So day two kicked off with what came to be known as ‘Pilsner Urquell’ throat. I didn’t feel hung-over but as I munched into my vegetarian friendly bacon roll (ahem) I knew that I had been drinking the night before. So it was with some relief that the first session of the Beer Bloggers Conference on the Saturday was actually a coffee and tea welcome. Already small groups were forming. Not exclusive groups but rather in a large group of 70 people it became apparent that smaller groups of friends would have to form if we were going to get anywhere.
The day formally kicked off with three breweries talking about how they use social media on a day to day basis in their business. We had a great talk from Dave (and Sooty) from Hardnott. Adnams and Abbaye St Martin also described how they use Twitter to increase business. It became apparent that the three breweries all use twitter in totally different ways and this kept the session very interesting indeed. Next up was a talk from our international friends; Darren from Beer Sweden, Arnoud from bestetotnutoe.nl, and Alessio from Hoppy Hour in Italy. In this session I learned that beer in Sweden is like porn in the UK (thanks for the insight Darren). In all seriousness it was a great session and all three speakers gave a great insight into beer in their country but a special shout out has to go to the always entertaining Darren.
Next we had some bloke called Martin Dickie from a certain BrewDog. He played some music, showed us photos of his dog and talked about how BrewDog are shaking up the UK brewing scene. I enjoyed it, even if some of Martins dry Doric sense of humour flew over a few heads. Only one question for Martin which I found bizarre; maybe everyone was still processing last night’s Pilsner Urquell. By this time I had drunk most of the 4 litre water jug on the table and was looking for something a bit more hardcore. That was handy as Molson Coors had kindly provided lunch and beers after the talk from BrewDog.
Tim Hampson and Pete Brown were up next. A nice little plug for both their books and then onto the serious talk of where the future of beer writing is. A very broad subject and, I imagine, quite a hard question to approach but Pete and Tim were very entertaining and insightful. It was almost just missing two large armchairs as I felt more like I was sitting in one of their living rooms listening to them have a conversation rather than in a conference venue with 60 or so others. Next we were ushered back downstairs to the same room that Steve Wellington had given his retirement speech in the previous night. It was for the odious task of matching beer with food; it’s a tough life but someone has to do it. The Beer Academy provided 5 beers and five little pieces of food to match them with. Not all the matching’s were spot on in my opinion but the smoked duck and Budvar Dark pairing was sublime (veggie duck of course!)
The crown jewel of the conference was coming though. There was a bit of anticipation in the air. Speed dating for breweries. Strictly called ‘Live beer blogging’ the idea was simple; 7 breweries, 7 tables, 8(ish) bloggers to a table and 5 minutes to pour and talk about your beer. The breweries were- Innis and Gunn, Wychwood, Adnams, Brains, Windsor and Eton, Abbaye St Martin and Bad Attitude. This was mad! I tried to take tasting notes but after some crude humour from a real live Hobgoblin, talking to the brewers and (of course) tasting the beer, I didn’t have the time. My 3 favourites? Windsor and Eton’s Conqueror, Innis and Gunn’s Canada Day 2011 and Bad Attitude’s Two Penny Porter. I learned that 5 minutes is not enough time to get to know a brewer and his beers but that you can have a lot of fun in the process. I will be taking this idea with me in future and I may use it for a Stirling University Craft Beer Society night........
Things went (once again) from great to bizarre. We were met by four stilt walkers dressed as hop pickers in period costume. They showed the way to Dirty Dicks with the occasional burst of hops into the air. Dirty Dicks is a Wells and Young’s pub and I knew what was coming next. The fantastic new Bombardier adverts with Rick Mayall. I shall be honest; I am not a huge fan of the beer. I find it very drinkable but I feel it lacks in much flavour. The advertising campaign however is BRILLIANT! Rick also recorded a special video message especially for us bloggers which was very nice. Much like Pilsner Urquell the night before Wells and Young pulled out all the stops. We were entertained by snail racing and banter from Ben McFarland and Tom Sandham. We had a Q&A session with the important people in the company and their hop grower! My favourite part of the night though was having the heads of companies and the important people come at sit down at individual tables and socialise. I didn’t expect them to just vanish as the food came out but usually at these events the important people have a private table. It was a real pleasure to be able to sit down and chat with them over one of their beers.
We were running late.....almost an hour I’m told. I bundled into the back of a taxi with my 4 bottles of French beer to take to the ‘Night of Many Beers’ at Camden Town Brewery. 6 of us (including Hardnott Ann and Dave) piled into a cab with the most annoying ‘taxi man’ I have ever had the (dis)pleasure of meeting. There were roadworks and we disagreed about which alternative route he should use. As a Scotsman I shall blame the London 2012 Olympics for tearing up the roads. As a Frenchman I shall blame the London 2012 Olympics from cheating and stealing them from Paris. Moving on..........I arrived at Camden Town (eventually) and stashed my beer in the big outside fridge. Then the tasting began. I really can’t remember everything I had but I do remember being far too close to the Swedish and Italian beer a lot. I also had lots of tasty Rogue beer.
People seemed to enjoy the French beer and I have already had some very nice messages to say thanks for bringing it. For me this is what my love of beer stems to; sharing. It was great to see people enjoying the beer I had lovingly packaged and stared at all the way to London on the Eurostar (just in case someone thought the gun case I was carrying them in actually had guns inside) The sours went down very well and there were only a few people who fell on the dislike side of this marmite beer. The night got a bit hazy from there on in......a side by side imperial stout tasting with one from Dark Star and two from De Struise (was I mad?!?!) A quick jump on the tube and a taxi later I was back at the hotel looking forward to the next day at Fullers.
Another great day sharing great beer with great people. More to come.........