"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!

Monday, August 5, 2013

Boston Beer Bloggers Conference: Part 1

Where do you geek-out about beer?  Moments where I can talk passionately about the libation that so intrigues me are a rarity.  Certainly, my friends and family are all beer-lovers and they’re definitely more knowledgeable than the  average Bud-swiller but, even so, I sometimes see their eyes glaze over when I start talking about IBUs, beer history, and current craft trends.  Bless their hearts, they humor me, but I know I get too nerdy from time to time. 

What about beer festivals?  Those are always crammed full of beer geeks, right?  Well, sorta; for every true beer fan in attendance there’s five attendees that are there just to get completely schnockered.  The rowdies (and the general size of the crowd) make a real conversation about beer near impossible.

Pale Ale at Kauffman Stadium
Homebrew clubs, perhaps?  It’s just my hang-up, I guess, but I don’t feel comfortable interjecting myself into an already-established group; I’d feel like the odd man out—the newbie that doesn’t know anybody.  I’d feel more at ease in an environment where nobody knows anybody and we’re all on the same level.

Where, then, do I get my fix for craft beer and craft beer conversations?  If I were a dork for superheroes, I’d have San Diego Comic Con.  If I were a gearhead, I’d have Sturgis.  If I were an idiot, I’d have Nickelback concerts.  For beer geeks, though, you haven’t lived until you’ve been to the Beer Bloggers Conference.

The Beer Bloggers Conference (henceforth referred to as BBC) is a three-day event wherein those who write about beer network with each other as well as brewery reps, explore a new city and see what it has to offer in terms of beer, and learn a thing or two about how to more effectively blog about their favorite brews.  2013 marked the fourth annual BBC and Nicole and I’s second (our first being 2012’s Indianapolis conference).  This time, however, the conference was held in Boston, a city neither of us had previously visited.
Fireworks at Kauffman

We’re road warriors, Nicole and I, and we enjoy seeing the country at a slower speed.  We hop around from state to state, city to city, brewery to brewery and really take in what this country has to offer.  Do you think 2,000+ miles convinced us to fly?  Heck no!  We’re in it for the adventure so we packed up the car, pointed east, and blasted across the wheat fields of Kansas.

First stop: Kansas City, MO where we camped and took in a Royals game.  I’m originally from the Midwest so you’d think I’d be accustomed to the sweltering heat mixed with saturating humidity.  I’ve been in Colorado too long—I was melting into a puddle at Kauffman Stadium.  Ah, but what doth I espy at left field?  A sight for sweaty eyes: the Boulevard Brewing Co. concession stand!  We clamored over rows of perspiring fans, bee-lined it to outfield, and shelled out for a plastic cup of Pale Ale.  Oh, the cool, sweet liquid between my lips on that clammy, miserable evening!  The glorious whiff of hops in a sea of body odor!  I don’t care if it’s sold at stadium prices; Boulevard saved my life that night.

The next day we pointed south to Branson for some non-beer and non-Yakov Smirnoff related fun (not that anybody could confuse Yakov Smirnoff with anything resembling “fun”).  No, instead I indulged in my other great, geeky passion: roller coasters.  Although the local amusement park—Silver Dollar City—is overpriced (even more than usual) and cheese-ball to the max, they still have a healthy handful of quality coasters namely Outlaw Run, the newest in the park.  Despite its never-before-seen-on-a-wooden-coaster inversions, this ride is great because it links all its major elements with fun little hills and turns which, collectively, are more entertaining than the marquee barrel rolls and steep drops.  Well, I don’t want you to tune-out as I gab on about stuff that isn’t beer so let me just draw a quick parallel: Outlaw Run is intense yet nuanced like a well-crafted Russian imperial stout.  Or, as Mr. Smirnoff might say, “In America, you kill bottle of Russian stout.  In Soviet Russia, stout Russian kill you with bottle!

Outlaw Run (most of the track is hidden by woodlands)
After Branson, we headed back north, drove through monsoon-worthy rainstorms, and arrived in St. Louis.  We grabbed a campsite on the east bank of the Mississippi and, with daylight left to spare, decided to hit up a local brewery.  I’m not terribly familiar with St. Louis beer (except for the obvious so-called “King of Beers” and the slightly less obvious Schlafly) but, thankfully, Tamre, my buddy in beer and fellow conference attendee, had already informed me about the BreweryMap app which locates breweries within a certain circumference of the user’s location.  I don’t mind giving them a plug because it really is a great tool for when you’re away from home!    

I set BreweryMap to a five mile radius and clicked around mindlessly until I came across 4 Hands Brewing Co.  I reiterate that I know little of St. Louis beer yet this brewery seemed familiar.  Where had I heard it before?  At a festival?  At the liquor store?  Ah, yes; it was featured in Crafting a Nation (a fantastic documentary; go see it if you haven’t yet)!  I have no idea if 4 Hands is the “best” brewery under the arch (it’s at least really good) but there’s something to be said for national media exposure; I experienced 4 Hands on the silver screen and now I want to experience it in real-life! 

After navigating the braid-like network of bridges spanning the river, we were spit out somewhere near Busch Stadium and began meandering towards a part of town in which Clark Griswold might ask for directions because, like most great breweries, 4 Hands is off the typical, tourist path and is situated where the real St. Louisans live, work, and play.  Like Wynkoop Brewing Company to LoDo, 4 Hands is helping to bring up the neighborhood.

The façade of 4 Hands is that of an old-timey warehouse complete with caged windows but the interior, while still retaining an industrial feel, is much more inviting with its red brick walls, communal table (made from the building’s original bay doors), exposed ceiling beams, and rustic wood accents.  Situated to the left of the bar is a corner of glass that looks out onto the surprisingly vast brewing floor.
Glass corner at 4 Hands

Along with some tasty St. Louis-style BBQ, I ordered Prussia Berliner-Style Weiss (3.5% ABV), a lovely, cloudy yellow, tart ale that was the epitome of refreshing on a day that was—while less torturous than the one before—nonetheless defined by heat and humidity.  It features a touch of lemony citrus reminiscent of lemonade making for an all-the-more invigorating drinking experience.

So good was Prussia that I branched out and ordered samplers of three other beers: Second Hand (4.5% ABV), Prunus (6% ABV), and Contact High (5% ABV).     

Second Hand (which was brewed in collaboration with nearby 2nd Shift Brewing Company hence the name) is what’s known as a “table beer.”  Table beers were once Belgian staples—a large bottle of low-alcohol beer to drink and share with the family during meals.  Yes, the whole family, kids included.  I don’t see the stigma, really; it’s smarter to teach your children to drink responsibly instead of making beer the “forbidden fruit” because, once they get their hands on that fruit, they’ll indulge in it a lot because they never know when the opportunity will strike again.  If beer is an everyday kind of thing, there’s no reason to splurge.  Hell, a low ABV beer’s still better for kids than McDonald’s, soft drinks, and all that other crap we shove down their gullets.  But, I digress.

Left to Right: Contact High, Prunus, & Second Hand
Second Hand is dry-hopped with El Dorado hops and the cloudy, orange beer packs a lot of fruity, spicy, complex flavors for having but a wisp of alcohol (actually, 4.5% pushes the boundaries of the definition of table beer). 

Prunus, a sour cherry saison, pours a cloudy, dark reddish-orange.  It features a snip of tartness amidst an otherwise typical mix of Belgian spices, fruity esters, and other scents and flavors associated with the saison style.  It’s a solid beer for summertime sipping.
4 Hands

Contact High is a highly-hopped wheat ale.  The bright, rich, yellow beer’s northwest hops and orange zest impart a bitter, citrusy bite that may be an unpleasant surprise to those who usually like wheat beers but shun hoppy beers.  However, if you’re a fan of both wheat and hops, then Contact High is right up your alley!

Wow, that’s a long post and it’s only a fraction of what’s yet to come!  Stay tuned for more beer adventures as we head ever eastward towards Boston and the BBC.



After sitting all day in the car on that first leg of the journey, I was ready to spend the evening watching some baseball!  We had visited Kansas City a couple of years ago and walked around Kauffman Stadium but this was the first time we were able to catch a game.  In Colorado, the summer days may be hot but the evenings are comfortable enough to sit outside and enjoy yourself but KC’s weather is definitely not Colorado’s weather.  Chris and I got to the game about an hour before the game started and thought we would wait a few innings before finding something to quench our thirst.  However, we only lasted one inning before finding some good beer and good BBQ.

Chris already said his second geeky passion is roller coasters but he neglected to mention that he has a spreadsheet detailing each and every coaster that he and his family members have ridden.  Right now, he ranks in first place with 261 coasters while I have a mere 89 (24 new ones on this trip, though).  Considering I had been on but one roller coaster before I met Chris (and I cried when I was on it), 89 coasters isn’t too shabby.

Leaving Branson, we headed northeast in search of more beer, cooler weather, and more coasters.  First up: more beer.  4 Hands Brewing Co. has an inviting taproom with a large community table along with several smaller tables. One of the things that I really like about 4 Hands is the recycled materials in the taproom; the community table is the original dock door from the building, the foot rests on the bar were once fire sprinklers for the building, the bar is made from recycled glass, and the tables and chairs are from the walls of an 107-year old barn and some recycled pallets.

More of our journey to come!  We’ll be back with more stories soon.


Outside seating at 4 Hands. 

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