Saturday, August 27, 2011

#BBC11 Recap : The Collective Unconscious : A Beer Bloggers Perspective

gorgeous hops from Goschie Hops Farm
Good morning, all... This post was originally posted in my blog at pdxhomelife... because it's the weekend, and Michael and I are off exploring our local craft beer scene, I post it here for a little Saturday enjoyment. If you're in town, head on over and see us tomorrow from 11 am - 6 pm at the Hawthorne Street Fair. Celebrating the closing of our pal Ezra Johnson-Greenhough's wildly successful inaugural PDX Beer Week, there will be a plethora of activities, food, and BEER! We'll have our tees & stickers for sale right outside Bazi BierBrasserie!

I've been mulling it over in my head, distilling the information and experiences imparted at the Beer Bloggers Conference last weekend in my hometown of Portland, Oregon. Picking blackberries in the garden, I've been reviewing conversations. At night I lay my head on my pillow and dream about bottles of beer in baskets, beer that traveled, waiting to be shared. I reflect on walking into Bailey's Tap Room Sunday evening and seeing a sea of now familiar faces, all smiling. And as I go about my daily life these last few days, working, folding laundry, feeding dogs, I think about the 100 people gathered at the DoubleTree Hotel near Lloyd Center, and how we turned a shared love of craft beer into something further reaching than the fabric paneled walls of the conference rooms.

delicious beer from Lompoc

The most difficult thing so far has been synthesizing four days of pub crawls, beer tastings, panel discussions, making new friends, marketing our new group, and listening to challenges in other states' struggles to just bring good beer to the people. I've been watching the Twitter feed for #BBC11, acutely aware that there are a ton of blog posts springing up around the internet, opinions and reports on the conference, factual and anecdotal... and while every fiber of my squirrelly little connective being wants to click through and read every word from every new friend I've made, I can't yet. Because as E.M. Forster pondered, "How can I know what I think till I see what I say?"

Widmer's Pilot Brewery

On the surface, the conference was likely the most productive, eye opening, and collaborative event I've ever been to. I've been to fun conferences. I've been to informative conferences. I've been to skill building, contact making conferences. But I have never in my professional career been to a conference that was as fun, thought provoking, and idea spawning as this.

I'm sure that if anyone truly wanted a blow by blow account of the entire conference, there must be bloggers who were conscientiously typing away as the sessions progressed. Surely lengthy accounts of each panel exist: winding and detailed discourses on the pros and cons and each speakers' merit. I can't (and won't) begin to retell the stories, set up the laughs, or open the vast stores of information. In a nut shell, those 100 people or so, including local brewers, bloggers from near and far, distributors, advocates, and journalists sat together, sharing experiences, listening to advice and ideas from one another, and gaining a clearer understanding of where the craft beer industry is headed.

The answer is up.

John & Fred
Ezra, Lisa & Jeff

What a tremendous showing from our local brewers; Widmer Bros, Oakshire Brewing, Bridgeport, Ninkasi, Double Mountain, Hopworks Urban Brewery, Breakside Brewery, Rogue, and Full Sail were joined by Blue Moon & Karl Strauss representatives,  Sierra Nevada, New Belgium, New Planet, and more. Craft beer legend Fred Eckhardt waxed philosophically with veteran beer journalist John Foyston, recalling craft beer's rebirth in Portland and along the West Coast... Craig Hendry from Mississippi's Raise Your Pints enlightened us to the sad state of affairs in Mississippi, where access to craft beer is extremely limited (and education about craft beer and what it entails is even more limited).

Stephen & Erica of Brooklyn Brew Shop

A policy analyst from Washington DC, Michelle Minton from The Competitive Enterprise Institute cautioned us about laws that threatened small breweries and our access to craft brew. Julia Herz from CraftBeer spoke about the industry of craft beer, Jeff Alworth, Lisa Morrison, Jay Wilson and Ezra Johnson-Greenhough talked about their experiences in craft beer... Erica and Stephen of the Brooklyn Brew Shop talked about their one gallon beer making kits - an idea that is bringing the experience of homebrewing to folks all over the country, who otherwise might be too overwhelmed to try it.  One panel spoke about critiques of craft beer. Some members of the audience suggested that it wasn't really great to criticize - but I kept thinking about the way in which we are so spoiled by our brewers in Portland. As a lover of craft beer, I would never hesitate to diplomatically express my thoughts about a beer, whether I liked it or not - the brewers around here know better than to get their feelings hurt when someone says they don't like a beer - and some of them welcome those comments and interactions with us as a way to further hone their craft.

Matt Van Wyk of Oakshire, a favorite beer & brewer

Over and over again the support for one another, for the industry, and the general joviality was the thing that caught my attention.  While sitting on the bus towards the Bridgeport sponsored dinner, my seat mate from Growler Fills in Montana remarked to me that he was astounded at the way in which Portland/Oregon Craft Beer people came together. Our brewers, he stated, were entirely unlike those in his state - and indeed, our brewers are a remarkable bunch. They joined us on buses, pouring samples from their collections of beer... chatting with us about their love of brewing, their thoughts and inspirations for those beers, and in general, being friendly. I met so many fantastically creative, supportive and wonderful people at the conference. I met Ales from the Crypt, Red White & Brew, and Road Trips for Beer -  friends of friends across the country... We saw The Love of Beer at the Bagdad Theater, an enlightening documentary about the women of craft beer, and their hand in changing times. There was so much to take in, I had a hard time each evening getting my brain to settle down so I could go to sleep... and each morning there was more. 

Jamie Floyd of Ninkasi & me
Perhaps the most significant experience for me was the evening of the hops farm dinner. Jamie Floyd, the brewer from Ninkasi, sat just ahead of me across the aisle on the bus to the Goschie Hops Farm. While we crawled along I-5 South in Friday afternoon rush hour traffic, I tapped Jamie on the shoulder and told him that my reintroduction to craft beer, the very path that I was on at that very minute was entirely due to his beer, specifically, Tricerahops. I recalled the day I discovered Tricerahops locally, and how it forever changed the way I thought about beer, about four years ago. "That makes my day," he said, giving me a high five. It made me so happy to be able to thank the person responsible for such a large part of my inspiration and creative expression. I never imagined that I would be a part of something so fun. And while there are benefits like supporting the local economy, the truth is that the community of beer is a huge part of who I am today, and my relationships with several key people in my life have been due to my love of craft beer.

my hug from Ginger Johnson
As I sat beneath the oak trees on the sprawling property, flakes of hops cones swirling in the air, a sprig of hops tucked in my hair, and a hug from Ginger Johnson from Women Enjoying Beer, it hit me. Amidst the laughter, I watched people of varying expertise, position, and time in the industry visit with each other and get excited. I saw friendships forged, interest ignite, and excitement grow. As people gathered around the bottles and poured pints from the taps, it occurred to me on a much deeper level. I began to feel a stirring that I knew was there, waiting to leap. Beer is so much more than a drink. It's more than a hobby. It's more than a vocation. It calls to some, heralding a connection to our collective history; it's what our ancient civilizations thrived on, grew from, and were inspired by.

Canopy of Trees
There, among those strangers who had become friends, I knew. That sense of connectivity is imbued in everyone who identifies with craft beer; like the collective unconscious, beer is our roots... and craft beer people are my tribe.