CBC17: Beyond the Conference Walls

A flight of beer at Dirt Farm Brewing.

It’s been over two weeks since I attended my first Craft Brewer’s Conference (CBC) with Tierney and Colleen. The conference took place in Washington, D.C., a skip over the river from my home. Many events were held in honor of the conference, and outside of its walls. Bars, breweries, and restaurants opened their doors to attendees and locals alike with special beers and events all week long (some bars even have some CBC beers still on draft). As much as I enjoyed the conference itself, my favorite moments took place in and around D.C.

On the first day of the conference, I went on a marathon brewery tour with CBC. We visited four breweries in Loudoun County: Dirt Farm Brewing, Vanish Farmwoods Brewery, Old Ox Brewery, and Ocelot Brewing. I grew up in Loudoun County – Leesburg, to be precise. It’s a small suburb surrounded by farmland and, increasingly, by strip malls, franchises, and townhome communities. Things have changed since I moved away, and while many of those changes have been more houses and more franchises, the rise in local breweries, especially farm breweries, has been a welcome addition to Loudoun’s burgeoning presence.

Orange Blossom Saison at Vanish Farmswoods Brewing

Of the four breweries we visited, Dirt Farm and Ocelot were new to me. Dirt Farm rests on top of a hill outside of Middleburg, and as you can see in the header photo, the view ain’t half bad. The beer was also choice. My favorite was their Stout of Control. I also enjoyed the warm cider donuts set out for our group, which were made on-site that morning. They were warm, fresh, and perfect for soaking up beer.

Given this isn’t a donut blog, I’ll get back to the beer. Our second stop was Vanish, where I enjoyed a pint of Orange Blossom Saison and some pizza provided for lunch. Many pizzas lay unfinished as we were shuttled along to Old Ox Brewery. I’d done the tour there before, and chose instead to sip a pint of the Hoppier Place Powder to the People IPA, a beer set to debut that Friday, but tapped early just for us. No sooner had I finished that pint then we were off to Ocelot Brewing. I enjoyed a complimentary flight of IPAs, barrel-aged beers, and farmhouse ales. Well, I enjoyed about half of it. I was barely through my third taster when it was time to go.

Feeling rushed? I did, and so did our tour group. If you really want to get the Sonora CBC experience, drink several beers of varying ABV levels and then read this post. That’s how I felt as I dragged myself onto the bus to head back to CBC for the welcome reception that night. As much as I enjoyed getting to visit four breweries, and try beer at each, I would advise the Brewer’s Association to consider lowering the number of breweries, or else expanding the amount of time we visit each one. Taking my own sobriety out of it, the breweries set aside time, beer, and food for us all, and also offered tours and samples. By the end, we barely had time to do one of these activities. Surely, we could’ve spent a little more time at these places, and less time waiting three hours for the welcome reception once we got back to D.C.

As brief as they were, the visits were good, and a good way to kick off CBC. The conference featured speeches, seminars, and a huge exhibition floor that could hardly be visited during the span of the conference. As informative as the sessions were, and as great as it was to meet people at the exhibitions, I really enjoyed going to bars after the sessions were over and spending time there with friends.

From Left to Right: Colleen N, me, Tierney at Penn Social.

There were more events around town than I could count, much less attend. However, we found ourselves at a few watering holes with more than a few good drinks. You know from my hockey posts that one of my favorite places to go is Iron Horse. The beer was flowing there in honor of CBC, and it was a treat to have Wicked Weed’s Freak of Nature on draft outside of North Carolina. It was also a quieter alternative to some of the packed events at bars like ChurchKey and The Sovereign. All fine places to go, but all places known for long lines when the beer geeks catch wind of a special beer pouring from their tap lines – and CBC brought even more beer geeks to a city already full of them.

We also wandered over to Penn Social, where Dogfish Head had several beers on draft in the downstairs bar. My husband joined us for that event, and I was happy to be able to share a CBC event with him even though he didn’t have an admission badge. Sam Calagione was there, and he was kind enough to speak to everyone at the event – and even took our picture.

From left to right: Will, Sam, and me trying to get into the frame with two tall guys.

CBC was a huge conference with lots of people, lots of events, and even more beer. I was grateful for many places to enjoy all of these things. Until next year!

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