About a month ago, I spent a long weekend in San Diego. It really is a great town to visit… I enjoyed several fish tacos and an abundance of sunshine and good times spent with old friends. If you ever get over there, be sure to spend some time just strolling Balboa Park. Loved the architecture of the museums and the meticulous landscaping therein. Definitely worth a trip.
So yeah, what’s this have to do with you? Let me explain… No, there is too much. Let me sum up. See, I travelled to California to attend the 2014 Beer Bloggers Conference. I journeyed with fellow aficionados Nora McGunnigle (of NOLA Beer Blog fame, among others) and Toby Guidry, sort of a mini dream team of beer drinkers, and descended upon San Diego with gusto. Telling someone to check out the craft beer there is somewhat redundant; it’s everywhere! From the six awesome taps at the local mom-and-pop pizza joint, to the craft beer happy hour specials at that sushi restaurant on the corner, there is no avoiding it. Of course, once the conference started, that “problem” was magnified significantly…
This conference, as you might imagine, is as much a challenge in drinking stamina as it is an opportunity to interact with other beer writers and industry professionals. But inbetwixt the bouts of prodigious consumption, there lie the true educational experiences and moments of comraderie that make any conference worthwhile. A group of vaunted San Diego brewers highlighted (highlit?) the challenges of breaking through in the early years of the craft movement, as well as the spirit of cooperation that permeates the brewing world. A spirited discussion panel covered the ethics of blogging, especially the issues unique to writing about beer – trading good reviews for free beer and the like. We were also introduced to “Live Beer Blogging” (a.k.a. speed blogging), in which we had to taste different beers and post reviews on Twitter in under a minute – 9 times in a row. These were just a few of the events that stood out over three days of conferencing.
Of course, New Orleans is not quite San Diego, so some of these lessons might remain difficult to apply here. However, with the impending growth of the beer scene in town, there is certainly some room for optimism. Think of the recent addition of Lagunitas to the distribution portfolio of Louisiana… as a California brewery, they were a main sponsor of the conference. Big players like this (and Founders Brewing) in the industry moving into our market show a significant upturn in the national perception of the state as a beer destination. And while Louisiana still ranks near the bottom in number of breweries per capita, there are many new operations in the planning stages: Cajun Fire, Mudbug, Wayward Owl, Urban South, Second Line, to name a few. Oh, and Courtyard Brewing could be opening their Erato Street location any day now (right?). Certainly an exciting time to be a beer drinker in this state, and especially right here in New Orleans.
My point here is, I think, that while I was quite excited to travel to San Diego and beer quite heartily (sure, it’s a verb), the day may not be so far away when folks might actually visit New Orleans specifically to consume our fine, crafty brews. When that time comes, you and I can proudly say we were here when it all began.
That’s not going to stop me from visiting other craft beer destinations, now. I’m looking at you Denver. And Seattle. And both Portlands. And Chicago. And Belgium. And…
You get the point. See you at the pub?