What. A. Weekend.
I warned you fine folks last week that I’d be attending the Beer Bloggers & Writers Conference, held here in lil’ ol’ Milwaukee, and that there’d be plenty of beer-pictures on social media this weekend. A combination of over-excitement, fantastic foods, and unending beer resulted in a final tally of 27 Insta-fam pics. You’re welcome.
But I left the Friday-Sunday funfest with more than just a memory card of photos, a sore throat, and new appreciation for the musical stylings of the drummer from the Violent Femmes: my notebook is chock-full of questions (currently) without answers and #deepthoughts. Here’s a short list of takeaways from the weekend, many which I intend to turn into full-fledged articles in the future.
Questions (currently) without answers:
- Will breweries start adopting the new #IndependentBeer logo the Brewers Association has established to verify that a brewery is not owned by one of the macro beer makers? (Fun fact: on Sunday we saw the symbol prominently displayed at Broken Bat Brewing Company.)
- What is the rate of diversity in both brewery workers and beer drinkers in Milwaukee? (Nationally it’s pretty terrible.)
- Did you know there is a House Small Brewers Caucus in Congress? For bipartisanship, simply add beer.
- Are brewers in Milwaukee held on the same pedestal as our award-winning chefs?
- A thought from Russ Klisch, founder of Lakefront Brewery: Did craft brewing in Milwaukee and St. Louis take longer to germinate because of the historic shadows cast by our big brewing heritage (Miller/Pabst/Schlitz/Blatz, Anheuser-Busch)?
- Is there “festival fatigue” in the beer industry? Has the novelty worn off for beer drinkers?
- Is the term “craft beer” really dead, as Sumit Vohra (CEO at Lonerider Brewing Company) posited, instead opting for “independent” (see 1. above)?
- The Best Place at the Historic Pabst Brewery is a gosh-darned city treasure, as is the saint who saved it from the wrecking ball: Jim Haertel. His welcome message: “Get ready for some history, passion and a little PBR!”
- Randy Mosher literally wrote the book on Tasting Beer. His words of wisdom will be incorporated on all future GWBT visits of mine:
- “What do you taste? Blurt out words from your lizard brain!”
- “This one’s a drive-by tasting. Mmmmmhmmmmm. You don’t have to hum.”
- “Be on the lookout for memories, not specific words.”
- “You can’t think of tasting as one moment in time. Take a little taste. Spread it around.”
- I asked Susan Evans, Director of the Smithsonian Food History Programs at the National Museum of American History, about how to choose what to preserve (the Best Place being a good example). Answer: “Find objects or places that tell multiple stories. That’s how you decide what to save.”
- Ben Keene (Editorial Director of BeerAdvocate) gave the writing advice to “have a story with a kicker, not just an idea”.
- Thanks to Mandy Carter‘s (A Cupful) advice, I’ll be both keeping a “This Failed” notebook now and referring to myself as a “Milwaukee Expert”. I like the ring of that.
- Milwaukee Brewing Company‘s new location across from the Bucks arena is going to by humongous.
- Wisconsin has 5.8 permitted breweries per person, according to the NBWA.
- Frank Boon, Belgium’s preeminent Lambic brewer, came half-way around the world to show me how to pour a proper Belgian beer.
The whirlwind 2.5 days closed with me having the opportunity to give a 5-minute “Ignite” presentation about leveraging custom maps on a blog (as I’m wont to do) to the assembled crowd of global and local influencers. It was beyond compare.
Thanks BBC for the good times and great beers. For our readers: be prepared for the answers to those questions above coming your way.