When you go to a conference for your profession or work, you generally sit through a lot of presentations, get updates, learn a few things and have lunches and dinners as a group.
That is exactly what beer bloggers did in Boston on July 27, 2013. Perhaps the one difference is that our premier learning session – the Perfect Pour – was taught by Heineken’s Global Draught Master, Franck Evers. He demonstrated the four steps to a perfectly poured Heineken. And we all got free samples afterward.
2 – Pour – Fill the glass at an angle at the beginning to force out oxygen and reduce oxidation of the CO2. As the beer nears the top return the glass to a level position and let the foam rise above the top.
3 – Skim – Skimming the foam that is above the rim of the glass creates a seal that keeps CO2 in and O2 out for a longer period of time. It also skims off oxidized foam that gives a bitter smell and initial taste.
4 – Serve – Present the beer to the customer maintaining eye contact. This lets the customer know you acknowledge him as an important person.
In my mind there should be a fifth element, the Taste. A lot of people when presented a perfectly poured beer drink it wrong. Especially if they are not beer lovers. Some will suck off a bit of foam first, or mix foam with a little beer and gulp it down. This time-shifts me back to the days when I drank crappy beer to the refrain “Chug-a-lug”, or “Drink it down, down, down, down, down.” usually through a surge tube, bed pan, or some kind of other inappropriate vessel. Back then, you didn’t drink a beer for the taste of it, just the after-effects.
No, to drink the perfectly poured beer, you need to grasp the glass firmly, and raise it to your lips, pause, tilt the glass to allow the actual beer to touch your lips and let the foam continue to provide the needed oxygen seal, even at an angle. Open your mouth and allow a small amount of beer to wash over your taste receptors in the front, sides and back of the tongue. Then swallow gently, releasing a breath of appreciation for all the hard work that went into making that beer. The “ahhh” you release also aerates the beer and gives you a good sense of the finish properties. Sometimes the finish gives you a totally different sensation/opinion about the beer than what the aroma, or initial taste did.
It is time for lunch, sponsored by the National Beer Wholesalers Association. The three-tier system of Brewer/Distributor/Retailer is vital to a successful beer industry. Without it, the only beer many of us would have would be our own homebrew, or something from the neighborhood brewery if there is one. We would not have access to Alaskan Smoked Porter outside of Juneau, AK, for example. IMHO that would be very, very bad. Hard as it may seem, many places do not have a local brewery yet. Imagine if the only beer you could ever get was Bud Lite Lime. Bloggers learned how important – and complex – this distribution process is, over a delicious lunch.
After lunch we boarded buses and went to see a distribution center first hand, and the legendary speed blogging session. Burke Distributing hosted this event. Burke is the primary distributor of craft beer in the greater Boston area (as well as many other beverage products). Honestly, a distribution facility is not very photogenic. It’s just rows of product (kegs, cases of beer and shrink-wrapped pallets) from floor to ceiling. That said, I would not mind if I had a little one at my house. Maybe I can convert my garage for cold storage. Hmmmm.
Speed blogging is a process where a brewer presents a beer to a table of bloggers. Each blogger gets a 3 oz sampler of the beer. They then taste the beer and ask questions about it and/or the brewery, and then write a semi-coherent blog about it. Each brewer has five minutes at each table. Coincidentally, each table is visited by 12 brewers, mostly from Rhode Island, Maine, Vermont, Massachusetts and New Hampshire. Whether the blog appears on a web site, or some form of preferred social media, is up to the blogger, but most were using Twitter and a designated hashtag to collect the posts in a common place. The blogger is not required to consume the entire beer, but then why wouldn’t you (duh). This is also a great time to collect a lot of brewery swag.
Back to the buses en route to dinner at the Harpoon Brewery.
Harpoon gave us a great welcome in their warehouse with a tasty IPA, and pretzel sticks in a spicy mustard dip. They walked us through their operation, ending at a large tasting room/bar where a beer/cheese pairing and dinner were waiting for us.
After dinner, we returned to the hotel for the blogger bottle exchange. Bloggers were encouraged to bring a few bottles of their favorite local beers to the conference to share. With 150 bloggers coming from most of the states, the selection was enormous and varied.