Growing up in Canada (where the drinking age remains 18-19) gave me the opportunity to experience fine Canadian craft beer before the term was even coined (it was always called “Microbrewery beer” way back then!) Calgary’s Big Rock Brewing is over 30 years old, and continues to expand with their signature “TRAD ALE” still holding court among craft beer aficionados. Getting my tongue wet by craft brews at such a young age might forge one into a beer snob, but I attest that even back then, craft beer was all about spreading beer love (and friendship) – one pint at a time!
Craft beer today is a culture, a grass-roots movement that spreads good taste, passion, and beer love across the globe. Its fuel is creativity, passion, recipes, innovation, collaboration, good taste and the pursuit of the perfect pint (either 16 or 20 oz) – and supported by a growing community of positive people.
My 2014 Summer of (Craft Beer) Love… Dublin, Edinburgh, Toronto, Las Vegas, Calgary
For me, craft beer is a community of new friendships and tasting adventures that further my passion for fine beverage sensations worldwide.
With this in mind, I planned, for the first time in years, a true vacation (no work!) – and in 23 days I visited craft breweries and pubs in 4 countries: Ireland, Scotland, the U.S., and Canada.
The centerpiece (and the main event of my trip) was the European Beer Bloggers Conference (#EBBC14) in Dublin Ireland June 25-26, 2014 – which I will get to shortly – but the overall four country adventure had many, many highlights:
- PROMOTING FLORIDA BREWERIES: Introducing foreigners (strangers who become friends!) to Florida craft breweries and brews. I took 50 koozies (thank you Six Ten Brewing) and 2 bombers of St Somewhere’s Lectio Divino Belgian brew (thank you Bob Sylvester!) with me to Dublin – the thank yous and accolades from #EBBC14 attendees were well worth the added weight! I took advantage of a few photo ops (below.)
- COLLABORATION BREWING OPS: Meeting and proposing collaborations with brewers outside of Florida, and sharing creative marketing ideas I’ve discovered in my travels. Craft beer is (IMHO) an international wave that unites people with great taste and community – and collaboration brewing (brewing beer with multiple brewers and dispensing it where it’s brewed) gets the marketing message out without having to worry about import/export and distribution. I’ve met many brewers who are waiting to connect to Florida brewers (ready to travel?) and who might come over for Tampa Bay Beer Week (Mar 7-15, 2015!)
- CRAFT BEER LOVE: Spreading the “craft beer love” on planes, trains and automobiles (actually with people in the breweries and pubs I frequent – not in my car because it’s a 2 seater… just saying);
- STORY TELLING: Sharing craft brew stories (the brewers, the creativity, the tastes, the places, the challenges, and especially the positive, optimistic people behind the brews) with like-minded travelers;
- BEER TOURISM: Spreading the word about Tampa Bay Beer Week (Mar 7-15, 2015!) to everyone I meet and raising excitement (and anticipation) of a stellar week of craft beer experiences (guarantee to be frost-free) – with so many activities here in the Tampa/St Petersburg/Clearwater area (Florida);
- TASTES AND TRENDS: Discovering the similarities and differences with the craft brewing industry on both sides of the pond (see previous post); and mostly…
- FRIENDSHIPS: Making new friends from all over who are as passionate as I am about craft beer (and who also, like me, don’t yet have day jobs in the industry.)
Here’s a run down of my trip… country by country… hope you enjoy it as much as I did! (Yes, next time I might need a bottle carrier – send me a note if you’d like to join in!)
Stop #1 – #EBBC14, Dublin, Ireland
I had a great time from the minute I joined in on the pre-conference Thursday night podcasts (3 of them) convened by Google Hangouts expert Ian Bergin (11 pm somewhere), together with Wayne Dunne (Irish Beer Snob,) Eric and Flo (#brewsweplate) and a few others who drifted in for part of the broadcasts. We met up at Brew Dock where I also met Dorthe Woltermann (Dublin Ladies Craft Beer Society), Rachel Colgan (BrewDock Dublin) and others who were so friendly, they convinced me I was definitely in the right place at the right time!
Two further installments of the podcast are available at 11pmsomewhere.com (thank you Ian Bergin!)
After an informal pub crawl through some of the best craft beer haunts in Dublin (thank you to Reuben Gray: Tale of the Ale for organizing,) the European Beer Bloggers Conference (#EBBC14) began on Friday and ran through late Saturday night.
By the time we finished on Saturday night, beer bloggers were rife with knowledge from lectures, lunches/dinners, excursions, Guinness, Pilsner Urqell, Irish craft beer, tastings of craft beer from abroad and legions of new friends. (The invitation to visit Florida is sincere – don’t forget to follow-up with me when the cold weather looms in your area!)
(Thank you to Allan and Cindy of Zephyr Adventures and the many sponsors, brewers, speakers, distributor reps, and others who made the weekend so memorable.)
Stop #2: Scotland – Edinburgh, Sterling, Skye, Perth
The highlight of my Scottish stop (1 week) was the beer and the 700th anniversary (and re-enactment) of the Bannockburn battle (focus of the movie Braveheart!)
The cask beers I sampled at every city and the bottled beers I tried were all excellent (save for one that was mediocre on the train!) – here’s my photo gallery.
Stop #3: Toronto, Canada en route to Las Vegas, Nevada
The third stop was actually more of a drive-by (a 10 hour stopover in Toronto) but there was still enough time to sample brews at a couple of craft beer bars. My friend Ralph Robinson, of Barrie Ontario (home of Barnstormer Brewing which I’ll feature in an upcoming post) met me and was my tour guide. Did you know that there are more than 25 craft breweries within the Toronto Metropolitan area alone?
We enjoyed two stops over lunch and dinner and met some delightful Torontonians (who were of course non-natives), great brews (I’ve been searching for Caffrey’s Irish Ale on tap for several years!) – and a world cup broadcast (Netherlands and I can’t remember….)
Stop #4: Las Vegas, Nevada
This stop was a 4 day whirlwind (late July 4 – July 8) mostly to unwind and relax poolside (Planet Hollywood) with my Florida friend Dawn (whose family lives there!)
Of course, I was compelled to check out Sin City Brewing Company (great craft brews with two tasting rooms right on the strip) – where I hung out one evening and then met the brewer/owner Rich Johnson the next day. Nice to know that even in Sin City you can find good Double IPA’s on tap!
Stop #5: Calgary, Canada – Stampede Week, Family and more Craft Brew Love…
I love that Big Rock Brewery always has innovative beers of the season (they are expanding now into British Columbia and are the oldest truly “craft” brewer in Canada) – including last years Rosmarinus Ale (with Rosemary!) plus an array of ever-expanding craft brewers.
I found myself drooling (again) as I browsed the shelves at Calgary liquor stores (privatized and no longer government-run!) and picked up several limited edition brews. Highlights included Stampede week (the 10 day “festival” with ample beer flowing, wannabe cowboys everywhere, and entertainment – front row standing watching Rob Thomas of Matchbox 20!) – and a visit to Canmore (in the Rocky Mountains) Grizzly Paw Brewing Company. (Coincidentally, the bartender Megan there knew my friend Ralph from Toronto and the brewmaster at Barnstormer Brewing in Barrie Ontario – small, small world!)
It’s great to visit family and be able to spread craft beer love north of the border too!
Home again… Until August and #BBC14, San Diego
3 days, 4 countries, weight gain, fabulous memories, and so much craft beer adventure. The next excursion is San Diego in late August (2.5 more weeks!) to the Beer Bloggers Conference where it will be a homecoming of sorts with U.S. based peeps.
Meanwhile, sunsets and suds prevail… I love my life – and I love craft beer! Thanks for reading!
Have an awesome week and be safe!