The Beer Bloggers’ Conference begins (No, really!)

With lunch in Portsmouth, New Hampshire finished, the actual conference was about to get started in Boston.

Really.

I am not kidding this time.

It took just over an hour to drive to the Park Plaza Hotel in Boston, site of the Beer Bloggers’ Conference. Since I had been drinking beer with lunch, Elaine was behind the wheel. (She acts as my designated driver. I get us there. She gets us out of there.)

A friendly word of advice about driving in Boston: DON’T!

See, here’s the thing: Back in the 1600s, an English colony grew up beside the Atlantic. Unlike the ancient Romans, who sent in surveyors first to set up a proper grid for roads before any town was built, these English colonists simply walked across the fields from one place to another. The most commonly used footpaths eventually became cart paths, and those eventually morphed into roads. Over the years, what had been a jumble of footpaths became a jumble of city streets. When the automobile arrived, many of the streets were made one-way. Then in the 1950s, a hodgepodge of elevated expressways was added to the mix. Just to give the place some added flavour, some of those expressways were then buried beneath the ground as tunnels.

So take my advice. Park way out in the suburbs and take the subway downtown. The “T” is fast, efficient, cheap and clean, and there was a stop only one block from our hotel.

However, nobody told us that, so as you may have gathered, we drove into downtown Boston like lambs to the slaughter. Thanks to Sheila the GPS, we got to the hotel despite a wrong turn that resulted in a two-mile detour, but still emerged from our car weak-kneed and shaking. Our only consolation was that we wouldn’t have to drive again until after the conference.

The Park Plaza was built by E.M. Statler back 1927, and for many years it epitomized luxury; for instance, it was the first hotel to feature that newfangled radio in every room.  Today it is almost 90 years old, so it lacks some of the gleam and shine of modern glass-clad skyscraper hotels. Nonetheless, the Park Plaza still exudes a certain sangfroid. Sometimes it feels as if you are on the set of a Fred Astaire movie and the orchestra is just about to strike up a tune.

At the conference registration desk, we each scored our first piece of swag, a sweet 1.9 L insulated HydroFlask. I will be reviewing its performance as a metal growler in a few days, so ’nuff said for now.

reception

Meet the Sponsors reception

The first event of the conference was a “meet the sponsors” reception in the hotel lobby. This was, of course, an opportunity to taste some beer and cider, and also a chance to get some more swag (mainly key-chain bottle openers and pens). Curiously, however, one of the pieces of swag was a box of Uncle Sam “Rye & Hemp” breakfast cereal, made with rye, hemp, salt and barley malt. (Yes, the proportion of ingredients is in that order — there is more salt than barley malt. Hmm.) I’m sure other hotel guests in the lobby wondered why I was walking around with a beer glass in one hand and a box of breakfast cereal tucked under the other arm.

The lobby might not have been the best choice for this event — take 150 attendees plus another 30 sponsors and conference organizers, then add all the weekend visitors arriving to check in at 2:30 p.m. on a Friday afternoon, and the lobby was a very noisy, busy place. The space for our event was also very tight, since we had to stay inside the boundaries of the licensed area. (I take it that Massachusetts liquor laws may rival Ontario’s for inflexibility.)

hotel2Nonetheless, the beer and cider were very good, and for the most part, I had never seen any of them before — Drake’s Aroma Coma (California), Boulevard Brewing Unfiltered Wheat Beer, (Kansas City), Boulevard Tank 7 Farmhouse Ale (ditto), Obitus Brown Ale (by Bru in Boulder, Colorado).

The ciders were by Woodchuck, and strangely, I had seen Woodchuck cider before — by coincidence, one of their hard ciders is available in Ontario LCBO stores for the first time this summer. Huh.

(And what’s even cooler: their website is woodchuck.com. I mean, they actually own the website name “woodchuck”. When’s the last time you saw any company own the rights to a generic noun?)

I was only just starting to ponder this when we were told to finish up our beer (or cider) — it was time to head to our next event.

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2 Comments on “The Beer Bloggers’ Conference begins (No, really!)”

  1. {V} Says:

    As a lifelong resident of Boston, I think your driving experience may have given you a rose-tinted look at the T. 🙂

    • Alan Brown Says:

      It is true that we only took 3 or 4 trips on the T on summer weekdays in non-rush hour traffic. In any case, it was more pleasant than driving. Perhaps taking it during rush hour in the winter would give us a different impression. 🙂


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