They spent the three days of the first-ever Beer Bloggers Conference meeting each other, renewing friendships, listening to each other's experiences, occasionally arguing and hearing from brewers. Oh, and drinking beer. Lots and lots and lots of beer.
The conference was the brainchild of Allan Wright, a Boulder resident who runs a Montana-based travel company called Zephyr Adventures. Three years ago he created a similar gathering of wine bloggers that now wields some influence.And this conference has the potential to influence the craft beer world as well, especially as bloggers become as important as -- if not more than -- the mainstream media when it comes to getting the word out to the public about beers and breweries. "Brewery owners are starting to realize there is a way to get their message out. We can be allies to them without compromising our integrity," Jay Brooks, who runs the Brookston Beer Bulletin out of the Bay Area, told the crowd. They realize we are writing about them not because we want something from them, but because we like writing about beer."
In fact, the brewers have been so responsive to bloggers that a number of well-known ones attended the conference, including Greg Koch of San Diego County's Stone Brewing; Rob Widmer of Portland's Widmer Brothers; and Mariah Calagione, co-owner of Dogfish Head.
In addition, more than two dozen breweries from around Colorado and the country sent representatives -- and beer -- to the conference. The local ones included Boulder Beer, Great Divide, Breckenridge, Oskar Blues, Bull & Bush, Odell, Twisted Pine, New Belgium, New Planet, AC Golden and Avery.
There were speeches, seminars and talks on everything from search-engine optimization and smartphone applications to journalism 101 and the future of craft beer, along with a speed-tasting session that was unlike anything most had seen before.
But many glasses were also raised. The first evening, bloggers shared bottles that they'd brought with them -- from California, Oregon, Texas, Massachusetts, Maine, Florida, Virginia, North Carolina and other states.
The second night, the bloggers lit out into what is one of the finest beer cities in America, starting their evening at Boulder Beer Company's Pub for dinner, a tour and drinks, and following it up with a Pearl Street crawl that included the West End Tavern, Old Chicago, the Boulder Drafthouse, Conor O'Neills and Mountain Sun.
When it was over, the conference lent some legitimacy to what these beer lovers do and given them a say when it comes to what brewers do. A second conference is going to take place in Portland next spring or summer, followed by a third in 2012 on the East Coast.