Leinenkugel, IMF and Randy Mosher

Saturday marked a shift in the tone of the conference to a more serious note and the business side of the beer industry and strategies for effective blogging. Several people spoke on the Three Tier System of producers, distributors and consumers and how bloggers can be more effective when talking to all three. Bloggers and reps from the breweries, bottle shops and the distribution chain provided excellent perspective about the role of the citizen blogger.

I was surprised to learn that very few brewers pay any attention to the sites that review and rate beer. Consumers are much more motivated by word of mouth – what their friends say – than what a “pundit” on a blog says. Brewers brew what they like, how they like it, and are unlikely to change what they do in response to a bad review. Distributors carry the beer and drive the trucks where the beer sells best.

“We don’t brew beer for the masses. Instead, our beers are crafted for a chosen few, a small cadre of renegades and rebels who enjoy a beer that pushes the limits of what is commonly accepted as taste. In short, we make beer for people like us.” – from the Founders Brewing web site

International Beers

We then tried some imports. We all could be treating international beers with a little more respect. It is easy to get caught up in the American Craft Beer Revolution – especially now that the biggest volume beer retailer in American is owned overseas. International beers are a big deal for distributors and bottle shops that are trying to sell the great, world class brews made outside the USA.

If you want the great taste of a true pilsner, there are few that meet the standard set by Pilsner Urquell from Pilsen, Czechoslovakia. Next we had an Oak Aged Pale Ale from Petrus. What a great way to start your morning. Next up – lunch!

Lunch with the Jacob Leinenkugel Brewing Company

Chocolate Hazelnut Entremet

This may have been my favorite event of the whole Conference. We do not get a lot of beer styles from the Leinenkugel Brewing Company in the Pacific Northwest.

I became a big fan of the Big Eddy series and found the Summer Shandy to be a delightfully refreshing beer for a hot summer day. The Shandy was paired with the salad; mixed exotic lettuces with pretzel bread croutons, fingerling potato relish, smoked sea salt glazed pecans, sun-dried cherries and duck crackle with a raspberry vinaigrette. Oh, and there were assorted rolls and butter.

Next up was the seared curry chicken breast accompanied by a mango and papaya relish with macadamia nut accented jasmine rice and a grilled squash, broccolini and carrot blend paired with a Big Edy IIPA (double IPA). Now, I do not normally like IPAs. But with this food pairing, it was fantastic.

Dessert featured a Chocolate Hazelnut Entremet with a praline layer encased in chocolate, garnished with candied hazelnuts, Chantilly cream and a Pirouette cookie – paired with the Big Eddy Wee Heavy. Yum. Oh yes! This trip was soooo worth it.

Comparative Beer and Glass Tasting with Spiegelau

I poured these beers at the same time-same angle-same speed

Another amazing demonstration was provided by Spiegelau and their four styles of beer glassware. I have heard over the years about how the size and shape of a beer glass affects the taste and aroma of the beer. Frankly I thought it was all a bunch a hooey, and I was perfectly content to drink out my taster glasses and commonly used 16 oz pints. Even the Sam Adams campaign to use their special lager glass seemed to be more a marketing ploy than anything substantial.

But no. Wrong again. Sigh. Trust me folks. It makes a difference – a HUGE difference. As you can see from the picture on the right, head and head retention is affected. When you put your nose in, the aroma is many times more intense. When you take a drink, the flavors are much more distinct.

Garrett Oliver

To prove the point, we sampled five beers provided by the Brooklyn Brewery. That would normally be a treat in itself, but that doubled by having Brooklyn’s Head Brewmaser Garrett Oliver on hand to describe his creations in detail. As he told us what he was trying to achieve with each beer, it became obvious that the lowly pint glass just did not do the beer justice anywhere nearly as well as each of the Spiegelau glasses.

We started off with the Brooklyner Wheat, then the East India Pale Ale and Sorachi Ace Farmhouse Ale. Local 2 Abbey Ale, and Black Ops Russian Imperial Stout were served in the snifter style glass.

You can buy these glasses from the HTBN Store or from the link at the bottom of this page.

Indiana Microbrewers Festival

Conference organizers pulled a few strings so we all could spend a couple hours at the Indiana Microbrewers Festival, held out on a baseball field at Broad Ripple (Optimist Park and Indianapolis Art Center). This was a great festival with lots of Indiana brewers proudly pouring local creations. One pleasant addition was Bells Brewing from Michigan. I had their Oberon and Java Stout. Also tasty were the Kentucky Ale from Kentucky Ale of all places, and the Frangelic Mountain Brown from Founders Brewing.

Night of Many Bottles

I don’t have much to say about this even since it started about 10pm after we got back from dinner and a tour of the World Class Beer distribution facility. I wimped out. I blame it on too much beer, too much walking around and not enough sleep. I went to bed, but I have it on great authority it was a freakin’ blast. The hundred plus bloggers brought somewhere between one and twenty bottles of ther favorite beers and lined them all up on a table. You could try anything that was there – good beers from all over the country. You could take some home if you wanted.

I saw the aftermath – aka residual damage – the next morning at the wrap-up sessions. There were still copious amounts of fine brew available to pack in your checked baggage for the flight home. I passed.

Sunday Morning – Randy Mosher

Randy Mosher at the BBC in Indianapolis

All good things must end. Damn. But there was plenty more to come. First up were some veteran beer bloggers who shared ideas for how to get more exposure and industry support for your blog. Next was a discussion about how to organize a beer festival or event where you want industry participation.

One of the most entertaining and informative presentations I have heard at a festival came from the final speaker, Randy Mosher, whose book, Tasting Beer is one I highly recommend to anyone who wants to enjoy beer and be able to explain what it is that you like about certain beers. You can order his book from a link in the HTBN Store, or from this link.

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Links back to other conference pages

– Chicago, Goose Island and the Party Bus!!!
– Road Trip, Lafayette Brewery
– Garrett Oliver & the Pub Crawl
 Leinenkugel, Spiegelau, Indiana Microbrewers Festival, World Class Beers Tour & Night of Many Bottles– Blogging:Next Steps & Randy Mosher

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Photography and content by Bob Shoemaker (bobshoemaker@hoppytrailsbeernews.com)
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