It is a gathering of brewgasmic proportions — 9,000 beer professionals from all points of the globe, all descending on the city of Denver for a week of meetings, seminars, events, . . . and beer. Lots. And. Lots. Of. Beer. Navigating an entire day of the brewpalooza that is the annual Craft Brewer’s Conference takes stamina, determination . . . and a certain disregard for liver functionality.
8:15a Breakfast — fortunately the city of Denver comes with its own signature breakfast dish. Note to self: invent Winston-Salem scrambled eggs.
8:35a Walk to Denver Convention Center. Encounter giant blue bear trying to get in. Sorry Smokey – gotta have a badge.
9:00a First seminar of the day – “Respectful & Distinctive Branding”, with two craft beer heavyweights on the panel – Kim Jordan from New Belgium Brewing and Sam Calagione from Dogfish Head. Kim’s advice – be creative and come up with new words when naming beers and breweries. You mean like Hoppyum? Last (and best) advice comes from Josh Lampe, Weyerbacher’s marketing manager: when it comes to competition for names, “don’t be a jerk”. Well said Josh.
10:20a Time to hit BrewExpo America – over 500 vendors offering the latest, greatest, and at times weirdest, craft beer technology and accessories. Among items I discover: designer ear plugs, little keg-shaped growlers, and a beverage glass display featuring not one but two of the glasses we’ve designed in the last year — a moment of pride! That calls for a beer. Fortunately there are over a dozen pouring stations offering free beer samples from all over the country. I know, tough gig.
11:05am I discover that the wonderful purveyors of Briess Malts have found an almost-as-good-as-beer use for their product. Bless them.
11:30a I spend a few minutes with Ginger Johnson, CEO of Women Enjoying Beer, the only company in the U.S. that specializes in marketing beer to women. Ginger shares her considerable passion on the subject. Over a beer, of course.
11:50a I read a story once about some kids who stole a lawn ornament and proceeded to take pictures of it all over the world. I do that with our beer.
12:15p Lunch (and more beer) at a MastersViewing Party at Breckenridge Brewery. Turnout is sparse. I blame Tiger.
1:20p Seminar time again – this one with our own brewmaster, Jamie Bartholomaus, on a panel discussing fast growing breweries. I ask if everyone will be eight feet tall by the time we’re done. Jamie patiently explains that I’ve misinterpreted ‘fast growing’. Of note: Jamie uses the word ‘quality’ no fewer than a dozen times during his musings on the explosive growth of Foothills.
3:00p Through family connections, I’m invited to visit a UNC-Chapel Hill graduate who is now working at Wynkoop Brewery — which is good news, since it’s been almost two hours since I’ve had a beer. Wynkoop is the oldest craft beer maker in the city of Denver, and I’m introduced to their singularly unique Rocky Mountain Oyster Stout – brewed with the aforementioned ingredient, a moniker for bull testicles. It is, as the label implies, ballsy.
5:30p after 2-plus hours of beer sampling, I pour myself out the door of Wynkoop to reconvene with the Foothills contingent for dinner (and more beer) at a place called, ironically, Prohibition. The check is delivered in a book. An actual book.
10:30p Concert’s over – I grab a ride back downtown on a party bus. Complete with saddle.
10:50p As though someone, late at night, tilted up the edges of Denver, all the nocturnal funkiness seems to drain into Star Bar, an alley with a roof on it that’s the seamiest fun to be had in the Mile High City. There is karaoke going on. Which makes another beer suddenly seem like a good idea.
12:00a Had my fill. If I cut myself, I would probably foam instead of bleed. But one has to salute the fervor with which this city embraces craft beer in general, and this event in particular. Cheers to you Denver. Many times over, as it turns out.