Tuesday, 26 January 2016

From Friday To Sunday

I picked up some beer at the weekend. Two of the bottles I nabbed were as much for novelty as anything. They were German beers from Brewers and Union, which appears to be a Bavarian gypsy brewery. 

I decided to start my Friday with a bottle of Friday. It was described as a 6.5% uber IPA and not for woosies. Challenge accepted, I opened it. It was very cloudy, lots of orange marmalade with grassy and spicy hops. It was a bit like a cross between an English IPA and a Bavarian pils perhaps. Apparently it takes 10 weeks brewing time I would expect it to clear somewhat in bright tanks in that case. It was a decent enough IPA to start the weekend with.

On Sunday, my last beer for the weekend was of course Sunday. This was described as a 5.5% easy pale ale. It was like a smaller version of Friday but without any of what made Friday so middle of the road. A massive pithy orange bitterness leading towards a tart finish. There was something slightly odd about it and I couldn't quite place it. Not an off-flavour as such, just something I wasn't expecting. What was odd was a distinct lack of malt flavours or aromas. It actually reminded me of a a beer I had before which contained grapefruit juice. The juice overpowered the beer and left no malt profile.

And there we have it. Two beers that shall remain as their intended purchase reason: novelties.

Wednesday, 23 December 2015

Golden Pints 2015

2015 has been an exciting year in Craft Beer both in Ireland and the rest of the world. Ireland now boasts 70 physical, independent Irish breweries that are producing beer and more are in the pipeline with about 30 contract brewers hoping to take the plunge soon.

The Golden Pints Awards are just my own personal opinion as is everything on this blog so at the end of the day, it means nothing. However, it's always nice to be appreciated and recognised in a public setting and everyone mentioned below deserves some recognition.

·        Best Irish Cask Beer - Still a rare enough sight in Ireland and not always in the best condition but I'm going to give it to J.W. Sweetman's and specifically Barrelhead pale ale with their own brand porter in a close second place. A special mention for Porterhouse TSB which is one of my favourite cask ales produced in Ireland.

·         Best Irish Keg Beer - A very hotly contested category as you might imagine. For me, this was best exemplified by the beer that won Best Lager in Ireland at the Beoir Champion Beer of Ireland awards in Killarney. Trouble Brewing's Remix lager. A special shout out to Goodbye Blue Monday from Galway Bay for being almost as memorable.

·         Best Irish Bottled or Canned Beer - I fell in love with Eight Degrees Hurricane again recently, so how about that?

·          Best Overseas Draught Beer - With the proliferation of Irish draught beer available these days, I have had very little foreign draught other than when I go away and nothing really stood out too much against its Irish counterpart. I'll pick a classic then. Sierra Nevada Torpedo. Nuff said.

·         Best Overseas Bottled or Canned Beer - As with draught, I haven't had as many foreign bottles as in the past. What stands out most for me is another classic. Cantillon Rosé de Gambrinus just nudges the regular Gueuze to be my favourite.

·          Best Collaboration Brew - This one was contested by two for me. Galway Bay / Begyle Brewing (Chicago) created an oatmeal IPA called Goodbye Blue Monday. It's one of my favourite Irish beers of the year. A special mention to the 2015 edition of Lublin to Dublin from O'Hara's and Pinta (Poland). This years version was a milk stout and it was outstanding.

·         Best Overall Beer - I'm going to be biased and pick O'Hara's Leann Folláin because it's my desert island beer. It just ticks every box in every serving type

·         Worst Branding, Pumpclip or Label - I don't think too many other bloggers do this category. It was my own from 2013. Think of it like the Golden Raspberry awards in Hollywood. It's all in good fun. I'm giving this to O Brother for Bonita. The beer was brilliant but the pump clip caused a lot of commotion among men and women alike, especially from the other side of the Atlantic where the symbolism was more relevant. It was considered sexist and also sort of racist. To be fair, I don't think the lads understood just some of the subtle imagery used by the artist. Congratulations to the lads! Great beer though.

·         Best Branding, Pumpclip or Label - I'm going to pick a 2015 newcomer here. Torc Brewing in Killarney. They have a very simple logo and it's quite pleasing to the eye. It's also one of the smallest brew kits in the country.

·         Best Irish Brewery - For the simple act of being the first Irish microbrewery with their own canning line, I'm giving this to Metalman. They have started a little packaging revolution of their own with others following suit. A number of mobile canning companies are on the prowl for business now. Special shout out to Galway Bay for so many interesting pilot batches this year.

·       Best Overseas Brewery - I can't say who the best overseas brewery is. It really depends on your definition of the word. AB InBev has been buying everything in sight over the last week so one could say they are the best at what they do. Or Brewdog for being the best at guerilla marketing tactics. Cantillon still holds to traditional brewing methods almost unchanged in over a century so they might also be considered the best lambic producer for that very reason.

·       Best New Brewery Opening 2015 - Boundary Brewing is a cooperative brewery which is owned by members. For this simple concept alone I'm giving them this crown. 

·        Pub/Bar of the Year - 57 The Headline on Leonard's corner in Dublin for me. Knowledgeable staff combined with the largest range of Irish craft beer in the country win it for me,

·         Best New Pub/Bar Opening 2015 - The winner for me only opened a few weeks ago. It's called Columbia and it's in Mullingar. It comes from the same people responsible for other well known craft beer bars like P.Mac’s and Cassidy's in Dublin and they have a nice formula going in the midlands now. The Beer Market in Dublin deserves an honourable mention. The concept was to have a beer only bar concentrating on small batch, hard to find beers. While it has changed to become a somewhat more normal Galway Bay bar with pints of their regular lineup and full food menu instead of just pies, they still concentrate on beer.

·         Beer Festival of the Year - For me, it was the Killarney Beer Festival but then, I'm biased since I was heavily involved in it and to be fair, I missed out on going to the big one (ICBCF) in the RDS at the end of August.

·         Supermarket of the Year - I guess it's SuperValu that wins here. There isn't much choice when it comes to craft beer outside of SuperValu and they have started a renewed push in their larger, more upmarket branches. They even have growler filling stations in some!

·         Independent Retailer of the Year - Drinkstore in Stoneybatter is the only one I spend much time in so it's the only one I can really recommend. 

·         Online Retailer of the Year - Drinkstore.ie for the same reason as above but also for their cheap shipping across the whole island. There's no excuse for anyone in the country not to have access to great beer (or any alcoholic drink) even if they live in the arse of nowhere.

·         Best Beer Book or Magazine - Beoir Magazine of course. Yeah, I'm a little biased on that one.

·         Best Beer Blog or Website - For beer blog I would say Belgian Smaak. After all, Breandán did just win Beer Writer of the Year along with a couple of others at the British Guild of Beer Writers awards. He has written articles for the last two Beoir magazines and we are proud to call him an expat Beoir member as he is based in Belgium.

·         Best Beer App - BeoirFinder because I would be lost without it and it's pretty much the only one I use other than the odd look at the BJCP app.

·      Simon Johnson Award for Best Beer Twitterer - Have I ever not put @TheBeerNut down here?

·         Best Brewery Website/Social media - A tough one as most craft breweries are pretty social media savvy. Eight Degrees gets it for me. They have always been good with social media but also, their new website included a shop to buy their beer direct from the brewery. A first for Ireland because of our archaic licencing laws.

And that's it for my Golden Pints. It's Christmas eve tomorrow so I'm off to pick up some Christmas beers at lunch time.

Wednesday, 16 December 2015

Festive Beers From Eight Degrees

As Christmas approaches, there are plenty of winter specials appearing on Irish shelves. The lovely people at Eight Degrees sent me a box of such specials along with a bottle of Full Irish and Vic Secret, both of which I have had many times so will not write about here.

Mór is a 10.2% barleywine which put me in mind of an Irish version of Bigfoot. This is one to age I reckon. It’s not as hop forward as Bigfoot but there’s plenty to keep people interested. Sweet caramel malt and dark fruits on the nose. When I tasted it, I thought it was pretty spectacular. It’s exactly what I want in a winter warmer with a little spice, dark fruits and a bit of a citrus bite. Plenty of caramel with the barest hint of liquorice on the finish. Mór of this please.

Signal is a 6% Belgian style stout. It’s certainly strong and Belgian. There are notes of milk/lactose. I found the body is quite thin here, something not especially to my liking and certainly not in a big stout. The finish is pretty bitter with lots of coffee and burnt toast. This was the weakest of the trio for me but those who prefer a lighter bodied stout will appreciate it.

Snow Eater is a Red IPA and 6.2% ABV. It uses Chinook hops for a pine and spicy note.
The aroma is malty sweet with a touch of Ryvita crackers. Citrus hops are obvious.
On tasting, we get an intense bitterness then some spicy hops followed by some roast. It has a big malt forward body but edges more towards the bitter end of the scale. Great big bitter finish with a slightly sweet note. Lovely beer but not what I would call balanced. If you like your beer big and bitter, this will go down nicely.

The last one isn’t one of the Christmas specials but it’s worth mentioning as it’s still pretty new having only been released around October and since I haven’t written about it yet, I figured it was a good opportunity. It was the first time I have had it in bottle format as normally I have had it on tap. 
Big River Tasmanian IPA is an almost seasonable 5.3% IPA which uses Ella and Enigma hops. This is a hop forward IPA, plain and simple. An aroma of fresh pine and citrus. Really fresh. It tastes pretty much the same with some added juicy fruits and a slight pithiness. It’s absolutely beautiful. My advice, get it quickly and drink it as fresh as possible before the hops start to degrade.

Apologies for the lateness of articles recently. I have been busy putting issue 3 of Beoir Magazine together. The magazine arrived from the printers on Monday so my job is done for a few months until the next one starts.

Thursday, 26 November 2015

SuperValu: Raising The Bar

For the last few years, SuperValu and Superquinn were the best supermarkets in Ireland to get craft beer. Since the Superquinn re-brand as SuperValu, things have become a little more interesting around the country. None more so than the newly re-furbished store in Blackrock.

It all kicked off at the #GoodFoodKarma Christmas Extravaganza on November 11th. The red carpet was literally rolled out for media types to attend. I went straight to the beer section and was blown 
away by what I saw. In the middle, they have what appears to be a bar. You can just see some Christmas gift packs from Black's of Kinsale on the shelves. They have an extensive beer fridge and then plenty of shelving dedicated to craft beer, much of which is Irish but they have plenty of imports to keep things interesting. To top things off, they also had a growler station where you can pour your own draught beer to take home. The lads from Wicklow Wolf were there on the night.

While I'm mainly interested in beer, they also have an impressive wine selection and are exclusive distributors of Graham Norton's wine. The best part is, it's a bloody good wine too!

And then we come to the whiskey collection. I had always meant to write about whiskey on this blog but I never really did. You will find some incredible whiskey in the new style shop, including the beautiful but spendy Middleton: Barry Crocket Legacy. It's a little over €200 but you know, it might just be worth it.
I had my first taste of the Caskmates, the whiskey aged in former Jameson barrels used to age Franciscan Well barrel aged stout. The barrels have come full circle and are being used to age Jameson whiskey again. I was pleasantly surprised by this and might have to pick up a bottle.

The shop itself reminded me of some of the upmarket supermarkets in the US like Wholefoods. I heard a comment that this new SuperValu looks how everyone thought Superquinn looked but actually didn't. 

I'm not sure about groceries but it's worth popping in to for the beer section alone if you find yourself in the area.

Friday, 23 October 2015

In a Galaxy Far Far Away

I received some beer from the lovely people at O'Hara's recently. It was the next in their Hop Adventure series featuring Galaxy hops. It's basically a beer brewed to try and showcase specific hops. The first one was Sorachi Ace and you can read my thoughts here.

What you need to understand here is that these are hop showcasing beers. They are not trying to make the best IPA. It's a similar concept to the Brewdog: IPA is dead series. They don't use as many speciality malts as their regular pale ale.

This release is all about Galaxy hops. Beer geeks love Galaxy hops. The aroma is clean with some citrus. It's not in your face hops though. There are hint of tropical fruits and some malt sweetness but otherwise, it's a very clean aroma. On tasting, the clean theme continues, It's similar to the normal IPA, much more so than the Sorachi Ace release. There is a far more pronounced bitterness that lingers and coats the mouth though. If I was disappointed, it was because there's not a major amount of hop favours coming through and I think it's because it has been filtered too much. The tropical fruits and citrus are a little muted.

Again, this beer is only to showcase the hop variety. The secret is in the numbers. Both Galaxy and Sorachi Ace were hopped to 38 IBU (bitterness units). In contrast, the regular IPA is 50 IBU. Get a bottle of this and try it alongside the regular IPA and you will probably notice the hop difference. There's more going on in the regular IPA due to different hops but the Galaxy brings its own characteristics to the beer. Galaxy hops have a pretty high alpha acid (what makes it bitter) of 12-16% and it does show in the rounded and persistent bitterness. Despite the lower IBU, I found this more bitter than the regular IPA because there are no other distractions to the beer.

Single hop beers are rarely great because hops are better blended to bring their respective characteristics out. In the same way that single malt beers are rarely as good as their mixed malt counterparts.
If this was a regular beer, I would say it needs more hops (and less filtering) but for what it is, I think they hit the nail on the head here.

I'm looking forward to the next edition. I vote for Polaris but in my last article, I suggested Mosaic so I will be happy with that too.

Thursday, 15 October 2015

Journalism 101: Craft Beer Does Not Equal Hipster

Sloppy and lazy, two words to describe many an article that mentions craft beer when printed or published by what one might term established media. Too often have I read things like craft beer is just a fad or passing phase and far too often have I read that craft beer drinkers are hipsters. That last one is insulting both to craft beer drinkers and probably hipsters too. I don’t think I even know any hipsters and I'm one of the biggest craft beer supporters in the country.

There has been many an article following this lazy journalistic approach but the latest one was published on Tuesday on independent.ie by Nick Webb. This isn't a personal attack on Nick but it is an attack on the completely lazy approach to journalism that seems to have encroached on what was once a respected media. It’s not an attack on the independent as such either because I know journalists that work for the independent that do understand the craft beer scene and do have journalistic integrity. Nick is just unfortunate to be the latest journalist to piss me off with sloppiness and cynicism.

This is going to be a bit of a rant and contain profanities. If you don’t like rants or profanities, here’s a picture of fluffy bunnies being cute.

The article in question can be found here and the title is: From truckers and brewers to builders and the tax payer - the winners and losers from Budget 2016. Sounds good so far, it’s a business orientated look at Budget 2016.

OK so I move down to the bit that interests me. The paragraph on the drinks industry:
Drinks Industry: Apart from the hipsters running the craft beer sector, the drinks industry – publicans and major brewers and importers – got no relief. Super high excise duties on booze weren’t touched, which means that Ireland remains one of the most expensive places in the Western world to buy a bottle of Montepulciano.

I have underlined what I have a problem with. Hipsters running the craft beer sector? I don’t know of a single hipster running anything of note, let alone anything in the craft beer sector. They certainly don’t own any breweries and it’s the brewers/brewery owners he is phrasing this towards as they are the only winners in the budget. Not only is this an ignorant, derogatory remark which shows a clear cynicism on his part, it also shows a complete lack of understanding of the word hipster. If you don’t know what a word means, use a fucking dictionary or at least Google it.

I also have a problem with the word booze. Another derogatory term for an alcoholic beverage that’s enjoyed responsibly by the majority of the population, in moderation. When consumed in moderation, is beneficial to one’s health but it’s the word booze is not as insulting as hipster so let’s stick with that.

According to the Collins dictionary, a hipster is the following:
a person who follows trends that he or she regards as being outside the mainstream

According to Wikipedia: 
The hipster subculture is one of affluent or middle class young Bohemians who reside in gentrifying neighbourhoods, broadly associated with indie and alternative music, a varied non-mainstream fashion sensibility (including vintage and thrift store-bought clothes), generally progressive political views, organic and artisanal foods, and alternative lifestyles. The subculture typically consists of white millennials living in urban areas. It has been described as a "mutating, trans-Atlantic melting pot of styles, tastes and behaviour".
Personally, I think Urban Dictionary gets it right here

What’s my point? None of these definitions include the word brewer, brewery or even the term craft beer. Hipsters in the US have been known to drink PBR. They like irony and I think they find it ironic to drink a mainstream beer that no one else drinks. It wasn't marketed like other big beer so hipsters were drawn to it.

Getting away from brewers and brewery owners then. What about the consumer? Are craft beer drinkers actually hipsters? Fuck no! We are normal people who like two things about what we term craft beer. We like that it has flavour and isn't watered down fizzy liquid. We also like that it’s usually an independent, small business. We don’t drink it to look cool or stand out from the main stream. We just think it’s a better product and if the big boys start making better products, many craft beer drinkers will happily drink those products. It’s that simple.  Some of the more zealous among us will still look to drink beer from an Independent brewery over a mass produced beer, even if the mass produced beer is just as good. That doesn't make us hipsters. Is anyone who prefers Irish cheese over imported cheese because it’s Irish a hipster? Of course not, that would be a ridiculous line of thought.
OK so if it’s clear that craft beer drinkers are not hipsters, why label us as such? Well, many so called hipsters do drink craft beer in Ireland but here’s the thing. Hipsters often like things that aren't popular and craft beer is popular these days so perhaps they are all drinking something that’s not popular, something no longer advertised. The ideal hipster drink in Ireland isn't craft beer, it’s a pint of Harp and they are welcome to it.

One can only assume that the dismissing use of derogatory terms to refer to craft beer drinkers is because the journalists in question believe that craft beer is a phase, a fad, something that will go away when people get bored. This again shows a complete lack of journalistic integrity because all it takes is a little historical research and just a bit of common sense.

Take this little infographic here. I'm sure you have seen similar statements floating around Facebook.
Commercial beer as we know it only really started during the industrial revolution. In fact it was the commercialisation of beer that helped make it such a success. Many modern inventions, right down to the production line can be directly attributed to brewing beer but I'm digressing a little.

Is it a fad? 

I wrote about this very subject on The Journal last year. This was in direct response to an attack on craft beer in a courtroom by the VFI.  Feel free to read it if you like but the gist of it was this. Craft beer has many definitions but one main theme seems to be that it’s produced in small batches by an independently owned brewery and not on a massive industrial scale by a drinks company which owns many such breweries around the world.

Before the industrial revolution, all beer was craft beer. It was produced locally using local ingredients and sold to local people. After industrialisation and the amalgamation of most breweries in to large brewing conglomerates, craft beer persisted in a small regional way in some countries but was wiped out entirely in most, Ireland was one of those countries. By the 1980s, only the big three remained and it wasn't until the late 90s that we saw our first independent breweries start to open again.

Since big beer only started a few hundred years ago, but humans have been brewing beer for at least 5000 years and probably longer, which brewing process do you think is actually the fad? The 5000+ year old small scale, small batch, independent brewing or the 200 year old industrial scale brewing? Getting back to the infographic: Compressing the earth’s history in to 46 hours shows commercial beer is 1 minute old and craft beer is a few hours.
It’s not bloody rocket science people!

And when the zombie apocalypse comes, and all industry falls, we will still be brewing locally produced beer in small batches. That's right people, craft beer will survive a fucking zombie apocalypse! On that day, we will use the hipsters as canon fodder to protect the beer.

So, for any journalists or aspiring journalists reading this, please show a little bit of journalistic integrity when you write an article. Not just for the benefit of readers but for your own reputations also.

That’s the end of my rant. Thanks for reading if you got this far. I think I might dress up as a hipster for Halloween because I will find it ironic….. Either that or a journalist.

If you want to read on craft beer in the independent, just stick to journalists like Gavin McLoughlin. He checks his sources and does so often. I know because I'm one of them.

If there are any mistakes in this piece, sorry but I'm not a journalist. I'm just a writer. I'm a person who likes to drink beer and write about it.

Tuesday, 8 September 2015

After 5 Years #EBBC15

For 2015, the Beer Bloggers Conference was re-branded to be the Beer Bloggers and Writers Conference. We have always had non bloggers attend the conference, people who wrote about beer in magazines and wrote books about beer but more importantly, in the years that the conference has been running, many bloggers have gone on to also write books or get published in magazines and newspapers. The name change simply reflected the evolution of the humble beer blogger.
Personally, I think the name is a little redundant. All bloggers are writers so the Beer Writers Conference would have been easier and to the point.

I have written a separate overview of the conference that will appear on the Beer Bloggers Conference website so I won't do the same thing here. Instead, I wanted to mention a few things about the conference as it has become. I am one of only a handful of people who have attended all 5 conferences and that includes from the organisers camp so I think I am in an almost unique position to look back at them all.

The first three years were in the UK and followed the same format. They were all a lot of fun and informative with the first one in London being the most memorable. How can one top walking the streets of London behind people in Victorian garb, while on stilts, laying down a bed of hops in our path? The main reason it was so memorable was simply because it was the first conference and the content was fresh while the bloggers were young.
After this conference, some bloggers started to go pro and were less inclined to go the the following conference. The content sometimes was a little similar at times but since we usually had newbies, this was fine. I  always learned something useful in at least one or two of the sessions.

The fourth one was where I was directly involved in bringing it outside the UK to Dublin. Ireland is familiar territory for UK bloggers so they wouldn't be too far out of their comfort zone and there was something for everyone. The conference had needed to leave the UK in order to survive and Dublin was a natural stepping stone.

Dublin was probably the smallest in terms of attendance but we still had about 60 or 70 people. This conference was more about the beer than content. A mini beer festival to open the conference at registration time. Most beer was served from keg and there was even a cask of oatmeal stout. There was something satisfying about walking about with a pint in your hand. Added to that, having fantastic weather and a massive beer garden at our disposal. Drinking Pilsner Urquell from a wooden cask while eating a BBQ feast in the sun was a particular highlight for me. It's rare to even have beer garden weather in Dublin.
This showed the conference could survive after Ireland but it needed to get to mainland Europe to continue to thrive.

Queue the announcement that it would be in Brussels. Awesome! I was ready to sign up there and then but when I read the agenda and saw how epic it was going to be, I was just in awe. To do everything would require the best part of a week. I flew in on Thursday and flew home on Tuesday.
In terms of content, we were also back on track. Friday saw the return of live beer blogging, something that many (but not all) missed from the previous year. We were also treated to a press conference, something that was a first if I remember correctly.

Saturday is always the main day of the conference and after a soft opening from WordPress, where they explained some fantastic improvements in the latest version of their free software, we then had an engaging and thought provoking, not to mention heated debate on beer marketing. This was just the thing to wake people up on a Saturday morning after a late night. Matt Curtis wrote in depth on that particular session so I suggest reading his article and enjoying his excellent images.

After a fantastic beer and food pairing lunch, it was back to business. I hosted a talk with Bo Jensen of the EBCU representing the beer consumer (all of us) and Simon Spillane from Brewers of Europe, representing the industry. I can't comment on how the session went over but I hope it was at least somewhat interesting and enlightening. I put my foot in it when I paraphrased a colleague with breast cancer. She said that if she had a choice of which cancer she would get, this would be the one to go for. That provided some amusement to a few and probably facepalms from others. This was in relation to an article that scientists have said that one drink a day can increase the chances of breast cancer by 15% and the media translated that to alcohol causes cancer. I challenged those present to educate people on the many benefits of alcohol and beer in particular. The benefits outweigh the possible negatives when consumed responsibly. Everything in excess is bad for you, even water is toxic if too much is consumed and we need that to live.

I particularly enjoyed the next session where 8 bloggers each gave a 5 minute report on themselves or their country. Wayne, the Irish Beer Snob did Ireland proud. Jeff told us all about biking around the world, including biking across Europe to get to the conference. Carol talked about Florida and the Baron and Chris talked about their beer reviews, especially they audio ones. Matt challenged us to think about the pictures that we use and try to tell a story with the picture. I'll admit that even though I'm an amateur photographer, my blog pictures are often not particularly interesting. Pedro told us about Brazil and Peter about San Diego. I would hope that this session will be repeated next year.

Next we had some Petrus sour beers and were encouraged to make our own blend. It was a lot of fun and incredibly tasty too. I loved the Petrus labels, they were full of information but lacked ingredients? Since that's an EBCU issue and we had been talking about it earlier, I had to point it out on twitter.

The conference ended and we were treated to dinner and respectable ABV beer from Pilsner Urquell with Thirsty Brewer: Vaclav Berka and his team. This year, they brought unpasteurised Pilsner Urquell in a tankovna. It was delicious and appreciated after so many strong Belgian beers. We even got or own personalised glasses engraved there and then.

My name is etched in the glass
So that was the conference part of EBBC15 but what could have been changed to make it better? For the first time, we had a proper auditorium but this created an issue. Space was limited and when someone inevitably had to get up to use a restroom, everyone in the row needed to get up and move their equipment and glasses. Our usual tables and chairs system is less formal but works better so we should go back to that.

Following on from Matt's 5 minutes on photography, I would like to see an entire session devoted to it with practical advice and even an exercise to be performed. A little friendly competition using our smartphones and twitter would be a lot of fun and would engage the attendees.

Perhaps a session on podcasting would be fun and informative, in fact a live podcast during this session would be great! It could be a short podcast that is processed, uploaded and made live right there on stage.

With a few years in a row of WordPress with similar content, perhaps a change on their end is warranted. Since their goal is to get people using other systems like Google's Blogger to transfer, perhaps they should hold a workshop demonstrating how to do just that. Migrate a dummy blog from blogger to WordPress live on screen. Those with laptops could possibly follow along and do the same thing as long as they have created a dummy blog on blogger in advance. That's assuming the migration can be completed in an hour of course.

Really, any session that engages the audience is better than just being talked at with some questions at the end. Physical interaction is the best way of learning so anything that gets people doing things works brilliantly.

There were rumours of Berlin next year. Prague has been rumoured for years too. We shall see as nothing official has been announced yet. The American conference will be in Tampa, Florida next year.

A big thanks to Zephyr Adventures for organising things and to all of the sponsors for helping put it together.

I'll be writing a separate article on some of the stuff we did outside the conference on the optional excursions.