer blogger community. She was incredibly passionate and inspiring. After Julia there were a few more great panels, but I won’t bore our readers with the details because if you’re not a blogger you probably don’t care, and if you are a blogger you should probably come to BBC15 to experience it for yourself. Instead, I’m going to skip directly to our evening, beginning with an excursion to Karl Strauss Brewing Company.
If you aren’t from the west coast, it’s possible you don’t know about Karl Strauss Brewing Company. I know we knew nothing about them before this trip, however co-founder Chris Cramer shared a bit of a history lesson with us during our visit. We learned that Karl Strauss, the man, was a German brewer who migrated to the U.S. in 1939. He arrived in Milwaukee and was quickly hired by Pabst Brewing Company. He started in bottling, but it didn’t take long for Karl to move up through the ranks until he was the Master Brewer. During his 44 years at Pabst he helped reformulate their beer, and is at least partially responsible for creating Pabst Blue Ribbon.
College buddies Chris Cramer and Matt Rattner formed Karl Strauss Brewing Company in 1988. Chris got the idea while traveling Australia, where he happened into a small microbrewery and had “the best beer of my life.” Chris had the good fortune of being related to Karl Strauss, and naturally asked for his help in this endeavor. Karl obliged, helping to create their beer recipes and becoming the spokesperson for the aptly named new brewery. When Karl Strauss Brewing opened, after an enormous amount of red tape, they became the first new brewery in San Diego in 50 years.
It was early on a beautiful San Diego evening when we arrived at Karl Strauss Brewing Company. They whisked us down to their absolutely beautiful outdoor patio, where cold beer and freshly made street tacos were waiting. There we could help ourselves to pours from kegs of the more popular Karl Strauss brews, and my favorite quickly became the Red Trolley Ale. Apparently I’m not the only one, as Red Trolley has earned 18 combined GABF and World Beer Cup medals. While Jeff enjoyed it too, he preferred the Big Barrel Double IPA since he prefers his beers big and bitter. We shared a full sampler of beers with our pals Adam and Emily from Fresh Pints! There was only one beer we didn’t love, but that was a Helles, a style that isn’t really one of our favorites. Overall I’d say their beers are solid and great representation of the styles.
Once we had filled up on Karl Strauss beers, food and merchandise it was back to the hotel for an evening party thrown by Lagunitas Brewing Company. And lets make this very clear: Lagunitas knows how to party! It was a party for all the senses: there were delicious beers to taste, fun CouchTrippin’ videos to see, great music to hear, and the HopVapin’ Station was back for more delicious whiffs of hop vapors. Still, the best hops of the night were the hops in Lagunitas’ beers. They had all our favorites – Daytime, Pils, Lagunita Sucks – but also some great rare varieties. The Mandaraison was a delicious ale fermented with Belian wit yeast and spiced with citrus fruits, which was great. The best beer of the night was the Sonoma Farmhouse Sour, an incredible saison that fermented with Brettanomyces and spice. It was unbelievable, and while there were probably many other rarities in the room, we pretty much kept our glasses filled with the Sonoma Farmhouse Sour.
It was at the Lagunitas party that we also got the big scoop on their next new release: the Lagunitas Born Yesterday Pale Ale. This will be a wet hopped, or fresh hopped ale, using Willamette, Citra and Mosaic hops. Given the super-fresh nature of this beer I’m guessing we won’t see it in Colorado, but you never know. One can dream…
With day one of the official conference behind us, it was off to get some much-needed rest for our heads and our livers. We still had one more day to go, which we’ll sum up for you in our third and final post.