When I discovered the Beer Bloggers & Writers Conference a couple of weeks ago, I signed us up not knowing what to expect. To say that I’ve been pleasantly pleased is an UNDERSTATEMENT. I’ve only been here less than a full day and WOW!
Between the tastings, food pairings, chats with brewers, Q & A with beer & blogging experts, and Tampa’s beautiful downtown waterfront, this blog is already shaping up to be far better than any work-related conference I’ve attended.
Best Breweries of the Night
Green Flash sponsored our pre-dinner reception with beer infused appetizers, paired pours of their brews and a couple from Alpine Beer Company and complimentary bottles of Cosmic Ristretto and Dia De Los Serranos.
Sprecher’s Brewery not only brought their hard root beer and special amber, but had samples of cheese curds…yes, real cheese curds. I know…this may not seem like a big deal, but for a cheese lover who’s never had real cheese curds, this was a big deal!
Rogue Ales brought several of their more interesting brews and shared a little known (to me) piece of knowledge…Rogue has a farm that grow a variety of crops for beer production. Having grown up in the agricultural center of Florida, seeing a brewery concerned with producing its own brewing crops and promoting more farm-to-table and farm-to-glass experiences.
Dog Fish Head brought out a brand new brew, Flesh & Blood, an IPA made with blood oranges. My husband is a huge Dog Fish fan flying his IPA flag and searching for the hoppiest beers possible, so for him, Dog Fish Head is a religious experience and one of his first stops at the expo. (Just to put this in perspective, he will be spending his 40th birthday at the Dog Fish Head Brewery and Inn in Delaware.) On a personal note, I am not a fan of IPAs; however, I had two of these. The citrus in this beer, primarily the blood orange, is fantastic.
Marker 48 was the most pleasantly surprising brewery of the night. As Floridians, we know A LOT of breweries, so when we find a brewery that’s going above and beyond the typical beer brewing, I get excited. I’m a competitive chef, and I’m always looking for new ways to present a dish, so when I heard the story of Marker 48’s Spring Release DIPA, I had to share. According to the reps/brewers at last night’s expo, barrels of the brew are dropped into a spring on private property and allowed to chill out while it ages. For those who might be scratching their heads, Florida springs are common in the north central part of the state, and where Marker 48 is (Weeki Wachee), there are more springs than anywhere else in Florida. And, Florida springs stay around the 70 degree mark year-round. Other than the constant temperature, I’m not sure what the constant temperature does for the beer, but it’s one hell of a story/concept, and it’s one hell of a beer.
Interesting Discoveries of the Night
Bay Crafted (a division of Visit Tampa Bay) is totally devoted to promoting craft beer in the Tampa Bay area. Given the number of craft breweries, brewery supply stores, homebrew clubs, and brew pubs in Tampa and the number that will open in coming years, the bay area has become a beer tourism destination. I didn’t realize that Visit Tampa Bay had embraced this valuable asset, but it’s brilliant and should be hugely successful for everyone involved.
Jax Ale Trail is embracing the beer tourism and sampling culture. Much like Tampa, Visit Jacksonville is promoting their up and coming craft beer scene, Jacksonville is jumping in early to promote and offer tours, fun & interactive “passports”, and activities focused on the love of craft beer.
Nuts for Drinks…YES, someone has created peanuts that are flavored, coated, and specifically designed for munching with specific craft beer styles. This is GENIUS! and tasty. They are making peanuts specifically for wheat ale, lagers, stouts, and IPAs, and each is coated for extra crunchiness with flavors that will compliment the style of beer they are meant to be enjoyed with.