Tuesday, 09 November 2010 15:37

The Wet Dream

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I recently had a glorious, hedonistic evening, with several free flights and full pints of various Belgium style and wonderful American craft beers, some that hadn’t even been released yet.  Alongside, was food pairings consisting of Santa Barbara sea urchin, duck breast w/ akane apple, chanterelles and bacon, foie gras ravioli, strips of double cut New York Strip and cheeses like the Smokey Blue and Rogue Chocolate Stout Cheddar from Rogue Creamery.  And it was free.

We were then given samples of the beers to take with us, along with a signed printed menu from the chefs and brewers themselves.  Friendships were formed, the eye candy was fantastic, the conversation was enlightening and flowed as quickly as the beer and we were invited to the breweries by the brewmasters for a private tour, at a later date.  

Alas, this was a vivid (and awesome!) dream I had when I awoke in a haze from my ACL reconstruction surgery.  Apparently, I even was murmuring about it as I awoke.  The nurses chuckled. 

But, imagine this if you will:  a ten day long, city wide celebration of a vast variety of beers where brewpubs, breweries, gastro pubs, restaurants and brewers themselves get together and plan festivals, dinners, beer & food pairings and tours.  There are discounts on specialty beers, specialty cask tappings, meet the brewers, cool giveaways, block parties, food specials, new beer releases and more!  It’s like the whole city is in on this cool beer revolution and celebration at the exact same time.  And get this, it happens in almost every major city you can think of in the U.S., such as Baltimore, Philly, Los Angeles, New York and San Diego….EVERY YEAR.  

This is no great, drug induced dream (great drugs, great dream?  Yes.). These are “Beer Weeks” and they are happening, in a city near you!   
That’s right; a whole week dedicated to nothing but beer….well, and things that go so well with said beer.  It’s like the bars and beer event planners and breweries got together and called Chuck Norris for tips on how to be freaking awesome.  As natural as a zombie gorging out on human brains (had to throw in some Halloween humor), this bluster of beer and festival of fermentation is proof that we are living in a craft beer revolution.  And let me say, that I’m extremely grateful to those 1,500+ breweries and countless bars that have thought up such an inventive and wonderful celebration of suds.

Los Angeles just wrapped up their second annual week-long celebration.  So, did Baltimore.  The second annual San Diego Beer Week kicks off November 5th.  What does it mean?  How will they affect the craft beer industry?

“Yeah….that’s a question I find myself asking.  And I think I’m pretty good at seeing future trends and seeing the future of craft brewing mostly because I think we helped make it, ya know, we helped decide what the future trend is gonna’ be, not just guessing what somebody else is going to create.  And I find myself coming up blank…I don’t know what beer weeks are going to look like in three years.  But I’m pretty certain they’re not going to look like they do now.” – Greg Koch, CEO of Stone Brewery

A couple years ago, Joe Gold of Victory Brewing and Founder of Baltimore Beer Week, traveled to Philly to talk with his friends, Tom Peters and Don Russell.  It was then that they spoke of a week-long celebration of beer. Philly Beer Week started the tradition in 2008 and it remains the country's largest, boasting roughly 1,000 events. What makes Philly Beer Week so cool?  Their forefathers wrote the Declaration of Independence in colonial taverns and brewed America’s first lager. The area boasts more than 400 beer bars that feature craft beer and food.  That’s a lot of beer ground to cover during one week….but it’s one mission I’m willing to labor through.

“I love the concept, just need to find the balance…. They are great for perception…The concept is working….Philly is going to be its own thing. The rest of the beer weeks are going to find a place or find another concept.” – Joe Gold, Founder/Organizing Committing Chair of Baltimore Beer Week

We, the people, the beer consumer, love it for obvious reasons.  But why do breweries like Stone like it?

“…But I like it because I think that the most important thing about beer weeks is that it moves the needle in over perception…amongst people in a region.  So, when you have all these events going on and then it gets in the papers and they’re even maybe mentioning it on the evening news or something and all the bars are promoting it, that causes not just beer fans, but just the more average beer consumer to perk up and go ‘Huh? I wonder what this is all about?’  And I like it for that, most of all.” – Greg Koch, CEO of Stone Brewery.

In Baltimore, the core committee met for more than nine months to plan it.  They had six major events that were quite successful. The annual Oktoberfest event was huge as was the 7th Annual Chesapeake Real Ale Festival at the Pratt Street Alehouse and their 1st Baltimore Beer Festival closed out the 11 day event. The beer dinners were wonderful with Metropolitan in Federal Hill, the Brewer's Art and Morton's Steak House taking the lead.

Co-organizer and right hand man of Baltimore Beer Week, Dominic Cantalupo, “The key is to not over-saturate the public with too many events and to try and have a specific goal and theme. I like the effect it has on the industry because it forces them to think outside the box and come up with events and ideas to differentiate their brand or venue….These weeks will continue to be important because they allow the beer industry folks to avoid stagnation through creative team planning.”

San Diego Beer Week kicks off Friday, November 5th with a rare beer breakfast hosted by Stone Brewery. Coronado Brewing Co. joins the fun with food and beer pairings, limited release beers on tap and food & beer specials.  The first day of the week-long celebration includes specials, pairings and highlights from bars and breweries like Encinitas Ale House, Green Flash Brewing, Ballast Point Brewing and Hamilton's Tavern.  That’s…just…the …first…day.

This town toasting trend is no dream. It’s craft beer history in the making. I agree with these influential people, that agree with me.  Beer Weeks are a beautiful thing.

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