Jan 29 2009
Jan 17 2009
This is what the beer festival does to good people.
I’m not quite sure what was going on with that lip balm.
Jan 16 2009
I had the fortune of being invited to join Nate at the Big Beers, Belgians and Barleywines Festival in Vail over the weekend and had a dandy time. That’s right… dandy.
Dorrie, Anna and I met Nate and Laura at their condo in Keystone and stayed there for the weekend. It was just a short drive from there to Vail for the big party on Saturday. Dorrie has already shared the Keystone side of the story, so let’s talk about the beer festival.
If, like me before attending the festival, you have no idea what a big beer, a Belgian or a Barleywine is, let me ‘splain: A big beer is a beer with an alcohol conent of 7.0% or higher. Belgian beer is a broad classification of beers that include styles ranging from the classic pilsner to nasty, sour Flanders Ale. A barleywine is a sipping beer with high alcohol content, usually around 8% to 12%. I’m sure there are finer details to these classifications, but I’m just not knowledgeable enough about the finer points of classy beer to be able to describe them properly. Regardless, the festival was focused on big, heavy, flavorful, strong beers – not for the faint of heart or artery.
The festival was much more than just sampling exotic beers. There were several seminars. Nate and I attended three. The first, which was before the beer-tasting extravaganza began, was about experimenstation in brewing. Five breweries sent representatives to this seminar to speak about what they consider experimentation and what they consider over-the-top, extreme brewing. When it was over, Nate and I had sampled five different beers and it was still morning. Quite a nice start to the day.
The second, and by far the most entertaining seminar, was an exercise in pairing beer with the best bleu cheese I’ve ever tasted. Well before the festival, five brewers agreed to participate in the event and spent some time researching their recipes to find the best match for the cheese. They each brought to the seminar samples of their “research.” Each representative had a few minutes to talk about their beer and explain how the characteristics of the particular beer complimented the food. The seminar participants voted on the best combination of brew and bleu. I was convinced that my choice was going to win in a landslide, but my choice was third in the voting. Nate’s choice was first. After the event ended, Nate and I found the booths in the sampling room where we could drink more of the beer we just sampled with the cheese, and sampled more of that beer, this time without the cheese.
The last seminar was about practical approaches to determining a good beer recipe. Because it was later in the afternoon, the seminar was probably not even half full. I guess most people were more interested in drinking, were totally sloshed, or both. By this time, Nate and I fell mostly into the last category, but we dug deep to find the will to stumble into the conference room anyway. The small crowd ended up being a bonus because the seminar turned into mostly a discussion between the speaker (who was actually a good speaker and obviously passionate and knowledgeable about the subject) and the audience.
I soaked up nearly as much knowledge about beer, hops, malts, barleys and brewing that day as I did beer itself. So much knowledge, in fact, that I’m thirsty for more. Nate and Laura are coming over in a couple weeks, and Nate and I are escaping to the homebrew store to pick up the equipment necessary for me to start my own brewing. I don’t plan on making it a fulltime hobby, but I’d like to know more about the brewing process, and there’s no better way to learn than to do it yourself.
And, the second best way to way learn something is one-on-one training with an expert. Nate proved himself an expert homebrewer by winning the silver medal in the Strong Ales category of the homebrew contest. Considering how many entries there were and the seriousness of this festival, winning any medal is a big accomplishment. Congratulations, Nate. You deserve that award.
Jan 02 2009
I just received the most disappointing email: JPG Magazine is over, out of business, and shutting down.
JPG Magazine is (was) a photography magazine, but not at all an ordinary photography magazine. It was something really special. JPG Magazine was a bimonthly publication of outstanding photography and stories that you would never see anywhere else. The focus of the publicication was 100% on actual pictures and stories about pictures – not about the latest gear or about any particular famous photographer’s work. The thing that made JPG Magazine special was that everything published – every story, article and photo – came from the user community at jpgmag.com. The community was made up of everyday people like me and you. That is, amateur and enthusiast photographers.
Before each publication, several themes would be announced on the website. Photographers would publish photos and articles based on the theme. Other community members would vote on the stories and photos, and the best would be published in the magazine. Members were able to discuss photos and stories, mark photos and stories as favorites, mark other members as buddies – essentially all the basic social networking features you would expect. The community was strong, and the fact that the photos were published in print helped attract some of the most unique and intriguing photography I’ve ever seen.
The loss of JPG Magazine is a big blow to me, personally, and the entire photography community. I don’t recall any other publication that showcased such an enormous amount of fresh photography produced by a community of amateur and hobbiest artists that shared a passion for photography. JPG Magazine was one of a kind, and for the sake of seeing really good photography again, I hope to see something similar in the future.