So here it is....part 1 of 4 of my time at the first ever Beer Bloggers Conference. I thought I would post this in four parts so that I don’t miss any important parts or people out of my write up of what was a fantastic weekend. I am going to split it down with one post about each day and then one overall sum up post of the whole event.
I arrived earlyish to the conference. Nervous. I don’t really know why but maybe it wouldn’t be what I expected and maybe I would be too out of my depth. The first face I saw (after the nice gent with the bowler hat who greeted me) was Mark Dredge. Ever the professional he seemed to be hovering near the welcome table with Mark Fletcher making sure that everyone had a friendly face to see when they arrived.
The welcome event was a low key sort of thing. 7 or 8 breweries with PR staff pouring their liquid friendship for all the thirsty but noticeably reserved bloggers. I was already starting to recognise faces and twitter names. The latter mostly involved squinting at peoples name tags to see who they were. We spoke and made friends during lunch and then moved upstairs for the first talk- A welcome by Molson Coors. Whilst I was already thankful to them for having stumped up the cash to pay for the venue, I was a bit reserved about what they would say. It turns out Scott from Molson Coors was a great guy and had lots of very interesting things to say. He did waffle a little and maybe got a touch defensive over bloggers attacking big brewers but he really changed my mind about the role that big brewers play in the brewing community. We, as bloggers, should sometimes search a little deeper before we slag off the big guys with no justification (I have been guilty of it many times in the past).
I was already feeling relaxed and next up was Peter Haydon from Meantime talking about the history of brewing in London. Despite the fact that he looked crazily like Morrissey and seemed to style himself on him, he was a very entertaining and interesting guy. He is the sort of person that looks as if he would never brag about his immense knowledge but suddenly just pull an amazing fact from nowhere. Next a little talk from the British Beer and Pub Association. It wasn’t quite as enthralling. It wasn’t bad but I did feel like there were people sitting in the audience who could have done the talk better. After a short break (for tea don’t you know) we moved onto the ‘Do’s and Don’ts of Blogging’ with three giants of blogging; Pete Brown, Melissa Cole and Mark Fletcher. I learned a lot from this. Even small things like write your posts in word first as its better at finding mistakes! Who’d have known?! It was very informative and Pete proved that he was going to be a plethora of knowledge over the weekend.
Then the fun really kicked off. Whilst the presentation lacked some depth in knowledge FlavourActiv gave an interesting tasting on identifying off flavours in beer. My very large nose managed to get all six right (thanks Dad for the big nose gene). An interesting experiment but maybe some more expert knowledge wouldn’t have gone a miss in a room full of bloggers. Then the night went from bizarre to magical. Listening to Steve Wellington, the master brewer at Molson Coors, retire felt like a door closing. He was inspirational, captivating and interesting to the last word. He quite rightly made everyone in the room feel like they were part of something special and he got a massive minute long standing ovation, which, dare I say it, brought a lump to my throat.
Then Pilsner Urquell stepped up the game. They transformed the venue into a slice of Pilsen. It was like walking into something from Charlie Wonka and the Booze Factory (That’s right? No?) From flying the head brewer, Vaclav Berka, in from Pilsen to bringing us massive amounts of unfiltered Pilsner in the oak barrels (3rd time in the UK) they really topped off a great first day.
Think I might get killed for this!
I stood with a glass of unfiltered SABMiller beer in my hand listening to a four piece band playing Lounge whilst Kristy McCready from Molson Coors lounged on a chaise long and wondered to myself when beer became so cool. Day one was free of socks, sandals and (mostly) beer bellies. What I saw on display was a group of clued up, modern and trendy people who are setting the industry standards. I don’t want to get too reflectionary in this post (I’m saving that for the round up) but day one was a great start to a great weekend. Main lessons from day one? Big brewers don’t equal brewers with no social conscious, who are only concerned with profits and also beer bloggers are very cool people. Oh and that Pilsner Urquell is too tempting when standing next to the barrel.
More to come tomorrow.........