What Do You Do at a Beer Bloggers’ Conference

BBC logo

(Logo courtesy of BBC)

So, what do you do at a beer bloggers’ conference?

You’d be surprised how many times I’ve been asked that question. Sometimes it comes from friends or acquaintances when they hear that I’m going to a conference with such a name. Taxi and shuttle drivers have asked, along with hotel receptionists and people in elevators who see our name tags.

I suppose they envision a conference room full of tipsy tech geeks drinking beer and madly tapping away at their computers. There’s some truth in that. Plenty of beer is consumed over the three days (four, if you attend the pre-conference excursion), and a blogger without an electronic device is an oxymoron. But there’s so much more to an official Beer Bloggers Conference.

There are several things commonly seen at BBC presentations that might appear a little strange to non-craft beer folks. One is the informal dress. Shorts, flip flops and T-shirts sporting the names of breweries are the norm in craft beer culture and they’re everywhere at BBC—almost as pervasive as personal electronic devices. In BBC etiquette, it’s perfectly acceptable to be tapping on cell phones, laptops or tablets while speakers are presenting over three days, and that includes texting and checking Twitter, Facebook, etc. And then there’s the beer. Yes, in the craft beer world, it totally okay during a presentation for participants to pop open a brew, pour a few ounces and pass the bottle around the table or to the neighboring table. Are you getting the picture of why beer conferences are so much fun?

Lots of beer during BBC presentations (Photo shot by Carol Deckkers during Petrus Sour Beers presentation

Lots of beer during BBC presentations (Photo shot by Carol Deckkers during Petrus Sour Beers presentation)

Many of the presenters are social media reps for breweries which means they spend a lot of their lives coming up with snappy tweets, post and photos that will get attention in the overcrowded digital marketplace. They come armed with plenty of creds and colorful PowerPoints to explain how they succeeded and what you can take away from their bootstrap experiences. Troika and Elle Brodsky talked about the importance for bloggers of fostering collaboration and community. Their unique way has been Yoga Buzz which offers non-profit yoga classes in breweries and at beer events. They pour earnings and donations back into teacher training and student scholarships. Elle, who gave the presentation in bare feet, has taught yoga since 2008 and who believes passionately in its benefits for all, holds classes for total beginners and in low-income neighborhoods with the goal of bringing more believers into the healthy lifestyle flock.

A Yoga Buzz class

A Yoga Buzz class (Photo courtesy of Elle Brodsky and Yoga Buzz)

Passionate was a word we heard a lot. Gina Schauland, social media manager for Deschutes Brewery in Bend, Oregon, used it several times in her presentation, Shareworthy (& Awesome) Visual Content Creation with Little to No Budget. Hint, some of Gina’s favorite and reliable props for Deschutes’ beer photo shoots include “crappy weathered barn wood, cheap Ikea furniture and dishes from Goodwill.”

But back to that beer drinking. It’s not just the random, consume-all-you-can type too-often practiced by college undergrads. Many, if not most, of the bloggers are fairly sophisticated beer drinkers. It seemed like I ran into more Certified Cicerones® this year than last. Anytime I get the opportunity to enjoy a beer with Cicerones and listen to the conversation, I learn something.

Naturally, a vital part of the conference experience is getting to know the local breweries. This year’s conference was in Tampa, Florida. Those of us who attended the pre-conference excursion met a day early in Jacksonville. During Thursday afternoon and evening, we hit two breweries, one soon to open, a bottle shop and a gastropub.

World of Beer welcomes BBC participants

World of Beer welcomes BBC participants

After the Saturday morning presentations in Tampa, they loaded all 120 participants on buses and ferried us to World of Beer for a great pairing lunch sponsored by the venue and MillerCoors. After the p.m. presentations, we were back on the buses to J.J. Taylor Distributing for Live Beer Blogging. We sat at tables of eight amid thousands of cases of beer while over fifty minutes, ten brewery representatives had five minutes per table to pitch one of their brews. Bloggers sampled quickly then tweeted comments and photos.

Live Beer Blogging tweet

One Live Beer Blogging tweet

From Live Blogging, it was on to a three-brewery progressive dinner where we drank, ate and chatted with brewers like Tim Shaketon of Ulele who enthusiastically showed us around their breweries. Each year, the official conclusion to the conference is the announcement of where the next conference will be held. And for 2017? Milwaukee, one of America’s greatest beer cities.

Leslie with Tom Shackton of Ulele

Leslie with Tom Shackton of Ulele

A post-conference excursion to breweries in St. Petersburg and Clearwater followed Sunday afternoon something I had to skip. My only disappoint this year in Florida and last year in North Carolina was that I couldn’t possibly sample all the beers or taste all the food. Maybe next year, I’ll make it to the Friday night 10 p.m. Night of Many Bottles when participants gather to sample all the regional beers we’ve brought from our local breweries. (I contributed the bottles brewer Víctor Soto had gifted me two weeks earlier on a visit to Cervecería Albur in Monterrey, Mexico.)

Beer bloggers, writers and social media people: put “Milwaukee, August 3-6” on your calendar NOW!

Check back with “Not My Father’s Beer” next week to read about those beer blogger field trips during the conference.

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