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99 Bottles of beer on the wall

Forget whiskey, wine, vodka or tequila. My poison of choice will always be an ice cold beer in a tall glass. And if it’s craft beer? Swoon. Even better. Lucky for me, a tribe of passionate beer-guzzling, Pliny-pining, brew aficionados from all over the globe crowdsourced the biggest collection of craft beer ever to be seen at TEDActive.

The First (annual?) Craft Beer Exchange started, as all ideas do, with a seed, or in this case maybe a hop, and that was John K. Bates, lover of all drinks bubbly and brewed, who asked everyone to bring a craft beer from their country. It quickly gained steam, like a bat out of hell. And that’s how 75 bottles from Colorado to Lithuania — carefully packaged in bubble wrap and tucked into luggage — arrived in Whistler.

What’s so great about the culture of beer is the community and camaraderie. There was no doubt that we would enjoy the goodies together and at the same time. And so, Room 1242, this week’s hot “after-hours” space, was converted into a tasting room for the night.

“Who here are hop-heads? Who here are malt-heads?” asks John as he began the tasting, “In fact, who likes everything?” All hands go up.

As a hats-off to Whistler, our venue this week, we started with a Canadian beer. Vancouver’s own Darlene Lee shares Three Beavers Imperial Red Ale from Howe Sound Brewing in Squamish, BC. It’s a red, malty concoction brewed with Canadian water, hops, yeast and roasted barley. 

Ingrid Bush brought Big Bad Wolf from Grimm Brothers BrewHouse from her hometown Loveland, Colorado. It’s an imperial version of their year-round Little Red Cap.

Carla Staffa from Minneapolis/St. Paul brought floral, melon-y Fulton’s Child of Vine. She knows the four guys from college. Their brewery’s slogan came from a saying their football coach used to say: “Ordinary men doing extraordinary things.”

Matti Jääaro from Stockholm, Sweden talks about how it’s hard for craft brewers to survive in his town because of the domination of big breweries. His contribution, Bedarö Bitter from Nynäshamns, is “what you give friends who don’t like craft beer. You sneak it in there, as a ‘lager.'”

It’s not a beer tasting without at least one Belgian brew. Stefan Krueger notes Belgium has the most individual breweries in world — around 800! He brought beers brewed by the monks: St. Bernadus Trippel and Bon Secours Biere Vivante.

Ruta Kruliauskaite from Lithuania shares a chocolate porter from the first craft brewery in her country, Dundulis Labas Vakaras (Labas Vakaras means “good evening”). Her friend’s boyfriend works at the brewery.

Stefan’s friends from Freigeist Bierkultur, a German microbrewery, revives old beers and loves to experiment. One of the most out-there brews is Kampot Black, a stout infused with Kampot pepper from Cambodia.

Manly Beach, Australia had no local breweries until 4 Pines Brewing. Florencia Jacovella brought their kolsh, stout and pale ale. Fun fact: 4 Pines Brewing Company collaborated with Saber Astronautics to create Vostok Space Beer, the first beer engineered to be enjoyed outer space.

John K. Bates shares Stone Brewing Co.’s Enjoy By 04.20.14 IPA and explains hop-bursting –a process in which a ton of hops are added at the very end of the process and then taken out. The resulting drink is a super hoppy beer with floral notes sans bitterness.

“Hard cider from Oregon is where it’s at.” says Carlee Wright.” Anthem pear cider, was Carlee’s pick. She also brought 2 Towns Ginja Ninja ginger apple cider and Atlas’s blackberry cider.

Gregory Waligorski brought Mother-in-Lager from Karbach in Houston, Texas. It can only be bought in cans or kegs. Gregory bought his online.

Interlude: A discussion about the difference between ale and lager. Not only do they look and taste different, the yeast used in the process is different. Ales use “top-fermenting” yeast and lagers use “bottom-fermenting” yeast. Lagers are more difficult to make.

Tim DeSilva shows off Red Velvet Stout from Buffalo Bayou Brewing Company. His company designs their labels. I learned wax sealed bottles are meant to be aged.

“Can we do a pilsner next?” asks Stefan, as he picks up a German beer Schönramer Grünhopfen PilsGrünhopfen translates to “Green Hops.” This ultra-hoppy beer is crafted from fresh green hops from the field.

Lori Shander, from Youngstown, Ohio, just opened her brewery Suzie’s Dogs and Draftsand she’s working on adding a whiskey distillery by 2016. She brought a classic to the tasting table: Yuengling, the oldest brewery in America. And to top it off, she has vanilla and oak infused Hoppy Frog’s B.O.R.I.S. The Crusher on hand.

In his search for the perfect beer for the exchange, Brian Hart went to local favorite Ventis restaurant in his hometown Salem, Oregon and asked who they would recommend. Without hesitation, they said Santiam. He picked Spitfire ESB, (ESB stands for Extra Special/Strong Bitter) with infused belgian candy sugar giving it a toffee note.

Dogfish Head Craft Brewery of Milton, Delaware is a favorite in this TEDActive crowd. Michael Hennigan brought the 120 Minute IPA, probably Dogfish Head’s opus. The name comes from a special process, where the brew is boiled for a full two hours while hops are continuously added.

Ingrid tells the story about her other beer choice that she said she chose because it echoed the spirit of TEDActive: Russian River Brewing Company in Santa Rosa, California has a beer called Salvation. Avery Brewing Company in Boulder, Colorado also has a beer of that name. Instead of fighting over the name, the two breweries decided to blend the two brews, doubling the complexity and the richness. The result was a harmonious union, called “Collaboration Not Litigation.

Last but not least: “It’s the holy grail of IPAS. No, it’s the sandal of Jesus,” says John, “Hush, listen.” Everyone halts mid-conversation and leans slowly forward to hear the bottle opener pop the cap of the rare Pliny the Younger.


Favorite beers

John K. Bates: Stone Enjoy By, Indra Kunindra by Ballast Point, Dogfish Head 120 IPA and Sierra Nevada (for accessibility)

Ingrid Bush: Ayinger Celebrator, New Belgium La Folie and Firestone Walker DBA

Carlee Wright: Not a big beer drinker, but if she had to choose … Mamba Gilgamesh (brewed black tea and tangerine) and Pirate Oak Aged Rum Coconut Stout by Santiam

Gregory Waligorski: Saint Arnold Divine Reserve #12, New Belgium Brewing’s Fat Tire and Yuengling (because you can’t get it in Texas).