Beer Bloggers & Writers Conference- Coming to Loudoun County, VA!

In just 2 months, on August 10 and 11th the Beer Bloggers and Writers Conference will hold its 9th annual conference, and this year it will be held in Loudoun Virginia! This conference is not only for beer bloggers and writers, it is also for breweries, brewery guilds, Destination Management Organizations, and PR companies. This event provides a forum for industry professionals to meet with writers and bloggers to discuss trends, tourism, and innovations in craft brewing.

Beer tourism is growing fast, and conferences like this are a great way to build awareness for local and regional beers, breweries, and beer trails.

This conference will feature a number of pre and post conference excursions such as a trip to the Guinness Open Gate Brewery & Barrel House in Maryland, and a visit to Dogfish Head Brewing in Delaware, to talk to the brewers, hear about trends, and of course lots of tasting.

At the start of the conference, there will be a Kickoff Party at Farm Brew Live, northern Virginia’s first destination brewery.  Then during the conference attendees will hear about the current state of the craft beer industry, diversity in craft beer, learn about the art of negative feedback, podcasting and Instagram, talk to brewers and brewery owners, and of course beer tasting. They will also hear from Sam Calagione with Dogfish Head Brewery, see a presentation by Devils Backbone Brewing Company, and do more beer tasting. There will also be a reception and dinner at Vanish Farmwoods Brewery where 24 of Loudoun County’s breweries will be present to offer still more tastings of some of their best hand-crafted brews!

Finally, after the conference wraps up, there will be yet another excursion, this time to Richmond, VA, for  a tasting tour of the Richmond Beer Trail!

This conference is going to be incredible! If are a brewery owner, an industry professional, or just want to raise awareness about craft beer in your area, there is no better place to meet with the bloggers and writers who can get the word out.  

I’ll see you there!

Cheers!

 

Special thanks to the conference sponsors:

Visit Loudoun,the Loudoun Convention & Visitors Association, is going all out to ensure the success of the conference.

The National Beer Wholesalers Association (NBWA) represents America’s 3,300 licensed, independent beer distributor operations in every state, congressional district and media market across the country.

CraftBeer.com, published by the Brewers Association, a website that supports independently owned breweries and the world of American craft beer.

Devils Backbone Brewing Company, born in the Heartland of Virginia, this craft brewery has created some amazing German and American style craft beers that has become the standard for what a craft beer should be.

Dogfish Head Craft Brewery, after 22 years of brewing excellence, is still just as passionate and dedicated their craft as they were on day one, “to bringing off-centered goodness to off-centered people”.

Guinness Open Gate Brewery & Barrel House, which is the first Guinness presence on US soil since 1954 and a beer legend known around the world.

Prince William County, Virginia, close without being too close to Washington DC. Located only 30 miles from DC in northern Virginia, Prince William is known for their parks and trails, Civil War battlefields, amazing craft brews and wines, museums, and a robust arts and culture scene.

Kilfrost is a global leader in safety critical chemistry. They are probably best known for developing a range of Advanced Low Viscosity heat transfer fluids, including ALV Plus, which for the first time gives breweries a fluid that’s highly efficient and non-toxic, as well as cost efficient and environmentally-friendly.

Cumberland Valley Beer Trail, Pt 1 – Roy Pitz and Gearhouse

Near the end of Harrisburg Beer Week I was fortunate to find myself in Carlisle PA, at the very heart of the Cumberland Valley Beer Trail, and was able to sample and enjoy some of the best craft beer Pennsylvania as to offer.

The beer trail stretches from Chambersburg to Harrisburg and currently includes 19 breweries, a distillery and a meadery, with three more breweries, another distillery, and a winery to be added soon.

Of course you shouldn’t explore the Cumberland Valley Beer Trail without a passport. You can get a Beer Trail Passport from the Cumberland Valley Visitors Bureau or any of the participating beer trail locations. Each time you visit a location on the trail you can get a sticker, and depending on how many stickers you collect, you can redeem the passport for prizes such as a bottle opener, coupons, a t-shirt, and a chance to win a $50 gift card!

According to the Visitors Bureau, beer tourism is growing fast, and the beer trail is attracting craft beer lovers from all across the country.  The Bureau reports that 25% of the passports redeemed are from people who live more than 2 hours from the trail, and people from as far away as Florida, Texas, and even Oregon have redeemed passports.

104 N. 3rd St, Chambersburg, PA

The first stop on my beer trail experience was at Roy Pitz Brewing in Chambersburg, PA. They describe their craft beer as liquid art.  I sampled their Barleywine, West Coast IPA, Smoked Porter, and Sour Gose, and to be honest I don’t think they were bragging- just stating the facts.  

Not only was the beer noteworthy, they had a pretty good food menu also.  The Brew House Nachos have pulled pork, shredded Monterey jack, pico de gallo, and scallions topped with sour cream on a bed of tortilla chips.  So good! And have you ever had a cheesesteak egg roll?

The menu also included a number of burgers, sandwiches, wings, and more. And of course no pub menu would be complete without the classic fish and chips! 

The tasting room had a comfortable feel, the staff was friendly and helpful, the food was good, and the beer was awesome!

253 Grant St, Chambersburg, PA

My next stop on the Cumberland Valley Beer Trail was  at Gearhouse Brewing in Chambbersburg. This craft brewery is located just around the corner from Roy Pitz.

They had a wide variety of craft beer on tap that would please the most discerning craft beer enthusiast such as a Hefeweizen, Kölsch, amber lager, American and Irish reds, a blond ale, IPAs, and stout.

I had an Angelic Red Ale and the I’ll Be Bock amber lager.   The Angelic Red had a beautiful amber/red color, a nice roast malt aroma with a hint of lightly toasted bread and rich malty flavor. The I’ll Be Bock had a biscuity aroma with just a hint of hops, and a fresh, clean, biscuity flavor with a light caramel malt presence.  Both were delicious.

They also have an eclectic food menu with a variety of items such as poutine (fried tater tots with cheese curds, beef gravy and beer cheese), fish tacos, mac & cheese, and assorted sandwiches and sliders. 

This is a great place to stop in after a hectic day at work, or to unwind on the weekend. Fine beer and pretty good food.

Next stops, Pizza Boy and Ever Grain Breweries!

To be continued…

Big Beer vs Home Brewing?

You would think that Big Beer and homebrewers have conflicting interests. After all, if people are brewing their own beer, they are not buying it from Big Beer. Right? Well, it turns out that’s not exactly the case. The largest brewing company in the world, AB InBev, is not feeling threatened by homebrewing, it’s encouraging it!

To compete with the ever growing number of craft breweries, AB InBev created a special division that’s mission has been to acquire successful and growing craft breweries and make them part of AB InBev. It’s essentially the same strategy Darth Vader and the Emperor tried to use in Star Wars. If they could have gotten Luke to join them, they would be able to eliminate an enemy, and gain more power. Of course, this strategy didn’t quite work out for the Empire, but it seems to be working for AB InBev.

According to the American Homebrewers Association, homebrewers  produced over 1.4 million barrels of beer last year, and that number is growing fast as more and more people begin brewing their own beer.  So how can Big Beer eliminate that competition? Simple. By creating a division dedicated to acquiring the companies that supply homebrewers with what they need to brew.

By acquiring leading home brewing supply companies such as Northern Brewer, AB Inbev can actually profit from the growth in home brewing. As a result, AB InBev is happily promoting that growth.

So, is this a good thing? A bad thing? Or does it really matter? Personally, I find it a little disturbing. Short term it probably won’t make any difference, but long term?

What happens when all commercial brewing is owned by one company, and that same company supplies all the materials and equipment used by homebrewers?

 

Computers, Artificial Intelligence, and Beer?

Technology is progressing faster and faster, and computers have become a part of nearly every aspect of everyday life, but can a computer make a better beer?

Computers have quickly become an integral part of everything we do. In our cars they constantly make adjustments to the engine, warn us when we stray into the other lane, automatically stop the car to avoid a collision, and can even drive us to our destination. In our homes they can respond to voice commands, play our favorite music, and warn us about traffic conditions when we’re getting ready to go to work.

Computers have been used for years in manufacturing for years to assemble, monitor and adjust temperatures and power usage, perform quality control, and identify and correct errors.

In brewing, computers can control nearly the entire process from milling and mashing, to lautering and fermenting, and at any step of the way, the computer could make adjustments- all according to the brewers recipe.

London based brewery IntelligentX, claimed to be the first brewer to use artificial intelligence to brew a beer.  After a customer had tried an IntelligentX beer, they would then log into Facebook Messenger and give their opinions on the beer. However, instead of communicating directly to the brewery, the person providing the feedback would actually be talking to an artificial intelligence (AI) system called ABI, which would take that information, enter it into an algorithm, and then create a new recipe.

Recently Champion Brewing, in Charlottesville Virginia teamed up with a machine learning company called Metis Machine to brew what they hope will be the perfect IPA. According to Hunter Smith, the owner of Champion Brewing Co, by providing the AI developed by Metis Machine with the parameters that IPAs are judged by at the Great American Beer Festival, the metrics from the nationally 10-best-selling IPAs, and the 10 worst selling IPAs at a local retailer, the AI would come up with the recipe for the ideal IPA. The result was the ML IPA.

Carlsburg, one of the most recognized beverage brands in the world, is taking things to the next level with what they are calling their Beer Fingerprinting Project.  Carlsberg will be collaborating with Microsoft,  Aarhus University, and The Technical University of Denmark to develop an AI capable of sensing and measuring flavors and aromas in beer. The idea is that an AI with the ability to taste and smell beer will greatly enhance the process of developing new beers and also improve quality control.

According to Jochen Förster, the Director and Professor of Yeast Fermentation at Carlsberg Research Laboratory, there is currently no rapid technology that can differentiate the complex textures of flavors, but he believes the development of this technology is critical to developing beer of the highest possible quality with the added benefit of reducing the time and cost in developing new beers.

But what does this all mean? Could technology, by removing the human element in the brewing process, ultimately destroy the art and the craft of beer making? Will automation and computer analysis  reduce creativity and brewing innovation ?

Personally, I don’t think so.  Making it easier to get the results you want or reducing  human error doesn’t impede creativity. I believe we are still a long ways away from an AI saying, “Wait! What if I add (this strange ingredient) during primary fermentation?”  It still takes a human being’s imagination to create something new, and a human’s drive for something new and different.

Technology is amazing, but it’s really only as good as the people who use it.