Photos of the Biltmore Estate, Highland Brewing Co. and Hickory Nut Gap Farm flooded food blogs and social media during the annual Food Blog Forum event, held Aug. 17-19 this year. It was the first time the event was held in Asheville, and more than 100 food bloggers showed our city a lot of love.
In 2015, the Food Blog Forum moves on — to Disney World in Orlando, Fla. However, next summer, Asheville will host another small but influential group of bloggers for the first time: The Beer Bloggers Conference will descend upon the city July 17-19.
The conference, held in San Diego this year, is an annual meetup for both “citizen beer bloggers,” also known as non-industry beer bloggers, and those in the craft brewing industry. In 2014, attendees included dozens of regional beer bloggers as well as representatives from Lagunitas, Firestone Walker, The Kitchn and Craftbeer.com (run by the Brewers Association).
“The conference itself is pretty structured. … There are a variety of seminars,” says Abby Dickinson, who attended this year’s conference and is Wicked Weed’s marketing director. “But there’s a trade show of sorts where a bunch of breweries share beer … and one of the sponsor breweries throws a party for the bloggers at the event. It was a great opportunity to meet with a variety of people who work with beer.”
That Asheville is following San Diego, a legendary beer city home to an estimated 90-plus breweries including Stone, The Lost Abbey and Ballast Point, is less surprising now that our large craft breweries are coming online. They provide big anchors — and often financial support — for events like this. In fact, Ken Grossman, founder and owner of Sierra Nevada, is the one who announced that 2015 would be Asheville’s year at this year’s conference.
So, as you might expect, Sierra Nevada will play a large role in hosting the BBC in 2015, including a dinner at the brewery. Oskar Blues has already committed as a sponsor of BBC 2015 as well.
The event will also give local breweries a chance to share the spotlight even if they aren’t official sponsors. “[The Wicked Weed team] got there a day early to explore the beer scene … and a lot of bloggers will do the same here in Asheville,” says Dickinson. “If you’re traveling somewhere [as a beer blogger], you’re going to spend the extra day on either side of the conference to explore the scene.”
The multiday event still has a lot of details to announce, including most conference speakers. As in past years, the conference is limited to 150 attendees. The price to attend the event itself is $120 for bloggers who commit to two posts about the event and $320 for those just wanting to attend. For more information or to register, visit http://www.beerbloggersconference.org.
Thirsty Monk Announces Open Brewing
Last month, the Thirsty Monk team announced they were closing their Gerber Village location for a new venture to be unveiled in September. They said the new business will be an original concept unlike anything currently operating in the United States.
The new project, called Open Brewing, may well deliver on that promise. Owner Barry Bialik calls it “the first commercial brewpub in the country dedicated to open-source brewing.” Essentially he views it as a sort of incubator for homebrewers to develop and reformat recipes on a large scale. They can share their beers with a wider audience and receive feedback.
No numbers have been released, but Bialik says homebrewers will be paid a royalty for each pint. “As the craft-beer industry has taken off, so has homebrewing, and we have had a great relationship with the local homebrewing community [through Thirsty Monk] over the years,” said Bialik. ”Our intent is to create an avenue where homebrewers can reach new audiences, experience the brewing process on a larger scale and gain opportunity in the beer world that might not otherwise be available.”
Of course, what’s a brewpub without patrons? Bialik sees Open Brewing as a place where Asheville’s adventurous beer drinkers can find a constantly rotating tap list with “unique brews they may never have the opportunity to drink twice.”
Open Brewing will accept applications from homebrewers to come and brew their beer in September via email@example.com. A tasting panel including Norm Penn (Thirsty Monk’s brewer) and Matt McComish (Thirsty Monk’s head beer buyer and certified cicerone) will choose the beers.
Open Brewing will be located at 20 Gala Drive #101 in Gerber Village on Hendersonville Road, the location of the former Thirsty Monk South. The opening date has not yet been announced, but is expected to be early this fall.