Monday, August 29, 2016

Beer With a Brewmaster: Hans Groberg of Cigar City Brewing

By Matt Kelsey

The craft-beer industry has taken flight, literally, within the state of Florida. Cigar City Brewing has built the industry’s first fully functional brewery within Tampa International Airport to greet passengers flying into and out of the Sunshine State with a quality adult beverage.

Brewer Hans Groberg is constantly developing new beer recipes to be released at the airport brewery. Currently, the airport brewery, which is housed within a 9-foot-by-11-foot room with a 12-foot ceiling at the Southwest Airlines terminal, sells more than two-and-a-half barrels of craft beer within two weeks, which is quite an accomplishment.

Following the 2016 Beer Bloggers & Writers Conference held in Tampa, FL, I spoke with Hans to discuss working in this unique environment, to find out more about the local craft-beer scene and to explore rumors of the airport brewery’s possible expansion (which may happen by the summer of 2017).

Please tell me how you got started as a brewer.“Before working at Cigar City, I lived out West, in Utah. I was working at Uinta, in Salt Lake City. They’re big. I’ve heard someone say they’re the biggest brewery you’ve never heard of. I used to run a 120-barrel brewhouse. I started in packaging and moved up to brewing. Straight from there, I came here. Before that, I homebrewed for about 10 years. I moved to Florida and was looking for a part-time gig. Cigar City was looking for somebody with brewery experience, who didn’t need 40 hours and it kind of worked itself out.”

What kind of brewing system do you have at the airport brewery?“This is a little one-and-a-half barrel brewhouse with three-and-a-half barrel fermentors. It’s just two fermentors. I think it’s the smallest brewery I’ve ever seen.”

From what I’ve heard, this is the first fully functional brewery inside an airport.“I’ve heard that as well. It’s exciting. Working with the TSA is interesting. You have to really pre-plan with your job. If you forget something, you can’t just leave mid-brew and try to fix it.”

How often do you brew?
“We brew here, every other week, basically, per demand. We don’t go through beer super fast.”

What kind of beers do you brew at the airport?“We pretty much only brew one-offs and special-release beers here. Tony Jannus Pale Ale was designed here and it’s become so popular, they’ve moved production of that offsite, to the brewery. It used to be exclusively made here, at the airport.”

What’s the latest developments for this brewery?“Well, I actually just fully took over a few months ago, so I’m really just making it my own, at the moment, trying to get a good arsenal of recipes written, so I can be more flexible in what is selling. I talk with the bartenders a lot, because moving the beer is ultimately the goal.”

What are some of your best-selling beer styles you make at the airport?
“We’ve had really good success with SMASH beers, which are fun. You get to mess with new hops and learn the whole characteristic of them, but also dark beers, which is weird to me. Out West, beer is very seasonal. In the hot months, dark beers totally drop off, but that doesn’t seem to be the case, here. I’m more or less planning on rotating between dark beers and something kind of fun, then back to dark beers. I also take requests.”

Have you made any fruit beers in the past?
“Not yet, but it is a possibility. I’m a little limited in my space, so I can’t do anything crazy, like barrel aging, but I have used wood spirals before.”

What’s it like to have an actual working brewery housed inside an international airport?
“I think it really feeds the public interest, being able to see the brewing process, more than anything else. Most people don’t understand beer; they think it’s some kind of crazy alchemy. I show airport workers all the time that beer comes from grains and they’re just baffled. I’ve worked at breweries for a long time and now, working at an airport makes the average brewery kind of boring, but I still enjoy meeting brewers, putting a name to a face is nice.”

Currently, can any TPA ticketholder visit your airport brewery before catching a flight?“No, because we’re behind TSA, at this point. If we were in front, I’m sure that would happen, because I would do it. I have heard rumors that Cigar City will open a second location in one of the other terminals and then expand the brewery and have the brewery produce for both locations. Once you get in behind TSA, it’s a lot easier to move around.”

How would you describe the craft-beer scene of Tampa, Florida?"It’s very different from the West. The beers, here, are a little bit different from the up-and-coming beers of the Mountain region. Most beers are more malt forward, here. Everybody likes treatments. Nobody really wants a standard style. When I tell some people I’m making a standard Porter, they wonder aloud what other ingredients I’ll add to it. It’s just a Porter. It’s just a beer. Eventually, I’m going to have to start adding fruits, herbs and other additional ingredients to please people.”

“The West Coast hops thing is very different. Aside from treatments and things being a little sweeter out here — and I could be wrong on this — but I don’t think Florida likes the piney, resinous hops. They’re more into the fruity, exotic, New World-type of beers. I do like the sour beer movement, out here. It seems to be right on par with the West Coast.”

What are the trending, best-selling beer styles in Florida?“IPAs. Basically, place the IPA label on anything and it’ll sell, it seems. I see lots of people drinking and talking about whales (the hard-to-find crazy beers), but when I go to the brewery and drink with the guys, we’re generally drinking light beers or the Guayabera Citra Pale Ale — those are brewery favorites. My favorite styles are Pilsners, followed by pale ales.”

Do you have a favorite Cigar City beer?“I am a big fan of 110K+OT Batch #7 and the Tocobaga Red Ale.”

What’s the busiest time of year for the airport brewery?“Winter. December through January is the very busy time of the year.”

Do you think you have more out-of-towners or locals to visit your brewery?“The customers I’ve talked to are local, but following the brewery online and on Untappd, there’s a fair amount of national patrons.”

Is there anything else you’d like to add?“Cigar City is great. I understand why they’re such a big name. It’s a real tight group… a happy, little family. It’s good to be a part of.”

“Also, I love when people stop by, so if you’re in the Southwest terminal, stop by and say, ‘Hi.’ We’ll have a beer.”

For more information, visit Cigar City's website here.

The 2016 Beer Bloggers & Writers Conference

By Matt Kelsey

Tampa, Florida took a moment to shine in the sunlight as the 2016 Beer Bloggers & Writers Conference was hosted in one of the nation’s top-rated beer cities, according to USA Today. Having lived in the area more than 10 years ago, I know firsthand that craft-beer was just breaking into the market back then. Unknown to me, the overall Tampa Bay area is now home to more than 70 breweries in the region and there seems to be no end in sight for the craft-beer market, as more are opening every year. What a perfect destination for a “beercation!” 

As a blogger, I’ve been able to interview a variety of people, sample interesting styles of craft beer and attend some really great events throughout the years, but I’ve never been prepared to attend an entire beer industry -sponsored weekend, jam-packed with informative, fun topics… and oh, yes, plenty of beer to sample, as well!

For three days in August, Zephyr Conferences rolled out the red carpet to provide industry experts speaking in a relaxed symposium-styled environment, progressive meals paired (and prepared) with local craft beer, brewery tours, sponsored meals and samplings, keynote speakers, live beer blogging, after-hours parties, the largest bottle share I’ve ever seen that offered samples of rare and great beers from all over the world and many more events that were all equally incredible.

But before the main event even began, I attended the Pre-Con Excursion to Jacksonville, which is the largest city by landmass in the continental United States, so that means there’s plenty of room for breweries there! I got to experience the Jax Ale Trail, which is similar to the Kentucky Bourbon Trail, where tourists are encouraged to visit each location and get your passport stamped. Once you’ve visited each location, you’ll receive free beer gear. I was really impressed with the variety of selections by Aardwolf Brewing Company. Later that night, we visited Kickbacks Gastropub for a beer dinner. Tucked downstairs away from the public is a Belgian-inspired bar and dining space, private beer lockers, refrigerated beer catacombs where more than 100,000 vintage bottles and kegs of beers are stored to go along with the bar’s selection of 204 beers on tap and more than 1,000 different bottled beers from around the globe. This felt like visiting a castle full of beer! It’s highly recommended!

Once in Tampa, highlights included visiting Cigar City Brewing and Ulele Restaurant and Brewery, personally discussing barrel-aging and souring techniques with Brewery De Brabandere Brewmaster Yves Benoit, learning about Petrus Sour Beers while blending different craft-beer styles, a four-course beer dinner held at World of Beer and visiting with different craft-beer fans and writers from all over the world!

On Sunday, when the convention technically wrapped in Tampa, the Post-Con Excursion began. Brew Bus Brewing was our transportation for the day, whisking attendees to a variety of breweries throughout the nearby cities of St. Petersburg and Clearwater (I had a blast at 3 Daughters Brewing!), while also serving up some of their freshly brewed craft beer, including Rollin Dirty Irish Style Red Ale, Last Stop India Pale Ale and You’re My Boy, Blue! Blueberry Wheat.

Overall, I can’t say enough good things about this event. I’m only upset this was the first year I’ve been able to attend. I’m still kicking myself for missing last year’s festivities in Asheville, North Carolina. I definitely won’t skip next year’s visit to the “Beer Capital of the World,” Milwaukee, Wisconsin.

As a craft-beer aficionado and as a beer blogger, I cannot recommend attending this event any more. I’d like to thank everyone involved for helping create a great event, especially to the Visit Jacksonville, Visit Tampa Bay, as well as the Visit St. Petersburg and Clearwater hard-working crews. If you can afford to go, Zephyr Conferences also offers the Beer Now Conference in Europe, running in conjunction with the American Beer Bloggers & Writers Conference. I can’t wait for next year to arrive, already!

For More Information: http://beerbloggersconference.org/

Thursday, August 4, 2016

Previewing Mafiaoza’s 2016 Music City Brewer’s Festival

Crystal is considered the traditional 15th-year anniversary gift, but for Mafiaoza’s Music City Brewer’s Festival, which is celebrating its 15th annual beer festival in Nashville this week, a different type of gift should be honored: Craft Beer! More than 50 local, regional, national and imported beers will be available for attendees to sample and enjoy on Saturday, August 6th at the Walk of Fame Park in downtown Nashville, TN.

“It’s amazing that we are celebrating 15 years this year!” said Regional Event Director Candace Price. “The brewing landscape has changed so much in that time and we are proud to be a part of it. We’ve helped brands launch in the Nashville market and provide an opportunity to bring new consumers in to learn about and appreciate new beers.”

The beer festival is divided into two main sessions, with Session A lasting from 12 noon to 4 PM on Saturday afternoon and Session B taking place at 6 PM to 10 PM on Saturday evening. Attendees are encouraged to sample craft beer, ciders and spirits from all participating breweries and distilling companies. Food will be aplenty at the beer festival, as Mafiaoza’s Pizzeria & Neighborhood Pub is the title sponsor, providing great local food. Other food options include The Dog of Nashville, Mrs. Grissom’s Select, Puckett’s, Boutique Burger Bar, That’s Mighty Good Foods and Krave Jerky.

Local musicians will be performing throughout both sessions, including Edsel West, The Aquaducks and DJ Rod Youree.

The party before the party is a reception held on Friday night, from 7 PM to 9 PM. This event is actually a fundraiser for the Tennessee Craft Brewers Guild, which will include a tasting of specialty brews and food from area restaurants. Reception attendees will get the chance to visit with the very brewers who crafted the beers featured at the festival.

“The Friday night event started as a way for all the brewers to get together the night before the festival and network,” notes Candace Price. “Three years ago, we opened the event up to the general public and now sell tickets that benefit the TN Craft Brewers Guild. It’s an intimate environment and a chance to rub elbows with the brewers at the event.”

Admission tickets to both sessions of the Saturday beer festival do not include access to the Friday night reception, but the proceeds for Saturday’s activities will support the Second Harvest Food Bank of Middle Tennessee. Technically, Friday and Saturday’s activities are considered separate events and both are worthwhile endeavors.

Get your tickets before they sell out! I attended last year’s event and had an absolute blast. I can’t wait to see what’s in store for this year’s event!

Tuesday, July 26, 2016

Star Wars vs. Star Trek: A Great Way Late Play Date

Prepare for an intergalactic battle as Nashville’s Adventure Science Center hosts the ultimate sci-fi Way Late Play Date on Thursday, July 28th from 6:30PM to 10PM. Star Wars vs. Star Trek features the best elements of science fiction and science fact in a themed adults-only party that hopes to judge which film franchise’s fandom is most popular.

General admission tickets are $20 for members and $30 for not-yet members, which include admission to all exhibits and activities, three beverage tickets, a planetarium show and a souvenir cup. Attendees are encouraged to dress as their favorite big-screen characters and participate in the themed costume contest. There will be mini trivia games starting at 7PM and running throughout the night, as well as a digital gaming room provided by long-time Way Late Play Date patron Brian Wessels. Expect tickets to sell out, as previous similar-themed events had more than 900 people in attendance, so get them while you can.

Events Manager Jennie Stumpf previews what’s in store for this Way Late Play Date:

What’s new for this year’s Star Wars vs. Star Trek?“This one is going to be especially cool. We are working with Rebel Legion, who is bringing us some Jedi, some Star Trek folks and they’re doing trivia for us in Jack Wood Hall. It’s the real fans, the real-deal people, who are asking the questions and wearing the costumes. They’re even planning to bring a to-scale R2-D2. We’re also working with the 501st Legion, so we’ve got the Dark Side represented, as well. Another big addition, this time, is having three local breweries at the event.”

This will be the first time in many years that three breweries will be present.
"We love working with local breweries. New Heights Brewing is opening up a taproom just around the corner from us, so I think we both saw it as an opportunity to partner up. We were more than happy to add them to the lineup with Fat Bottom and Mayday, who are also coming out to the event. We just want people to have more options… a little extra to choose from.”

Do you know what styles of craft beer New Heights will bring?
“I believe they are bringing their IPA and a cream ale, which I’ve heard are both excellent.”

What does it mean to have craft breweries partnering with Adventure Science Center events?
“The Adventure Science Center is celebrating its 70th anniversary this year. As we grow, it’s important to us to stay involved in the Nashville community, which is growing so much. The craft-beer scene is big part of that. We love working with community partners, so rather than picking up sort of generic-brand beers, we would much rather make those relationships with local people. And craft beer is also just really good. We love working with Fat Bottom and Mayday Breweries, and now New Heights.”

What did you think of the previous Way Late costume contest?
“We have a new partnership with Hypericon for the costume contest and they are great! They’re the pros, so we know we are in good hands. We do have some new ideas for how to make it even better, this time. We plan to move the contest back to the Space Chase exhibit area, which makes for such a cool setting and also allows for more people to see it.”

What will be shown in the planetarium for this event?
“We’ve got a new planetarium manager, who came to us from the Adler in Chicago. He has done so many different cool events and shows there, and has a lot of ideas on how to make the planetarium aspect even more cool and exciting for our Way Late Play Dates. He wants to try something new in the planetarium. Just know it’s space related, it’s Star Wars related and it’s got a live component that is just for our Way Late Play Date guests.”

What are some of the themed educational activities for this event?
“Our educators are awesome. They’ve tried to plan activities obviously on the theme, but also on our current exhibits. Just coming out to see the Science Center is cool, but obviously, if you can learn about the science behind these big franchises that you know and love, that will make the experience that much more unique and fun. They are tackling all different topics, discussing the evolution of the Wookie, because we have a great new exhibit about the evolution of dogs. We’re also looking at the vacuum of space, a theme that was covered in Star Trek, and the technology and weaponry in both series. I’m really excited about looking at lightsabers, lasers and making a hologram. We’ve done this for one other event, on a small scale, but we’re looking at doing this on a large scale.”

Which side holds your allegiance?
“You know, I love the new Star Wars movie. I want to say that’s where my loyalties go, but I’m pumped about the new Star Trek film. I think that’s what’s going to be fun about the timing of this event. The Star Trek movie is coming out the week before our Way Late Play Date. Both franchises have these long-time loyal followings, but with the new movies coming out, there’s a whole new surge of fandom. We had our last Star Wars vs. Star Trek Way Late Play Date two years ago, and like every good sequel, you’ve got to wait a couple of years. So, I think the buzz is out there.”

Thursday, July 14, 2016

Previewing the 2016 Half Christmas Beer Fest

Craft beer meets holiday cheer as the Half Christmas Beer Fest returns to Middle Tennessee on Saturday, July 16th!

The third-annual festival sponsored by Lightning 100 takes place at The East Pavilion from 6PM to 10PM. Attendees can expect holiday-themed shenanigans, more than 40 beers to sample and prizes for best yuletide costumes. Digital Media Specialtist Brian J. Waters previews the event and describes what it means to get weird with Lightning 100.

Last year’s event was a blast. What was the general reaction to it?“I think everyone had a great time at the event the last two years. We’ve only had positive feedback on the event. I think part of the charm is the effect Christmas has on people. Patrons normally show up with high spirits and leave full of spirits. People really get into this one, they kind of make the event… it’s almost like a Half Christmas miracle.”

What kind of Christmas cheer can attendees expect at this event?“Lt. Dan of Lightning 100 has been working on his Half Christmas playlist. It’s a lot of work. There is a lot of terrible Christmas music out there. We will have the pavilion decked out in lights, inflatables inflated, snow machines blowing and elfs pouring your beer.”

What’s new for Half Christmas in 2016?
"We wanted to increase the selection of beers at the festival this year. Get some local favorites and some craft beers that fit the event. We’ve purchased some new inflatables, new DJ setup and more tacky decorations our interns found from thrift stores.”

What does it mean to “get weird with Lightning 100?”
"Get Weird is a hashtag we’ve used every year. People get dressed for this one. We’ve had a Zombie Santa, Leg Lamp Lady, a few Cousin Eddies and even an unofficial appearance by the Wet Bandits. I’ve also seen people glue Christmas trees to hats, wear a onesy or just a swimsuit. It doesn’t matter what you wear at Half Christmas… just make sure to get weird.”

Are there any new breweries that will be featured this year?
“Tin Man, Green Flash, Wiseacre, Lucky Bucket, Original Sin, Mill Creek, Bells, Dogfish Head, Yazoo… We added a lot this year.”

Will be any craft-beer exclusives or small batches offered at the festival?
“Yazoo will release Exit/In’s Special 45 at the event. Lucky Bucket is bringing their Snowsuit beer back.”

The Pavilion East is a new location for the event. How will it be set up?
“We will have a larger site featuring the North and South pole at The Pavilion East. The actual pavilion will feature our dance floor, karaoke lounge and new DJ setup.”

What’s the weather forecast for the event?“It looks like we might get some rain in the morning. We’ve tented off the main beer area in the yard. It’s a rain or shine event. There will be beer!”

Will there be a costume contest this year?“There will be a costume contest. We will have multiple prizes for the evening including tickets to shows and gift cards from local businesses.”

What kind of expectations do you have for this year’s cosplayers?
“I’m hoping to see some group costumes this year. Maybe the McCallisters or Griswolds… or McCallisters vs Griswolds!”

Proceeds of this event will be donated toward Overwatch Alliance. Please tell me a little about the charity.
“Giving back to the brave men and women that served our country is very important to Lightning 100.”

“Overwatch Alliance is a 501(c)(3) not-for-profit dedicated to meeting the rapidly growing financial, physical, emotional and psychological needs of our military community. They know that some of the most important work in fulfilling those needs is being done by small, grassroots organizations. All across this great nation, these groups, almost always made up of volunteers, are reaching out to serve the military community on the local level. Overwatch Alliance is committed to providing grants to those operating community-based programs that are healing our nation’s heroes. To learn more about Overwatch Alliance or to donate visit their webpage.”

For more information about the Half Christmas Beer Fest, visit their website here.

Friday, July 8, 2016

Beer With a Brewmaster: Jared Rouben of Moody Tongue Brewing Company

One of the biggest trends within the craft-beer industry is the creation of culinary beers. Executive chefs previously primarily opened restaurants, but now they are opening brewpubs, as well. The collision of the culinary and beverage industries has produced Moody Tongue Brewing Company, which has been in the culinary brewing business since 2014.

Brewmaster Jared Rouben has considerable experience within both the culinary and beverage worlds. A graduate of the Culinary Institute of America, as well as the Siebel Institute of Technology, he has worked with some of the most celebrated culinary and brewing minds in the country. While attending a brewing course at Siebel, I met with Mr. Rouben to discuss the Chicago craft-beer scene, his brewery’s soon-to-open tasting room and what it means to have a “Moody Tongue.”

Please tell me how you got your start in the brewing industry.
“Well, just like you, I made the great decision to apply to Siebel and then join the student team. I took the exact course you’re taking, the Concise Course in Brewing Technology, and met some fantastic professors, who guided my next couple of steps toward becoming a brewer and certainly made a lot of great friends in the class, too.”

How do the brewing and culinary industries compare to one another?
“They’re actually quite similar. We take raw ingredients, we manipulate them with time and temperature, and we create something that people love to consume. The only difference is people consume what I create out of a glass, instead of from a plate. And now I get to intoxicate people. (laughs)”

What are some advantages you bring from your culinary experiences into the brewing world?
“I think having a strong understanding of vocabulary has certainly allowed me to communicate with the front of the house and the back of the house in restaurants with fellow brewers, cooks and chefs, as well. One of the things we share is food. Ever since the day you were born, you’ve been eating. It’s something that you can speak to, but more often than not, we don’t speak to it. For example, when someone puts a beer in front of you and we enjoy it, we say that it’s good. We don’t describe what parts of it that we enjoy, like the lemon or the lime flavor profile or the grapefruit aromatic. When you’re describing things, it’s ‘good’ or ‘great,’ unless you know the individual or know where they came from, you really don’t know what they’re speaking to. So, I think that’s why vocabulary and communication has really helped me.”

I’m guessing you have a good palate, as well, working in the food and beer worlds.
“Yes. It’s certainly not something that I take for granted. I always look at one’s palate as something that you’re constantly challenging, whether it’s through food or it’s through beer. I mean, beer is like a food, right? I’m not the first person to say that. When we’re able to talk about flavors, tastes and aromatics, then we’re really just blending the culinary world and the beer world together. Hopefully that happens sooner than later, because the end result will be a delicious product, whether it’s a liquid or a solid.”

What does it mean to have a Moody Tongue?
“Moody Tongue just means someone with a discerning palate. Someone who cares about what they consume. We like to say that we create culinary beers and that’s just beer that’s taken a chef’s mindset to highlight the flavors and aromatics within. It rests on three principles: First, sourcing. Find the absolute best ingredients. Second is handling. When you get that great ingredient, knowing how to handle it and taking care of it. Third, knowing when, where and why to incorporate it back into the liquid. It’s the same things that we do in the kitchen and the same things any great chef would do in the kitchen. When you have a great ingredient and you understand it, and you know how to put it back into play, you’ve the opportunity to create very delicious things.”

Do you recommend people moving from the food industry into the brewing world?
“I think they already have. It’s one of the biggest trends, right now. Well, Rick Bayless, one of the most well-known chefs in Chicago and also in our country, is creating a brewpub. Matthias Merges, who is a chef at Yusho in Las Vegas and Chicago, is creating a brewpub. Hopefully, people with culinary backgrounds will continue to do so. I think that they have a lot to share. Brewing is quite similar to baking: You have to be very precise and have everything measured perfectly. There’s no instant gratification. We have to wait, whether it’s in an oven or a fermentation tank. I like the fact that you’re committed. I can’t fix anything with cream, butter or salt, whether it’s a beer or it’s a cake. You’re all in, so you better get it right the first time.”

Please describe Chicago as a craft-beer scene.
"It continues to grow. I think, with so many Irish, German, Czech and Polish people creating this wonderful melting pot of people who live here, who grew up with beer in their blood, it only makes sense that the interest of craft beer resurrected itself. People want options these days and people are thirsty in this city. They like food, sports and beer — certainly not in that order. If you’re a part of that three, you’d better get ready to make a lot of beer. Everyone’s been really supportive, from a consumer’s standpoint, but also from a chef’s standpoint. It’s been fun.”

Please tell me a little about your flagship beers.“The four beers that we’re sharing right now are: Applewood Gold, Steeped Emperor’s Lemon Saison, Sliced Nectarine IPA and Caramelized Chocolate Churro Baltic Porter. What we like to do, with our naming, if we can, is introduce it with the culinary technique, first, the flavor and aromatics you’ll experience and then the beer style. So, if you’re a foodie, you’ll know two out of three of the words. If you’re a beer geek, you’ll know one. We do this to be transparent with the guest. You have so many options and I want people to be comfortable in what they’re purchasing, before they open their wallets. The only way to do that is to give the beers a description, right there on the bottles.”

Please tell me a little about your brewery.
“We have about 10,000 square feet and we’re building a tasting room, right now. It’s going to be 2,200 square feet and it should be open to the public in August.”

Where can people purchase your beer?
“It’s distributed in New York, Chicago, Las Vegas, Louisville and Houston. We’d actually like to be in Nashville, by the end of the year. I’m a big fan of Tennessee and growing up in Kentucky, I wasn’t too far away. We want to be in cities and communities where food is important; where people are comfortable speaking to it and serving it. We’re really happy with our current locations and look forward to growing in more food-centric cities.”

In addition to all of your other roles, you also teach at the Siebel Institute of Technology.
“I do teach here. It circles back to my passion: beer and food. Siebel created a beer sommelier class and that’s been bringing beer and food together; sometimes used as a pairing item, sometimes used as an ingredient, speaking to beer as a food, in itself. I had this great opportunity to speak to students, take them into the kitchen, and be able to cook with them and pair with them. I get the opportunity to share information with students, who also care about beer and food. I have the same opportunity within the Cicerone program, as well. I’m an examiner for the Master Cicerone classes, once again pairing beer and food. It’s kind of my section.”

For more information about Moody Tongue, visit their website here.

Monday, July 4, 2016

Previewing the 2016 Beer Bloggers & Writers Conference

By Matt Kelsey

Craft beer will be a hot topic that will be discussed and consumed aplenty at the 2016 Beer Bloggers & Writers Conference in Tampa, Florida.

The Marriott Tampa Waterside will host the seventh-year conference from Friday, July 8th to Sunday, July 10th that will feature many craft-beer industry guests, activities, excursions, bottle shares, beer dinners, live beer blogging and a couple of brewery visits via Tampa’s Brew Bus! This event is organized by Zephyr Conferences for beer bloggers, writers and anyone generally interested in the beer industry to learn different subjects from national experts, as well as to offer great networking opportunities and plenty of great beer tastings for attendees.

This year marks the first time the conference will appear in Florida. In 2014, USA Today ranked Tampa as the second-best beer city in the country and looking at the upcoming schedule, there’s plenty of great events taking place throughout the beer-soaked weekend, including a pre-conference excursion to visit Jacksonville’s brew scene and a post-conference excursion visiting St. Petersburg / Clearwater breweries. According to Sales, Marketing and Communications – Zephyr Conferences Robyn Scott, the conference is already achieving its ultimate goal, which is to help beer bloggers remain a vibrant, credible, important and effective part of the beer industry. Recently, Ms. Scott answered a few of my questions to preview the upcoming Beer Bloggers & Writers Conference:

What’s the origin story of the Beer Bloggers & Writers Conference?
“The Beer Bloggers & Writers Conference started in 2010 with a first conference in Boulder, Colorado. We, at Zephyr Conferences, were at the very beginning of the niche conferences surge with the creation of the Wine Bloggers Conference in 2008. The BBWC was a natural extension. We originally created the idea because we were involved with the wine and beer industries through our active food and drink tours.”

What’s new for the event in 2016?
“Every year is new because the conference changes location each year. This means some of the content changes as we learn about the local beer industry, the beers we taste change and the breweries we visit are new.”

How has the event expanded from Year One to now?
“The conference has grown, but not tremendously. The conference is focused on a very finite community — beer bloggers — and so is not designed to grow, but to serve the needs of community members.”

In your opinion, has blogging become mainstream?
“Blogging is definitely widely accepted as a communications medium. There are blogs covering pretty much every subject in the world and some of them are so sophisticated, they are hard to distinguish from the online presences of mainstream media.”

What is one takeaway people can possibly expect by attending?
“Attendees will learn not just about what is new with blogging, but also with the beer industry. We have excellent speakers, including representatives from the Brewers Association and the National Beer Wholesalers Association, who will educate attendees on the absolute most current news in the beer world.”

Are tickets still available?
“Yes, we allow registration up to and during the conference!  Of course, we prefer attendees register ahead of time to give us the ability to staff and plan accordingly for all the events.”

In August, there’s another beer conference in Europe. What’s the difference between the two?
“The Tampa conference generally serves beer writers and the beer industry in North America, while the Amsterdam conference in August (which also moves each year) generally serves Europeans. However, there is always crossover and we welcome people to sign up for both. It is amazing what you can learn from bloggers in other countries. Blogging in Europe really depends on the country. In the UK, beer blogging is entrenched. Less so in other countries.”

For More Information visit the Beer Bloggers & Writers Conference Website.