"Beer in Colorado" is dedicated to that divine elixir born of the marriage of water, malt, hops, and yeast as interpreted
by those living in Colorado. Follow the author as he visits every brewery in the state, creates experimental homebrews,
attends beer festivals, tries interesting beers from around the world, and spreads the good word of beer. Prost!

Thursday, July 19, 2012

Beer Bloggers Conference: Part 1

There’s a place for us all.  The geeks have Comic-Con, the hippies have Burning Man, and people who politely pretend to enjoy live theatre have the Tony Awards.  Where, then, do people such as Nicole and I gather?  Yes, there are many beer festivals around the world but those events cater to beer geeks.  We are beer geeks, don’t get me wrong, but we belong to an even narrower niche culture within the beer geek circle and, if you’re reading this now, you should know what I’m talking about: we are beer bloggers.  We don’t just experience the wide world of hops and barley—we document and share it with anybody that’ll listen.  Where do we go to be among others of our ilk?  Is there a place where the drinking writers and the writing drinkers unite?  That place exists and, it turns out, it’s in Indianapolis, Indiana—the 2012 host city for the Beer Bloggers Conference

A whole conference for people like Nicole and I!  Three days (actually, one full day and two half days) of presentations, tours, meals, networking, and—not surprisingly—ample amounts of beer slung down our gullets.   

The “purist” beer bloggers say the conference is just a means for sponsors to sell us on their wares and promote their image.  These people say conference attendees are sheep subconsciously manipulated into thinking a certain way.  These people say we’re sell-outs bowing down to the corporations.  These people are a-holes. 

There are corporate sponsors for the conference, absolutely, but who else is going to foot the bill for our meals, events, and miscellaneous debauchery?  In regards to these sponsors “selling” us, well, we did pay an overall entrance fee to attend but nobody, to my knowledge, bought a single item during the conference.  Instead, we just took things: expensive glassware, extra bottles of booze, and ubiquitous bottle openers, stickers, and coasters.  These sponsors will receive advertising from us bloggers but it’s hardly free advertising since we scavenged their schwag like jackals on a carcass.  So, enough of this anti-sponsorship, counterculture, Communists Manifesto crap from you so-called purists; we’re all here to support craft beer and if we get free goodies while doing so then all the better.

But, I’m getting ahead of myself.  Let’s rewind to the beginning because, while the conference was the zenith of our beer drinking adventure, there were a lot of happenings before, during, and after that bear mentioning as well.

We’re road warriors, Nicole and I, so we loaded up the car and blasted east down I-70.  After several hours of rolling through the vast, featureless prairie of eastern Colorado and western Kansas, we arrived in Manhattan, Kansas: home of Kansas State and the finest beer the local Busch Light-guzzling frat boy population’s never heard of—Tallgrass Brewing Co.

Tallgrass is one of those out-of-the-way breweries, a hidden gem in an office park.  We opted for the sampler package—buy a $5 glass and receive generous “taster” pours of everything on tap.  I bought the glass that’s shaped like a can of beer.  It’s perhaps not the optimum shape for head retention or maximizing aroma and flavor but it is pretty badass. 

First beer up was Halcyon Unfiltered Wheat (5% ABV, 20 IBU).  It’s a cloudy, light yellow brew with a lemony, slightly sour aroma.  The spiced quality of Halcyon is quite light but one can taste a flavor similar—but not exact—to chamomile. 

8-Bit Hop-Rocketed Pale Ale (5% ABV, 40 IBU), first of all, has an awesome retro video game design on the can.  What’s in the can is clear, orange-tinted yellow, and smells and tastes lightly hopped.  A little bit of hop bitterness sticks in the throat but it’s mild.

IPA (6.3% ABV, 60 IBU) is the color of polished brass and, surprisingly, has less of a hop nose than 8-Bit.  It does, however, have a healthy dose of malt which imparts an earthy aroma and flavor like a weak barleywine. 

Murky and rusty in appearance, Oasis (7.2% ABV, 93 IBU), a double ESB, is malts-over-hops (despite but the IBUs tell you) with a nutty flavor.  Like IPA, Oasis is akin to a light barleywine. 

All the beers at Tallgrass are a pleasure but one, Buffalo Sweat (5% ABV, 20 IBU), is the leader of the herd. A stout, Buffalo Sweat features a thick, tan head and a black body with barely perceptible red highlights.  It smells like fresh roasted coffee and oatmeal cookies and has a great dose of chocolate flavor with a velvety smooth finish.

We hit the road after finishing our Tallgrass beers and made way to Kansas City, Missouri.  While there, we made a stop at The Drop, a local watering hole, to drink some Boulevard Brewing Co. beer and play GeeksWho Drink pub quiz.  I won’t bore you with details but there was a team there going for a Monday/Tuesday/Wednesday 3-peat at all the KC quiz venues but team Monkey Fracas, Jr. (i.e. Nicole and I) put the kibosh on that plan; we won after a tie-breaker thanks mostly to the final question worth four points: I’ll name a beer, you name the state of origin—Fire Rock Pale Ale, Abita Amber, Yuengling, and Dogfish Head 90 Minute IPA.  What kind of beer geeks would we be if we didn’t know the answer was Hawai’i, Louisiana, Pennsylvania, Delaware

The plan after quiz was to camp in a state park just east of KC but plans changed; when we arrived at the campsite we saw that they had shut the place down for the night—we arrived too late; no cars in, no cars out.  Further aggravating the situation was the fact that the All-Star Game had been held at Kauffman Stadium the day before and essentially every hotel had no vacancy.  What were we to do?  Drive straight through to Indy, that’s what!  We alternated between driving and sleeping and crawled into Indiana’s capital unwashed and road weary.  We were so exhausted, in fact, that we made like hobos and slept in White River State Park as our hotel room was being prepared.  Park benches aren’t the most comfortable mattresses but it sufficed for a few hours

Before long my parents arrived in Indy.  We spent some time at Scotty’s Brewhouse and O’Reilly’s Irish Bar & Restaurant, took in an Indianapolis Indians game, drank a little more at the fancy new J.W. Marriott, and finally, for these two tired kids, called it a night.

Holy underwear, Batman!  That’s a whole post and we didn’t even get to the conference yet!  Hang in there, readers, this is going to be a multi-post article.  Stay tuned for part two.

Buffalo Sweat doing a trick


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