As I write this, I am 30,000 feet in the air, screaming toward America’s west coast for what will surely be a week of the sort of debauchery you regret for about a week following, but reminisce fondly about for years thereafter.
I’m heading to the annual Craft Brewers Conference, this year being held in Portland, Oregon; a place with more craft breweries per capita than any other place in the world.
So yes, there will be beer.
Of course, the trip won’t be without its problems, the most notable of which being that somehow in the weeks prior to the journey, I have slipped inexplicably deep into overdraft in my bank account. While it was likely a compendium of too many shawarma lunches, afternoon coffees, and liquor store runs that had sent me irreparably on the course to minor debt, it was surely the gear I assembled prior to my journey that really did me in.
The forecast for Portland shows temperatures as low as 4 and as high as 22 with the chance of rain, so a new and versatile jacket seemed in order. I opted for a sporty number from Aigle, a french company renowned for their hand-made rain gear. It offered increased UV protection, water resistance, and, most important, plenty of storage. It would do the trick nicely repelling the elements and spilled barrel-aged beer while providing this cheap, pseudo-journalist ample opportunity to stuff free shit in my pockets while visiting the conference’s myriad hospitality suites. Shrimp satay, anyone?
What the hell. A thing worth doing is a thing worth doing well, so debt or no, I decided I had to have the requisite materiel. With the coat, I bought a camera case, a replacement lens cap and other assorted gear to make life slightly more comfortable and efficient while on the road and, while we’re at it, why not a haircut, too? It would be important to show the scruffy hipsters I wasn’t one of Them.
My wife, already taxing her near inexhaustible capacity for tolerance of my shenanigans in order to allow me to leave her with our toddler for a week so that I might fuck off west to go drinking, was less than pleased with the financial situation, but it was clear to me the conference demanded total coverage.
And that would be the real dilemma.
Access wouldn’t be a problem, of course. I had fudged my press credentials with the good folks at the Craft Brewers Conference, with tales of a story for Toronto-based lifestyle website blogTO. And so I’d be able to attend any and all events and seminars with relative ease. I had sold them with a line about travelling with Ontario’s craft brewers to the US of A to write a story about how much we beer enthusiastic Ontarians might all learn from our well-organized brethren to the south. And while it’s true that is the story I want to write and my blogTO editor agreed to confirm this should the CBC folks ask for confirmation, it’s a story he had no intention of actually running on the website. Nor did Vice Canada for that matter, or a smattering of other websites and publications to whom I pitched my heavy-handed angle. But still, I thought, the thing demanded coverage. That much I was sure of.
And so despite the fact that it has found its home here on the blog, the story’s dilemma is still one of journalistic integrity. I’d essentially be travelling and lodging with the people about which I was attempting to write. Indeed, I had thrown my lot in with the folks from Toronto brew pub The Indie Alehouse and there was a danger of unofficially becoming part of their extended entourage. I have had more than a few beers and shared more than a few beer industry conspiracy theories with Indie’s owner Jason Fisher and so, when he offered to simply include me in the travel arrangements he’d made for his staff, I jumped at the chance. The life of a dad with a 9-5 office job, a writing habit, and an enthusiasm for intoxicants is one that careens from a state of disorganized, hummingbird mania to profound, bone-weary fatigue and so the idea of having to make zero travel arrangements myself was too good to pass up. Simply buy the plane ticket and take the ride, to paraphrase the Good Doctor.
But now the prospect of getting too friendly with my subjects seems all too real. I’m travelling first to San Francisco with Fisher, his brewmaster Jeff Broeders, Indie’s chef Todd Camra and an assortment of staff, and from there we’ll take a flight to Portland where we’ll join not only hundreds of brewers from North America, but also a familiar motley crew of folks from most of Ontario’s craft breweries, including Bellwoods Brewery, Great Lakes Brewery, Left Field Brewery, and more. There is a danger of getting too close to tell the story I want to tell; a real risk that exploring Portland’s myriad bars, brew pubs, breweries, and assorted sideshows hand in hand with the brewers of Ontari-ari-o, might prevent me from obtaining the critical distance to tell the thing right.
And it won’t help that for a large portion of the next seven days, it’s likely that we will all be very, very drunk.
As noted, I’m writing this from a plane—currently, by my calculation, somewhere over Kansas. When we land in San Francisco we’ll be greeted by a car that is waiting to take us to Russian River brewery; yes, the beer will begin before we even drop off our luggage. Potential for serious trouble abounds.
It’s my intention to blog as I go this week, but best laid plans are often laid quickly to waste in a town full of some of the world’s best craft beer . Especially when that beer is largely pouring gratis for conference attendees (and their financially challenged blogger hangers-on). If I manage to write some posts while I’m away, I hope you enjoy them, forgive what will be decidedly different tone than the ranty Beer Store tirades you’ve come to expect here, and, obviously, mind the typos.
Also, if this space is quiet for the some time, you’ll know why. At the very least, I’ll one day piece together some sort of post-mortem from the cocktail napkins and shrimp skewers while my body heals itself.
Wish me luck.