A dinner pairing at Harpoon Brewery in Boston.
Even before I became a beer writer, I would always schedule my vacations around local beer and breweries. I find the craft beer scene of any given city or region makes me feel at home immediately, no matter how far away home might be. Through the mutual love of craft beer, I’ve made friends, acquired business contacts, and gotten great recommendations of non
-beer things to do in the city I’m visiting. It’s also something I love to do for others visiting New Orleans.
Last week, I was at the Beer Bloggers Conference
in Boston, with a pre-conference excursion in Portland, Me. and Portsmouth, N.H. While there, I was able to enjoy a lot of beer that I can’t buy here in Louisiana, but I also got a deeper understanding and appreciation of breweries that are available in Louisiana.
It’s worth noting that I was not the only Louisiana beer blogger to make the trek up north. Jay Ducote, the force behind Bite and Booze
in Baton Rouge, was an attendee, as well as his brother Eric Ducote, who runs BR Beer Scene
and his co-contributor Dustin Davis. Jay actually presented on the final day of the conference about his relationship with the official Louisiana Travel and Tourism website, with whom he collaborated on a section dedicated to craft beer and the Louisiana Brewery Trail
We were able to enjoy beer from New England like Geary’s and Sebago in Maine, Portsmouth Brewing and Smuttynose in New Hampshire and Night Shift and Notch Brewing in Massachusetts. But it was our time at two of the largest breweries in the area — Samuel Adams and Harpoon, both beers we can get here — that impressed me most.
Jim Koch, the founder and president of Samuel Adams, was our first keynote speaker, and opened his speech with an exhortation for the audience members to drink the can of Sam Adams beer left on everyone’s seat: “I hate talking to sober people. Sober people are mean!” He also decided to forgo using his notes so he could use his non-microphone-holding hand to drink his own beer while talking to us. He discussed the history of Samuel Adams and the Boston Beer Company, which overlapped with the history of microbreweries in this country in general. He also spent a good amount of time discussing their barrel-aging program. In 1992, Samuel Adams was the first brewer in the country to age beer in used spirits barrels for their Triple Bock.
Speaking of the Samuel Adams barrel program, upon our arrival at the brewery, we were all given stickers designating our tasting and tour time. At 7 p.m., I lined up as directed and went into the barrel room, where Jim Koch was standing with several bottles of Utopias. Utopias is Samuel Adams’ super premium, ultra expensive, barrel aged beer that is available in extremely limited quantities. So for a panel of beer nerds, this was a huge deal — not just the Utopias sampling, but also the fact that the founder/owner/president/CEO was hanging out with a small group of us, talking about beer.
The following night we went to Harpoon Brewery, where we were greeted by one of its founders and leaders, Rich Doyle. After his greeting and brief discussion of Harpoon’s history and mission, we were ushered to their beer hall where Harpoon beer and Vermont Farmstead cheese pairings awaited us, as well as a variety of beer for us to sample to our hearts’ content while we ate dinner. Harpoon also reached out to the Beer Blogger Conference attendees to decide on a special beer that they’d brew for our visit. It turned out to be an Imperial White IPA, and it was delicious.
It was downright humbling to experience how welcoming and generous the folks at Harpoon and Samuel Adams were. If you have the opportunity to rub elbows with the people who make beer that you love, just remember: no matter who you are, or where you’re from, brew geekiness is universal and you will always be able to speak the common language of beer.