Carla Jean Lauter

The Beer Babe

Category: Beer Blogger’s Conference (Page 1 of 5)

Sebago Brewing Company – Bonfire Rye bridges summer and fall

This past weekend, Sebago Brewing Company hosted a group of fifty beer bloggers and writers as part of a Beer Blogger’s Conference taking part in Portland and Boston, MA. Sebago Brewing sponsored a well-organized and impressive beer pairing event, to the delight of bloggers. The last pairing in the lineup was a surprise, as it came with Sebago’s new seasonal release the Bonfire Rye. Not officially released until the beginning of August, this beer was given to us as a sneak peek before being released to the public.

The label – which I assume is an example of the look and feel of the redesign – has a bonfire graphic element laid upon an edited photo of several friends sitting down in front of a bonfire behind that, an iconic summer scene. Well done.

It pours a dark copper, with a red undertone, with the color of the beer complemented by the new bottle labels. The aroma is of slightly spicy hops, but without a citrus or grassy feeling. It is very inviting, and not at all intimidating from a hoppiness perspective.


The taste struck me right away as something different than Sebago had brewed previously, as well as something different from other seasonals available in Maine. It is definitely a beer full of flavor, but somehow it is executed in a very balanced package. In addition there is an earthiness to it that comes in towards the end of the pleasantly-balanced hop profile that just adds a final complement to the flavor.

Described by owner Kai Adams as a beer that could “bridge” the seasons of summer and fall – this one is neither too sweet nor too earthy to be inappropriate for either season. One could imagine that it would even work in winter. At 5.7% ABV, this is also one that could go with – as suggested – friends and a bonfire, without worrying too much about things getting out of hand.

Bonfire Rye will officially be released on August 1st, and will be celebrated by a patio party at each of the Sebago Brewing locations starting at 4pm. This is a great chance to see the new face of Sebago, as well as to sample the town’s newest brew.

While you’re there, check out this year’s Hop Swap – a beer that changes its hop profile each year and is built on a malt base that stays the same. Hop Swap impressed me this year, and I greatly prefer it to last year’s which was a little bit thin, but still packed with hop flavor.


How to survive your first Beer Blogger’s Conference

I have been lucky enough to have attended almost all of the Beer Blogger & Writer Conferences that have been held since they first began in 2010 – and I have learned a lot along the way. Because I’m kind of a “veteran” and there are new bloggers each year, I thought I’d take a minute to offer a few pieces of advice if this is your first go-around.

1. Go out of your way to meet new people.
My first blogger’s conference, I was star struck by a few people that I had been reading for years, and made a quick clique of folks that I sat near during the first session. While I am still friends with that small group to this day, when I remember back to the conference, I realize that I barely talked to anyone else throughout the rest of the conference. The following year, I tried a new tactic – every session, field trip, dinner – I made an effort to sit with people I hadn’t chatted with yet. And I had TONS more fun. People are interesting, and they are also interested in what you do and how you came to be sitting next to them. Trust me, I am not an extrovert (though I play one on the Internet) and this effort pays off. All you have to do is keep moving around the room.

No matter how many fests you have been to, or beers you’ve reviewed or checked in to, you probably won’t be prepared for the constant stream of beer that will come your way during this conference. There are educational sessions that will involve samples, beer dinners, and then bottles that people just happen to share at tables, on busses, and so on. It is constant. And if you accept and drink every single sample poured for you, you won’t be too happy of a camper by Saturday morning. It is okay not to finish a sample. Believe me, you will be judged less for leaving behind a “wounded soldier” than you will for becoming belligerent or hungover.

3. While we’re on the topic of hangovers – hydrate!
You made room for the bottles of beer your bringing, but scoot one over and pack a water bottle. Most conferences have had water around the room, but it’s easier to fill up a Nalgene once than a cup four or five times. Use it to cleanse your palate between samples, then take another round as insurance against hangovers. 99% of hangover ickiness is caused by dehydration, so it’s a really simple way to help you survive.

4. Charge everything. And bring all of your chargers. Check twice.
You’ll probably be Tweeting, Untapping, Facebooking and Instagramming, maybe even Vine-ing or Periscoping more furiously than you ever have before. Make sure you have juice, and bring the plug-in chargers with you to the conference itself (don’t leave them in your room). Often there are power strips at the table to help you charge up, but you’ve got to stay on top of it. Pro tip: Label your chargers with sharpie. Your iPhone charger looks like everyone else’s – especially after a few beers.

5. Don’t trust yourself to remember blog-worthy details.
“I’ll write about it later” will spell the death of the content for you if you think you can just recall all the details. The second year, I started taking notes using just ‘notepad’ on my laptop, but this year I’ve switched to Evernote and/or Google Keep. Write down beer names, details, key points, anything that you trust yourself to remember later, because those details fade very quickly after tightly-packed schedules.

6. We’re all basically equals here. Don’t be afraid!
There will be people at the conference who have been writing about beer for longer than you’ve been legally able to drink it. There will be some that just started their first podcast or blog only a few short months ago. But when we’re together, we’re all just people who are passionate about sharing our love for craft beer. So the fact that someone has a LOT more twitter followers than you, or that they’ve written a book shouldn’t give you any pause. When we walk in the room, we’re all there to learn and meet new people – and everyone is super happy to meet everyone else. 

Those are my best pieces of advice as a “veteran” of the conference. The conference will have social opportunities, learning moments, funny incidents, and of course, fantastic beer. It’s easy to make the most of it. And if you see me, please sit next to me. I’d love to hear your story too.

The Beer Babe

2013 Beer Blogger’s Conference: Announcement!

It is with much joy that I bring you the news that the 2013 Beer Blogger’s Conference Location has been selected!

The 2013 conference will occur in Boston, MA with a pre-excursion (still in planning) in Portland, ME. So, after three years of traveling to some of the best beer cities in the US, I am thrilled to bring more craft beer enthusiasts to New England to see what they are missing. More details will be posted soon, but I hope that if you are a blogger you will come see these two glorious beer cities.

The Beer Babe

Indiana City Brewing Company

Samples poured for us at the Tomlinson Tap room. (Indiana City Beer, courtesy photo)

On our fist evening in Indianapolis, the beer bloggers went to the Tomlinson Tap Room (on the second floor of a really cool open marketplace) and were provided with beer samples and food. While we ate and chatted amongst ourselves, we also got to meet some interesting locals to talk about beer. One of the people I met was Ray Kamstra, who was holding a tray of samples, and walking around talking about a “soon to be born” brewery called Indiana City Beer Company.

Currently working to get funded on Kickstarter, this group is focusing on the local beer scene. I got to try two of their brews, and both were very solid. The oatmeal stout was nice and roasty, and the pale ale was a high-quality brew, and both were above 7% ABV, which I found unusual and interesting. I really hope that these guys do well in this exploding beer market, and I think they can, especially with their local roots. In a very savvy move, the brewer was passing out information not only about the beers, but about the Kickstarter efforts.

Shadow Boxer oatmeal stout [ 7.0% ABV | 44 IBU | 55 SRM ]
This is a black, full-bodied ale with mild roasted grain aroma, coffee flavor and moderate spicy hop bitterness. A diverse combination of flavors all below a creamy brown head.

Beyond the Pale pale ale [ 7.2% ABV | 59 IBU | 5.4 SRM ]
A twist on the Belgian style, this beer has higher than traditional hop flavor and aroma and alcohol content. Specialty spices add natural citrusy-pine flavor and aroma to this well-balanced ale.

I love seeing people pursue their dreams, so I hope that you’ll check these guys out soon. Good luck Indiana City, we’re rooting for you!


Lafayette Brewing Company

This post is part of the ongoing coverage of the 2012 Beer Bloggers Conference. For more information on the conference, please visit:

A little tired, a little loopy, a bus of about 40 beer bloggers rolled through the countryside of Indiana, joking around and staring out the window at cornfields. The bus, funded by Goose Island Brewing Company, served to take us from the pre-conference excursion in Chicago to the conference content in Indiana. While I was very sad to leave the Windy city, I knew that more adventures lay on the road ahead.

As we pulled off the highway in Lafayette Indiana, the characteristic shape of a midwest town began to form. The tight corners were stressful for the bus driver, but we soon rolled up to a flat faced brick building with a green awning.

Lafaytte Brewing Company opened in 1993, making it one of the breweries to survive that craft beer drought in the 1990s. Walking in, there was a great little downstairs pub, but we were brought to a really cool space upstairs. Obviously an old building, the wood beams and open room was just an amazingly interesting atmosphere.

We were provided with pulled pork, beef brisket, which was the perfect cure for some of us with the ‘morning after blues’ from the previous night’s pub crawl. My two favorite brews that I sampled were the Tippecanoe Common Ale (hoppy and summery, just hit the spot and went great with the spicy barbequeue) and the Black Angus Oatmeal Stout (the roastiness was just at the right level to go with the lunch).

As a special treat to finish the meal, we were given a chocolate truffle made by a local chocolatier paired with their aged barleywine, an unbelievable match. I’m learning that the sweet sting of a barleywine and hops is great for cutting through the fat and richness of chocolate, and at the same time the chocolate saves you from the alcohol of high gravity beer. Nice job, and, writing this a week later, I really wish I had a bit of that barleywine to sip right now. It was that good.

If you ever find yourself thirsty in Indiana, I highly recommend taking whatever detour you need to to stop here. It may not be a brewery that a lot of folks are familiar with, but you don’t have to have a big name to make great beer. Thank you to everyone at Lafayette for your hospitality, I hope that fate will bring me back to you again sometime.

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