It’s hard to believe it’s been a full 3 weeks since I had the privilege and the luxury of attending the 4th Annual European Beer Bloggers Conference (#EBBC14) in Dublin Ireland, arranged by Zephyr Adventures (June 25-26, 2014.) While I more regularly attend the Beer Bloggers Conference in the U.S., this was my first venture to the European conference.
Other attendees already provided great recap blog posts about the events and breweries featured at the conference (see the Facebook Beer Bloggers Conference Alumni page and the listing at the end of this post.)
So as not to repeat my colleagues, I decided to focus on similarities and differences based on observations (and drinking experience) across the pond.
Thank you to Guiness, Molson/Coors, Pilsner Urquell and the many other sponsors, brewery owners, the Church Restaurant and Bars (our host venue), and everyone who made the #EBBC14 experience one to remember. (Watch for more photos in the next blog post here!)
Why I blog…
For me, the passion about beer comes from the people, the tastes, the stories and the community created by beer, and increasingly so, craft (or in the old school vernacular, “microbrew”) beer.
There certainly was no lack of passion at this year’s EBBC. Beer bloggers in attendance (around 70 or so) hailed from varied backgrounds, which is similar to those who attend in the U.S. Beer bloggers (and craft brewers!) seem to attract a preponderance of technical professionals (IT and engineering) mixed with banking/business and beer industry representative. We all have one thing in common – we share a passion for beer, which may be THE world’s oldest drinks.
Beer is a source of Cultural Pride no Matter How Old the Country…
As I am reminded every time I visit Europe, 100 years is recent history. Our conference venue, The Church in the heart of Dublin was hundreds of years old and hosted the wedding of Arthur Guinness (the patriarch of the Guinness Brewery) among others.
Today, the structure is home to The Church bars and nightclub – an inventive recycling of a historic site and not a tear down/rebuild so common in the U.S.
I could sense bygone pomp and pageantry accompanied by reverberating organ chimes when I sat down at the bar the day before the conference began. It might seem to some to be bit irreverent to my religious upbringing, but I see it as a celebration of freedom and homage to the human spirit to imbibe a pint where the walls eek of stories and the full range of human emotion.
And, this weekend was one of celebration and coming together to feed our passions about beer.
Beer Opportunities (and Challenges) on Both sides of the Pond
The weekend posed a few good surprises and learnings compared to what I’ve experienced with craft beer, conferences, drinking habits and the craft brewing industry compared to the U.S.:
||Europe (Ireland, other) – EBBC
|U.S. – BBC
||Bloggers and craft beer drinkers
||10% female at EBBC conference
||1/3 female at BBC conference
||Not sure if this is a general trend based on consumers. In the U.S., I’ve observed an almost even split (40% female, 60 male) of craft beer drinkers at festivals and brewpubs. Based on bartender response, men are still the majority of craft beer consumers in the UK and Ireland.
||Cask vs Keg for Craft Beer
||Keg dominates in Ireland and elsewhere in Europe except for the UK (due to the Campaign for Real Ale – CAMRA)
||Keg dominates – cask is a rare specialty.
||Cask is a rare specialty in the U.S., less so in Europe. Brewpubs/tasting rooms and bars in the U.S. may feature a single cask beer if any, and craft beer lovers will remark about the specialty beers on cask.
||Beer temperature and servings
||Temperatures ranged from room temperature to chilled. No clear difference in professed temperature preference between various European countries. Pilsner Urquell catered to ensuring beer was colder by using ice chilled glassware
||The U.S. market prefers cold beer and will discard ½ pints that grow warm in the glass. Koozies are popular (especially in southern states)
||Koozies are not common in Europe. I handed them out to attendees from a local Tampa brewery (Six Ten Brewing) thinking they would be popular (they are in the US to keep beer cans/bottles/pint glasses cool.). A few attendees had never seen a koozie (more than one) and others said they’d only use it in the two weeks of summer. Warm beer doesn’t seem to raise an eyebrow here.
||Emerging styles and flavors – ABV
||Lager still appears to prevail over ales, but increasingly IPA’s, Oatmeal Stouts, and Saisons are becoming mainstream offerings of Irish craft brewers. ABV range typically from 3.8% to 7%
||Styles are all over the map with ales leading the charge and sour beers, double IPAs and imperial stouts on the rise. ABV range typically 5% to 11%
||A reason for lower ABV could be taxes (one London brewer noted that brewery taxes increase per liter for every ABV above 5%.) This wasn’t the case in Ireland, but ABVs were typically less than 6%.Style variations are emerging on both sides of the pond.
||Using Randalls (Hopinators) to instantly infuse kegged beer
||On the rise – positive response from beer bloggers
||On the rise – positive response from beer bloggers
||I’ve seen this in Florida, London, and Dublin, with different hops or fruit in the randall. In Germany (and in isolated instances in the U.S.) I’ve also seen syrups (especially fruity ones) added to beer
|Cross pond interest
||Interest in global beer market
||Lots of interest in U.S. craft beers (aka microbrews) – specialty brews (such as Dark Lord and Imperial Stouts) were common both sides of the pond
||Introspective except for Belgium brews. Not much knowledge (or interest) outside the US craft brewers (which given 2900+ brewers in the US might account for some of the attention)
||Craft beer lovers seem to be the same on both sides of the pond – fueled by the pursuit of great creative tastes and experiences. In the U.S., there isn’t too much known about the craft industry (in general) in Europe aside from Belgium. The U.S. seems to be looked at as the current leaders in the craft brewing industry.
|Fresh beer to go
||Take out draft beer (growlers)
||Not yet too popular in Ireland. I rarely saw growlers for sale in bars. In the UK, I’ve seen a range (still not prevalent) of take away containers ranging from disposable plastic milk-containers to stainless steel growlers for beer
||Popular at craft beer bars nationwide but legislation limits the sale and distribution by state (including size of growler, who/where they can be filled, and if they are allowed at all)
||“Pub culture” is more prevalent in the UK and Ireland than in the US. Pubs are filled with suits stopping by for a pint after work (en route home.) Dublin is home to close to 10K pubs/bars.In the US market, many people stop off for “Happy hours” where draught beer may be discounted (5-7 pm typically), but not to the same extent. Growlers seem to be a way of extending the U.S. social experience to home.
These were just a few observations…
and having not been to every country in Europe or every state in the U.S. to verify my observations, I leave it up to you to correct/challenge/add your comments. In the words of U.S. entertainer Dennis Miller “This is just my opinion and I could be wrong…”
Additional posts from #EBBC14 attendees: (partial listing)
It was a cultural and friendship growing experience to meet so many great beer bloggers and new friends at #EBBC14, and I hope we continue to stay in touch.
Your comments are welcome – I’d love to hear from other attendees (and the general craft beer community) about what you think!
Happy and safe imbibing!