Monthly Archives: June 2014

Beer Blogging, Being a Woman In Beer, & Having Fun: What I Should Have Said At Queens of Craft

 

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A couple of weeks ago I was at a round table discussion in Guelph put on by Wellington Brewery called Queens of Craft, with proceeds of the event going to Women in Crisis Guelph. Basically it was a lot of Ontario’s most respected women in the beer industry and me talking about a subject of our choosing to an audience of women. It was a thrill to even be asked to be a part of it.
Unfortunately, I think I blew it a bit. At the last minute we were told that the 20 minutes we were each getting to talk would be cut down to 10, with a bell hitting the eight minute mark indicating that we better start wrapping up and talk about a beer we had selected for a tasting. I had things I wanted to talk about, but the cut time, the bell, my jet lag from a recent trip to England, and my inexperience with public speaking left me a bit of a rambling, nervous mess. I’m pretty sure I came off as a looney.

I was disappointed, because I had some things I wanted to say, but time constraints and social anxiety ruined it. So after sitting on it for a bit due to preparation of travel and the travel, here is what I wanted to say.

I started this site as a way to chronicle my own discoveries about beer in a way that my close friends could read up on if they wanted. I’m still a bit perplexed on how it got as far as it has and a bit weirded out by the whole Saveur Award thing. When I started I didn’t know what I was doing, my palate was not even close to what it is now, and I was regurgitating information that, I thought, was pretty common knowledge. But I was learning new things, chronicling my educational journey, and having fun, which I think are the best reasons ever to start a blog.

I’m reluctant to give advice on how to run a beer blog (or any blog, really) to a semi or even fully successful level. Despite what marketing books and other bloggers tell you, there is no One Right Way to run a blog. It’s a natural progression that involves getting comfortable with the medium and cultivating the voice you’re going to use for it. I will say though, that unlike published writers, you have the incredibly unique gift of being your own editor, with no restraints of word count or tone. Use that gift to weave fantastic tales, get lost in a tangent, or just explain something. You don’t HAVE to be any voice that you aren’t comfortable with doing. I’m best comfortable using a tone that’s both informative and entertaining. Like I’m saying it in a pub over my second beer, for instance. Look in earlier posts and you’ll see that I’ve come a long way in figuring that tone out.

Only other pieces of advice I can offer in terms of starting out are to learn to use twitter as a great method of networking, go out to events frequently so you can put a face to the twitter handles, learn to take pictures to go with your words, and do not be afraid to go against the popular opinions of the community. If you don’t like something that others like, no one is at fault and anyone who tells you otherwise is a jackass.

Ah. And the final piece of advice I could probably give is to remember that beer is only HALF the fun of it. It’s what surrounds the beer, the people, the history, the lore, the places, the events, the moments…that make it so amazing. If you remember that you’ll save yourself some premature burnout later and it will keep you going in times when you begin to question the point of continuing. Beer is fun, and should remain so.

Now, on being a woman.

Every female in the beer industry gets asked the same question to a nauseating degree on what it’s like being a woman working in beer and why we’re in it and I’m always left bewildered because the tone suggests a kind of “What are you even DOING here?” element that I find offensive. As if it’s so outlandish that women are individuals with their own minds and interests that should take them anywhere they damn well please, including something that’s apparently regarded as a boy’s club despite there being no sign on the door that says any such thing.

brewstersPlus, history is filled with women in beer. Before men took the reigns of beer through Industrialization, we had commercial female brewers (named Brewsters) in the middle ages, and brewing was primarily women’s work, being part of kitchen duties. Hell, the oldest recipe in the world is a Hymn to Ninkasi, the Sumerian GODDESS of Beer. While I feel that beer is something enjoyed by both sexes and I hate having to list the historical tidbits of women in beer as if to provide some sort of proof that women belong there (argh), I do like keeping this history in mind when certain people criticize women for enjoying or being a part of beer. Of course we do.

Modern day, I’m going to freely admit that there are problems, but it’s not as prevalent as one might think. There are offensive jokes, jerks who say jerkish things, and an outsider media that needs to run a “WOAH! WOMEN ENJOYING SOMETHING!” article every six months or so, but there are also engaging conversations, nerding out over a drink with complete strangers who end up becoming friends, and being part of a community that loves to educate and share its passion, which transcends genders and is the reason why I love the community so much.

Beer is a beautiful thing. As I said in an interview once, Beer has been the beverage of choice for royalty, slaves, peasants, gods, hard workers, executives, low class, middle class, upper class, and many other groups I can’t think of right now. It has helped end disputes (as well as cause some), has been a peace offering, and a way to break the ice to start lasting friendships. To me beer is a common factor for us all, a drink that humanity can sit down together and laugh over. To top all that off, despite all the years it’s been around, we’re still finding ways to make it differently.

Beer, one of the many testaments to the human race’s ingenuity, makes me want to raise a glass, view the beautiful colour of my beer, smile, and say “look at you”.

And that’s what I wanted to say.

8b19903u

 

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Vegas, Baby, Vegas: The Saveur Magazine Best Food Blog Awards Experience

 

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Well, I’m back from the desert city of Las Vegas, where I was treated by the folks at Saveur Magazine and Bellagio to come by, sample some fantastic culinary delights, and collect my award for Saveur Magazine’s Best Food Blog Awards in the category of Wine & Beer. I came to Vegas on the back of a trip to England, and so coming back to my own time zone on Saturday was…well, I’m still incredibly jetlagged, but not enough to give a small recap of my time with the folks at Saveur and the other fine bloggers who either won or were finalists. I have some thoughts on the actual beer scene in Las Vegas as well as some suggested places to go on and off the Strip, but I’ll be posting that separately in a couple of days for length purposes. You understand.

So Saveur.

IMG_8119It was definitely one of the more interesting and extravagant times of my life. To check in at the luxurious Bellagio Hotel & Casino, with a beautiful view of their famous fountain, and have the whole damned thing complimentary…it was something I never thought would happen to me. The days leading up to arriving in Vegas my impostor syndrome was playing up, wondering when I was going to be quietly taken aside and told that there was some kind of mixup. But it didn’t happen and when I received a delivery to my room of a bag full of wonderful delights, a bottle of Highland Park 12 year-old Scotch, Kettle Chips, Salted Caramel Chocolate, a small bottle of Zonin Prosecco Italian sparkling wine…I realized there had been no mistake and began to look on this whole thing with a bit more honour.

IMG_8152The Welcoming Reception was a tad awkward for me at first, but featured some lovely food samples based on some of the winning food blogs and good quality wines, all with the backdrop of the prestigious Bellagio Fine Art Gallery that currently has a “Painting Women” exhibition going on, primarily featuring works by female painters. As the evening was drawing to a close, I sought out some of my fellow Canadians and we all went out for pizza next door, sipping on our drinks and talking about our reactions, process during a post, and lives. It was the perfect end to the opening evening.

dimsumThe next day was more packed, with two “behind the scenes” tours, where we walked in the underground city that is the Bellagio Hotel staff area and met up with Executive Chef Patrick Lee of the Bellagio restaurant Noodles. where we sampled some quality Dim Sum under the backdrop of the gorgeous Jasmine. Then it was on to a favourite, a talk with Bellagio Master Patisserie Chef Jean Philippe, where we sampled some absolutely orgasmic chocolates, including whiskey chocolate truffles made with Highland Park.

IMG_8275We then went to the Culinary Classroom, where we sampled some Highland Park Scotch Whisky. This actually proved to be really educational for me. Sampling the 12, 15, and 18 year-old varieties side by side gave me the ability to look at the distinct flavours and notes of each and I ended up developing a new appreciation for Scotch. Afterwards we went to the Tuscany Test Kitchen where, with the help of Highland Park, Bellagio’s Chef Edmund Wong, and Le Creuset we made special cocktails and signature meatballs with a divine marinara sauce and buffalo mozzarella.

Finally in the evening we went to the lush Sensi, where we convened to be presented with our awards, an engraved Le Creuset frying pan. Also the first ever “Blog of the Year” winner was announced to the well-deserved i am a food blog. We then sat down for an exclusive peek at Sensi’s new menu prepared by Executive Chef Royden Ellamar.

IMG_8331My only criticism of the couple of days was the very notable exclusion of beer throughout these events. My blogging colleagues and I all noticed that, while fine wines, whiskies, and cocktails were consistently presented at the two main events of the Welcoming Reception and the Awards Dinner, beer just…wasn’t considered. It was disappointing to be there winning an award for writing about beer and being told that beer wasn’t on the menu. In the end I had to stand my ground a bit and ask for a beer to celebrate my award with, which to the credit of Sensi staff, they delivered (their only craft option was New Belgium Fat Tire). It was just a bit of a bummer to learn that perhaps beer still has some ways to go to be considered more than just the lower option at higher end places. But that’s a rant for another time and I’d like to note that the Fat Tire went incredibly well with the Ribeye Steak that was served with dinner. I even passed my glass around for comparison and other writers were astonished at a pairing they had not considered before. I should say that I really don’t intend on criticizing my wonderful hosts for an incredibly lovely experience, but considering what I write about I just couldn’t overlook this.

However, despite that, the entire two days was a whirlwind of new friends, dazzling conversation, and some personal feelings of validation on my part. It really was an unforgettable experience and I must thank my hosts at Saveur and Bellagio for making this Canadian feel like a star. I really appreciate it.

IMG_8350Afterwards, I ended up going on the hunt and discovered a wonderful bar on the strip called The Pub, in the Monte Carlo Hotel & Casino, sporting over 130 beers on tap. Manager Lisa King set us up right with some custom flights (including their own brand), some excellent conversation, and more than enough recommendations and insight on the beer landscape in Vegas and who to talk to within it.

I made so many friends with amazing blogs, (some shout outs to Maureen Abood, Chinese Grandma, Bit By a Fox, Culinary Bro-Down, and FEAST: An Edible Roadtrip among SO many others) but I’m going to suggest following everyone in the winner page including the very talented finalists.

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And there’s my recap folks. BUT WAIT THERE’S MORE! As I said up there, I had some beer adventures and that’s a post on it’s own. Stay tuned in the next couple of days for that one.

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