By Esther Rubio-Sheffrey
An added benefit of the craft beer industry is the abundance of craft beer festivals. Although attending a festival usually means drinking while standing in a confined area, they tend to be a good time, and a chance to sample new and favorite creations from local breweries. Rarely, if it all though, there is a chance to meet industry professionals or learn something useful about the brewing process; but that is going to change with the first annual Beer-Con on Saturday, August 27.
Beer-con aspires to be for craft brew fanatics what Comic-Con is to comic lovers and geeks. The man behind the vision, Michael Bowen, tells NUG Magazine that Beer-Con is for lovers of good of beer interested in learning, sharing ideas, and rubbing elbows with the industryâ€™s beer heroes.
The all day event begins at 8:30 am with registration and breakfast snacks. Then Anat Baron, the Beer Wars documentary filmmaker, will deliver a keynote address before Beer-Con attendees disburse for a series of eight panels and presentations. It all ends on a high note with a five-hour tasting session dubbed Tap Haven that begins at 5 pm.
Enhancing the Craft Beer Experience
Bowen, 29, is a southern California native and has lived in San Diego for almost 11 years. An avid fan of cold beers, he can remember the day his father introduced him to his first craft. â€œMy first craft beer was one my fatherâ€™s favorites. It was a Paulaner Salvator Doppelbock,â€ Bowen recalled. â€œWhen I drank it, it was one of those ah-ha moments where you almost have to get up from the floor after being smacked so hard. I remember thinking, â€˜What is this? Where did it come from? And I WANT MORE!â€™â€
As he immersed himself into the craft beer world, Bowen began writing a blog. Through AwesomeBeerDrinkers.com, Bowen educated his fellow craft beer lovers about upcoming events, craft bars, and his tasting experiences. Each time he attended a beer festival though, he felt like something was missing from the experience, and so the concept of Beer-Con began to take shape.
â€œThe biggest challenge with the event has been making sure people understand the difference between Beer-Con and other beer festivals,â€ he said. â€œItâ€™s not often that you get to rub elbows with your craft beer heroes in one location. Most events are three hours and they only involve tasting beer. At Beer-con you get to hear speakers, eat food, drink beer, and get some cool swag along with it.â€
The first Beer-Con is in many ways a test drive. As the event gains popularity, Bowen hopes to extend his list of participating breweries, and eventually host a Beer-Con on the east coast as well. Most of the breweries participating on Aug. 27 are from California, and include, The Bruery, Stone Brewing Co, Green Flash Brewing, Ballast Point Brewing, Hanger 24 Craft Brewery. Iron Fist Brewing, Hess Brewing, Manazanita Brewing, and Black Market Brewing.
â€œI think people forget how informative and knowledgeable the craft beer community is in San Diego,â€ Bowen said. He is hoping that Beer-Con will help change that, and maybe even inspire a home brewer to aspire for greater things.
Panels and presentations will occur on two simultaneous tracks, between 11:15 am and 4:45 pm. Beer-Con attendees will get to choose four of the eight options below, and enjoy a complimentary lunch with beers.
The Beer & Social Media Panel features two of the industryâ€™s most popular marketing gurus. Ashley Rouston, â€œDirector of Awesomenessâ€ at Bison Brewing in Berkeley, CA, and Ryan Ross, Community Marketing Manager for Karl Strauss Brewing Company.
â€œDr.â€ Bill Sysak, Beverage Supervisor at Stone Brewing World Bistro & Gardens and all round Beer Master, will lead the Beer & Food Presentation, and demonstrate how to enhance meals with beer.
Founder and owner of The Bruery, Patrick Rue utilizes his brewing experience to enlighten attendees on the various brews of the craft beer industry at the Beer Styles Presentation.
Hangar 24â€™s Head Brewer, Kevin Wright, will conduct a Beer Tasting 101 Demo that is sure to open your minds and taste buds to what is â€œreallyâ€ in your beer.
Drew Beechum author of â€œThe Everything Home Brewing Book: All You Need to Brew the Best Beer at Homeâ€ will speak at the Home Brewing Top 10 Presentation.
Mike Hess, founder of Hess Brewing, like Brandon Sieminski, Brew Master at Fist Brewing Co., began as a home brewer. Both will share their industry secrets for taking your brew recipe from the kitchen to a brewery during the Opening a Brewery Panel discussion.
Greg Koch co-founder of Stone Brewing Co. will lead an Industry Talk & Education Presentation; and Home Brews and Gardensâ€™ Senior Brewing Manager; Greg Tavangar will lead the Live Homebrew Demo.
Beer-Con takes place at the Handlery Resort & Hotel in Mission Valley. Tickets include access to the keynote, four of the eight educational sessions, a goodie bag that carries four 22oz bombers of beer, a Beer-Con t-shirt, commemorative Taster Glass, Beer Wars DVD, breakfast and lunch, and ten 4oz drink tickets for the Tap Haven.
Available online now for $175, Beer-Con tickets will cost $299 at the door. But as a way of thanking the craft beer devotees, discount opportunities are available through websites such as TapHunter.com, where beer lovers can get a Beer-Con ticket for $125.