Saturday, March 22, 2008

Spring Beer & Wine: Day One

5:00 A.M. is too early to get up for a beer fest, but if I wanted to have that scheduled TV interview for KPTV at 6:30, I had to be awake and on my game. Right? So there I was, at the Oregon Convention center, many hours before the event officially began, waiting for my two minutes of fame. It was probably the best time of the day, really. Not the interview, but the quiet moments with people in the industry as they scurried to get their booths set up and looking nice, all at a leisure pace that most certainly wasn't present the night before when all the stuff had to be lugged in after their journeys to the event from wherever home is. I tagged along with Lisa Morrison, the Beer Goddess, shared stories with the guys of Green Dragon, Deschutes and met some other-industry folk from Hotwicks, Yelp and those pouring their wines and serving their food. I've been here before, the early hours of the fest before it's crazy, and it's just a delight to be around.

The fest started like they tend to do, with lines of eager people awaiting their green light to come in and imbibe the region's best. It wasn't too busy at first, the hour or two after opening still seeming casual and unhurried. This is my kind of event.

At 4:00 P.M. I was beckoned to the stage for a seminar on "food and beer". I joined the heavy hitters up there too, it was humbling, hororing and a little weird. To my right was Terri Farendorf, the Road Brewer with 19 years brewing experience as a pro. To my left was the moderator for the event, John Foyston, of the Oregonian (and several other beer publications). Seating next to John was Tom Daldorf of the Celebrator, looking dapper as always. At the end of the table sat the legendary Fred Eckhardt, perhaps the father of American beer writing. To say I was in good company would be a gross understatement, I was on stage with some of the best beer minds in the country - and that significance was never lost on me.

The seminar went well, my biggest mistakes coming from talking too far away from my microphone. The questions were pretty general, overall, with only one very specific question: what do pair with Easter dinner of ham or turkey (my answer: turkey & a dry kreik; ham and doppelbock). It was a great time up there, Terri was whitty, Tom was his long-winded and entertaining self and Fred... well, Fred was Fred (funnier than you'd think, and very thoughtful in his responses). Before we knew it, it was time to wrap up and move on. That was truly a great time and a memory I won't soon forget.

The rest of the evening was spent talking with folks in the industry - both the publishing and beer industries I guess. Megan and the team at BEER Northwest were fantastically hospitable, entertaining and fun to see. Daldorf was good for a laugh or three at any given time. Lisa Morrison was busy as hell, but never too busy to be nice and say hello. Distillers from Rogue - oh my goodness - on top of great liquors, these guys are just a kick to be around! Seriously, among the more entertaining folks to be around at their booth. I'm not sure exactly what the deal is, but I think to work as a rep for Full Sail you just have to be cooler than snow, Jesse up here making life seem a bit more friendly. Brewers rock too, of course.

I also met some old, beer-fest friends, the people you see along the way at various beer fests, faces you recognize long before the names come to you. Theres something great about these people, you don't know a thing about them, except their fondness for good beer. Ed was one of these guys, it was fun wandering around sampling this and that with someone interesting to be around.

In the end, I wound up shutting the fest down, but remained in pretty solid condition - not overdoing it to the point several on the way out appeared to have done. After all, I had to get up this morning and judge a few beers for the event. It's about half way through the second day, I'm just taking a bit of a break off the feet, but will try to get up more notes from today soon.

For all those those kind enough to say hello, thank you.