"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, October 10, 2013

Boston Beer Bloggers Conference: Part 8

After Live Beer Blogging, we, the Beer Bloggers Conference (BBC) crew, re-boarded our coaches and set-off for Boston’s second most famous brewery (Boston Beer Company AKA Sam Adams being number one): Harpoon Brewery.  On a side note, you really get a feel for the erratic, zig-zaggy roads of Boston when, after quite a few drinks, you attempt to use the bathroom on a moving bus.  Fear not, my aim was spot on.

The gates at Harpoon represent the ingredients of das Reinheitsgebot; here you see hops and yeast


Pulling into Harpoon’s parking lot, we were besieged by local belligerents as they shouted and pounded on the side of our vehicle but we shrugged off the quarrelsome herd of Southies and walked over to the brewery tour entrance where we were greeted with tasters of Imperial White IPA, a beer brewed specially for BBC; attendees voted ahead of time on four possible beer styles and this particular style won.  It wasn’t the beer for which I voted but having a beer brewed just for me and my blogging friends still made me feel like a king.  Harpoon also served giant pretzel sticks with mustard so spicy it cleared my sinuses as if they were scooped out by a spoon.
Harpoon Brewery
When we began our tour of the Harpoon brewing area, I was pleased to discover it was a self-guided tour; we could walk through at our own pace.  Personally, that was a relief because, once again, I had to take a leak (hey, I drank a lot of beer, okay?) and the last thing I needed was a tour guide droning on as I did the potty-dance in the back of the crowd.  Besides that, I think everybody at BBC has done their fair share of brewery tours.  We know the rundown.  Perhaps I’m jaded but most brewery tours are pretty well identical; I could host a brewery tour—any brewery tour—as expertly as anybody on the payroll and so, too, could the rest of the attendees.  Not to say I’m ever unimpressed when on the brewing floor of a large brewery; the sheer size of the equipment is always awe-inspiring.  However, at this point in my beer geek life, I’m content simply taking in the sights as I breeze on by. 
Can collection at Harpoon; notice any classic Colorado beers?
We winded around the tanks and kettles, walked through the back offices, and, after giving a clearly inebriated customer a high-five, were admitted into Harpoon’s tasting room, half of which was roped off for BBC’s exquisite beer pairing dinner including BBQ chicken, a huge chunk of hard cheese, and Harpoon beers IPA, Rich & Dan’s Rye IPA, Dark, UFO White, UFO Raspberry, Midsummer Fling, and Black IPA.  The meal was filling, expertly paired, and worthy of a fine restaurant.  That’s not the type of praise you usually associate with conference food but BBC does it right! 

As we got our grub on, Nicole and I chatted with our favorite Cincinnati-area beer bloggers, the Hoperatives, and, as we left Harpoon, Nicole stopped to buy a shirt where we witnessed a piece of machinery, several thousand dollars in price, automatically filling customers’ growlers.  Apparently, Massachusetts liquor laws are a bit Draconian and growlers cannot be filled by hand thus necessitating a robotic bartender.  Colorado brewery owners, count your blessings that you’re not saddled with such ridiculous legislation.
More of the can collection
Beers at the Harpoon dinner
Harpoon dinner
Harpoon dinner
Really expensive growler filler
Last on the agenda for Saturday night: Beer Social in the hotel conference room.  Beer Social was basically a substitute for Night of Many Bottles, a beer festival by and for beer bloggers.  Attendees bring the best, rarest beers from their respective region and share them with the rest of the group.  It’s basically Great American Beer Festival but smaller and more interesting because the participating beers are chosen by the people.  Unfortunately, this year, the hotel’s corking fee was exorbitant thus killing the spirit of Night of Many Bottles.  Beer Social was, for the most part, the Trade Show all over again: commercial sponsors pouring their own beers.  A few highlights from Beer Social:

·         Prior to Beer Social, Zack and I did a little bottle swapping.  I gave him Crooked Stave Artisan Beer Project, some Funkwerks, and a little bit of Elevation Beer Co. while I received Beer Advocate’s #1 rated Heady Topper from The Alchemist, Honeydew from Night Shift Brewing, and a beer Nicole and I will be saving for July 7th, 2014: Brewlywed Ale from Boston Beer Company.  All in all, a very fair trade, I think.
Zack and I making our trades
·         Surprisingly, many registered BBC attendees never showed up and, at the Beer Social, all their name tags were laid out on a table as if they might miraculously show up at the last minute.  One of those name tags stood out amongst the rest both because of the highlighted yellow words and because of the name being highlighted: Jim Koch.  What?  Was he supposed to be at Beer Social but didn’t show?  Damn, that would have been cool!  I briefly met him the day before but it would have been so much more fun to hang with him in a more informal situation. 
Grapefruit Jungle
·         It didn’t take long for attendees to start breaking the rules; within about ten minutes of the start of Beer Social, people were already opening and sharing beers they brought from their hometown.  Well, hell; if I knew that was going to happen I would have brought a butt-load more bottles!  No matter, I don’t mind mooching off other people’s beer.  Nicole and a few other people were sent on a mission to accrue plastic bags full of ice to keep everything chilled.
·         As a Hoosier-born beer geek, I tout the beers of Indiana to nearly the same extent as the beers of Colorado.  That’s why I was super-psyched to see Tamre brought Sun King Brewery’s Grapefruit Jungle, an IPA for which I’ve been hunting.  Thank you, Tamre, for helping me knock one off the wish list and doubly thank you because that beer earned me the “Legendary” badge on Untappd!  500 unique beers!  Not as impressive as the1,000 beer badge BrewDad received at last year’s conference but still a notable achievement.

Good times at Beer Social
Good times at Beer Social
Nice spread at Beer Social
Repping Colorado at Beer Social
Dammit, I wish he would have shown!
That, for the most part, was the end of BBC for Nicole and me.  There were a few more presentations in the morning for which we stuck around but, since we had a schedule to keep, we snagged a few leftover Beer Social bottles and left the conference a tad early.  The memories, however, will forever be cherished.  This was only our second BBC and we already feel as if we're a part of a special family of beer geeks and I very much look forward to seeing my new friends at future conferences and other national beer events (Great American Beer Festival, anybody?)

There was still time to enjoy our vacation even as we drove back home to Colorado.  Nicole and I squeezed in one more amusement park visit at Cedar Point where we rode their newest roller coaster, GateKeeper, and, following that, we stayed at my parents’ house in Indiana for a few days.  While in Indiana, we visited Mad Anthony Brewing Company and sampled a beer brewed with a hop variety so new it doesn't even have a name yet but is said to have a watermelon-like flavor plus a beer called “Harry Baals.”  Then, continuing westward, we stayed the night in Kansas City and stopped in for a brew at 75th Street Brewery (awesome patio space but, when you live in Colorado where cigarettes are highly regulated, it’s a shock to the system when you’re in a place not so regulated and find yourself surrounded by veritable human chimneys).
75th Street

Finally, after crossing the grand prairies of Kansas and eastern Colorado, under popcorn clouds and bluebird skies, as hazy, white-tipped peaks played peek-a-boo from beyond the horizon, we arrived in Denver.  We drove through 13 states, we drank at 11 breweries, we saw pieces of America we’ve never seen, and we had a road trip worthy of a Jack Kerouac novel.  It was a journey neither of us will soon forget.  Still, after all our experiences and after all our adventures, nothing compares to Colorado—my home, my solace, my beer mecca.



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