San Diego Beer-Con 2013 Report
The day started off at Societe Brewing where we parked and checked in. We then loaded into the van and headed off for a day of brewery tours. And not just any old brewery tours, but intimate close encounter tours where we got to ask lots of questions and see the whole operation all the while drinking tasters. The brewery tour day gives you 12 tasters to use as you see fit throughout the day. The best part was that each van has 12 people so the tours were not crowded.
Our first stop was Thorn St Brewery where we got to tour the facility, taste some awesome beer and find about why their promotional materials show an old school boxing match. (Ask about it when you’re there). The two separate tasting rooms and comfortable decor make this brewery pretty special. After an informative and delicious stop, we loaded back into the van and headed off to destination #2.
Check out photos from Thorn St Brewery:
Destination #2 was Modern Times. who was having their official grand opening that day so the visit was extra special. The decor of Modern Times is unique and there is lots of room for beer tasting. The brewery tour was very informative. The extended time we had on tour allowed for the asking of many questions and allowed each Beer Con attendee to get their questions answered. Normal brewery tours do not usually last long enough to accommodate everyone’s questions. This is one of the many advantages of a Beer Con brewery tour.
Check out photos from Modern Times Brewery:
Next on our tour was Coronado Brewery. They have quite a large facility and tasting room where there is always something interesting happening. Our brewery tour was very in depth and since there were several employees going about their daily routines, we felt truly immersed in the brewery operations. One of the charms of micro breweries is the fact that you are connected to the brewing of the beer and at Coronado, this feeling is amplified.
Check out photos from Coronado Brewery:
After the brewery tours, our van brought us back to Societe Brewery for the after party. Joining the locals in the Societe tasting room, we sampled beers and met some new friends. (well, those of us who saved some beer tickets did anyways). If you had run out of beer tickets, tasters and full pours where available at normal prices. Societe staff were friendly and helpful making the experience a perfect end to a perfect day of learning about brewery operations, tasting beer and getting to know fellow craft beer fans.
Day 2 was conference day and was held at the Marina Village Conference Center. The conference room was spacious and comfortable. The view outside was not too shabby either…
There was beer on hand if you wanted and we got started with an informative lecture from Doug Constantiner of Societe Brewery. Doug discussed the importance of quality in craft brewing. Doug explained the dangerous effects that bad quality craft beer could have on the entire craft beer industry. We also learned about some of the steps required to ensure cleanliness while making beer and how vital it is to provide consistency in flavor.
Next up was a group discussion about building a brewery. This panel featured Mike Hess (Hess Brewery), Doug Constantiner (Societe Brewery) and Jacob McKean (Modern Times Brewery). Each panelist discussed in detail both the unique and similar challenges they each faced getting their breweries up and running. They discussed financing, location selection, equipment, staff and many other facets of the business. If you had ever wanted to start your own brewery, this panel was for you. It was also interesting just to hear what it takes to accomplish opening a brewery.
The next group discussion was about writing for the craft beer industry and featured several writers who provide reviews, news and more about craft beer. This panel was moderated by Ryan Lamb (West Coaster) and featured Brandon Hernandez (San Diego Journalist), Laurie Delk (Laurie’s Beer World), Dr Q (Craft Beer Tasters) and Cody Thompson (Three B Zine). Each writer provided their unique approach to informing us about the world of craft brewing. There was even an interesting debate about the responsibility of a writer to inform the public about bad reviews. One side of the debate was that bad beer should not even be talked about to provide no publicity for the beer. While the other side of the debate argued that everyone should know that beer is bad so they can stay clear of it. The panel was informative, funny and quite entertaining.
Next up was lunch, which was provided by Slater 50/50. They brought their peanut butter and jelly bacon burger, veggie burgers and salads. There was, of course, beer to wash it all down. Slaters 50/50 always provides amazing food and their staff were very efficient in getting everyone their food in a timely and organized manner.
After lunch, we had the option of attending a barrel aged tasting class with Dennis Keller (North Coast Brewery) or a food and beer pairing class with Mark Shults (Slaters 50/50). We chose the barrel aged tasting class for two reasons. One, we had just had lunch and two, North Coast makes Old Rasputin and we knew at least one of those barrel aged samples would be that. We were not disappointed. Dennis provided us with 2 samples of Old Rasputin. One was Old Rasputin XII and the other was Old Rasputin XV. In addition, we also had three other examples of various types of barrel aged beers. The selection was well rounded and provided a good overall sampling of this type of beer. Two of our table mates were at direct opposition over which beers were best so it was interesting to hear the differing opinions of flavor notes. This class was designed to help teach us how to discern the different flavors hidden within a beer and that was accomplished. By the end of the class, our table mates had figured out the flavors and realized that they were experiencing the same flavors, but reacting to them differently.
The next session offered either a discussion about the emerging craft beer scene south of the border or a discussion with Jim Crute (Lightning Brewery) about the science of making beer. We learned that there is a strong and growing craft beer scene in Tijuana, Mexico as well as other cities such as Ensenada. In the bee science class, Jim explained how understanding the chemistry and science of beer making can allow to you make better beer. Jim’s class explained that even if you know what ingredients you need and how long each process should take, brewing good beer requires a harmonious blend of science and craftsmanship.
Following the afternoon sessions, there was supposed to be a closing address by Thomas Kolicko, who did the craft beer movie “Crafting A Nation,” via Skype. However technical difficulties prevented this from happening. Beer-Con founder Mike Bowen worked his magic though and provided us with an exclusive 15 minute clip from Thomas Kolicko’s movie instead.
After that, San Diego Beer Con attendees had their own private beer fest featuring beer from several breweries as well as information and goodies from vendors. The breweries on hand were Iron Fist, Helms, Zombie Brew Labs, Iron Fire, North Coast, Coronado and Lightning. Being able to spend a few hours with all of our new Beer Con friends in our own beer fest was a great way the finish off the day.
San Diego Beer Con 2013 was an amazing experience and we must congratulate Mike Bowen on putting together such a well run event. The entire two day experience was perfect. San Diego Beer Con is now on our must do list for next year. If you did not attend San Diego Beer Con 2013, you missed out. If you think it is too expensive, think again. The level of access you get during the brewery tours is way more that you would get on a normal brewery tour. The information you will learn and the access to people involved in the craft beer industry is incredible. But the most valuable thing you will come away with from attending San Diego Beer Con is an even deeper appreciation of craft beer and the wonderful world that it belongs to. See you next year!!