This is an odd situation for me. For the last 3 beer bloggers conferences, I have simply been an attendee. This time around I was basically an organiser in all but name. Oh, I attended as an attendee but I led the pre-conference pub crawl, I hosted a panel of Irish brewers on Friday afternoon and was responsible for all of the Irish craft brewers who attended as sponsors and completely blew the attendees from all over the world completely away.
I didn't receive the stipend since I didn't pay in the first place so I'm technically not obliged to write any blog posts about the event but I would be remiss in my duties if I didn't write at least one! Since I was so busy, I didn't take many notes so one will have to do. I will write about some of the newer Irish beers (even to me) that I had during the conference.
The reception on Friday was similar to in previous years except for one thing. The volume of beer was insane. We basically had a mini beer festival on our hands with more beer on tap than bottle. The upside here was just the sheer craic we had talking to brewers, sampling their beer and getting to know other bloggers. The only possible downside was because there were not too many bottles, bloggers probably didn't walk away with a suitcase full of samples to bring home. In London, I brought home 28 bottles of beer of which 26 survived the trip intact.
One of the highlights of the event was walking through the tunnel that runs from the Guinness storehouse in to the brewery a block away. We saw the new brewery codenamed Project Phoenix, after an old Dublin brewery that Guinness bought. It may even be the original site of the Phoenix brewery, perhaps someone can comment on that. I'm not posting pictures of the new brewery as we were asked not to but I did post them on twitter before I was told so they shouldn't be too hard to find. It's large, shiny and new.
A highlight was a beer not for general sale called Night Porter. I actually have the inside track on this beer because I was partially involved in its creation. In a very indirect way of course. I might as well tell that story because I only found out how I was involved on that Friday night while I was talking to some of the Guinness employees. A couple of years ago, my boss put me in contact with his wife who used to be a brewer at Guinness before she left to have a family. From time to time, former Guinness employees have a competition for charity. They design and market a beer and brew on the pilot brewery. It's an internal thing and the beer is never actually released as such. After giving some criticism the first year, I was asked to actually brew a beer on my kit so the Guinness brewers would know how it turned out. I was handed an old Smithwicks recipe for a spiced ale and when I scaled it down to a 30 litre boil, I found the recipe made no technical sense. The amount of spice was in the half a gram range, something I can't even measure. It was also a little boring with basically just pale malt and some spice. I couldn't brew anything so boring so I upped the malt profile with some Munich, crystal and possibly some sort of dark malt like roast barley or something. I used 20g of coriander, some other spices and I think two cloves. I don't have my recipe to hand but you get the idea. I brewed the beer, fermented it and force carbonated. It was a 6 day turnover. I then provided some bottles of the beer along with the recipe which I had sized up to 100 litres for them.
They all thought it was great and then got carried away on brewday. For some inexplicable reason, they decided to up the clove content significantly.
The result when they tasted the finished beer a few weeks later was undrinkable. It was basically a clove bomb and left a very strong stench of clove in the room for a few hours. Needless to say, that team lost the competition. I even got a sample bottle of the winning beer a few years ago. I forgot all about that beer until last week. It was the Night Porter team that won and this was the finished and packaged beer I was drinking two years later. It's a fantastic beer that could stand up well alongside the likes of Trouble Dark Arts. It's the sort of beer that I wish Guinness would actually brew. I don't have much time for the parent company but I have the utmost respect for Guinness as a brewery and especially the staff that work there. Fergal Murray, brewmaster of Guinness was the one of gave us the tour. I thought it was funny as we walked around and I stood beside him and pointed out Vaclav Berka (pictured below) and asked him did he know who that was, he didn't so I told him he was his counterpart in Pilsner Urquell. That piqued his interest and he said he would have to have a talk with him. I would have loved to have been a fly on the wall for that conversation. Two brewmasters with over 400 years of brewing heritage between them.
Later on that evening, Vaclav Berka tapped his world famous casks of unfiltered, unpasteurised Pilsner Urquell. I could only manage one before I had to go home. I was stuffed from the wonderful food and beer pairing that Guinness put on and here was Pilsner Urquell trying to feed and water us again!
It is a wonderful sight and a wonderful beer but I was content in the knowledge that they were hosting a BBQ the next day and I would drink my fill then.
So that's precisely what I did the next day. Tapped a cask and drank lots of Pilsner Urquell.
It wouldn't be a beer bloggers conference without posing for pictures with Mt Berka. I have one regular pour and a fresh milko (all head) pour. If you are not familiar with milko, people order it in the Czech republic because all of that fresh saaz hop aroma is contained in the head. I prefer a regular pour with a big fluffy head though.
I was so glad that Shane Long from Franciscan Well was so eager to be involved when I contacted him. Not only did his word secure the Molson Coors involvement, it meant that the stipend they so generously provide was back and was probably a big deciding factor in many of the attendees participation, especially those that travelled. I know that Franciscan Well beers impressed people, especially the Chieftain IPA and Jameson Barrel aged stout. Shane gave a great speech about his long experience in the Irish craft beer scene up to the point he joined Molson Coors. Some people might say he sold out but all he did was secure the financial security of his brewery. He now has time to help emerging Irish breweries and help them develop and grow by providing training and advice. What other industry would you get that in? Would Apple or Microsoft provide emerging rivals with free training and advice in how to succeed?
Another highlight for everyone was the Beer Ireland social evening where we had another chance to try beer from Ireland's newest brewers and from reading other blogs about the weekend, everyone was seriously impressed. More importantly, there are conversations on facebook with bottle shops looking to import some of the beers that everyone was raving about. Those mentioned specifically were Black's, Mountain Man, N17, Rascal's, Trouble and Black Donkey. Take note guys, you need to brew enough beer to satisfy a UK population thirsty for Irish beer. That sounds like a mission accomplished. Irish beer showcased, beer writers impressed, now they want to get said beer in their own countries. A win for the Irish breweries.
It's a good thing that Carlow Brewing already exports because they also blew people away that evening, especially the barrel aged Leann Folláin and Barley wine. Amber Adventure also went down very well with many people from what I heard.
So that's it, I encourage people to read the other blog posts for EBBC14 and you might as well start with Wayne: The Irish Beer Snob and then here's a few more:
I'm sure there are more and others will appear in coming days/weeks. If anyone has any links to add, feel free to add to the comments box.