Sunday, October 8, 2017

Wine Blogger Impressions of a Beer Blogger's Conference

This August I seized the opportunity to attend my first Beer Bloggers and Writers Conference in the iconic beer city of Milwaukee, Wisconsin.

From start to finish it was fun, educational, friend-filled, and tasty.  Here are some of the highlights of my hoppy weekend:

Historic Pabst  - The BBC educational sessions were in the historic Pabst "Best Place" reception hall - a piece right out of American beer history.  Our lunch explored the Pabst Microbrewery - which seems like an oxymoron but a tour with one of the brewmasters and tasting of a number of their small production brews including a Forst Keller, Augsburger Godeln and Van Damme Good Tripel convinced me that this place was the real deal.

Educational Sessions and Tastings: I was most excited for Randy Mosher's Identifying and Describing Flavor, Smell, and Color in Beer.  Because it was at this session that my biggest question would be answered:  Is beer tasting essentially different than wine tasting?  The answer is that the process is pretty much the same, but the flavors and aromas are going to be different.  Never described a wine as "dank" or "resinous" and never had to consider the assortment of ingredients that make a beer.  It's a lot different thinking about the effect of hops rather than the characteristics of grapes.

Randy told us that all parts of the beer should taste good and to consider: Is it too astringent? That would give it a rough finish rather than clean. He talked about different kinds of malts such as Vienna, which gives a light sweet caramel aroma.  Randy acknowledged that beer tasting wasn't too different than wine tasting although the approach to aromatics was different.  "There are chemicals in beer you can't smell until they're in your mouth." That's because your mouth has enzymes in it. One of the best parts of the presentation was Randy set out a selection of Stone Brewing beers to taste through as he presented including Ghost Hammer (we picked up marigold and lemon) , Stone IPA (grapefruit), and Arrogant Bastard (toasted marshmallow and caramel).

Spontaneous learning: As I've always found with wine, the best way to learn is by hanging out and tasting with others.  I very much appreciated Carla Jean Lauter explaining to me the difference between lagers and ales.  Her point that lagers are brewed cold was brought home at our dinner stop where we got to see the pretty fantastic beer caves at the historic Miller Brewery - where their crisp lagers were indeed cold fermented below ground.

Fantastic welcoming Milwaukee:  The city of Milwaukee was fun, friendly, and fabulous for beer lovers. BBC participants went to so many inventive, high quality breweries and drank so much good beer - this is really a top destination for craft brew lovers, especially those who want to see a big part of American beer history.  I have to end with a shout out to the favorite brewery we visited: Lakefront Brewery which has capacious seating both inside and outside, a hilarious brewery tour, excellent range of beers (love their Pilsner - a much maligned style that they do so well), and gorgeous water-side location.

All and all, this wine blogger was impressed by her first Beer Bloggers Conference.  I'll be back!

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