Monday, April 30, 2012

Another weekend, another beer festival

On Saturday, April 21st, Greg & I volunteered at the sixth annual Cheers to Belgian Beers. The event took place at Metalcraft Fabrication in northeast Portland. Metalcraft specializes in building custom handcrafted equipment for the craft brewing industry. How appropriate!
Greg pretends to try out some Metalcraft equipment
I loved the open airiness of the Metalcraft warehouse and, because the weather was fantastic (sunny, 75F), we were also able to take full advantage of the gravel lot next door for bike parking, food trucks, a large party tent, porta-potties and even the Timbers Army No Pity Van.
the side lot before it got too crowded
Greg & I had signed up for the opening shift so we showed up at 11:30am. With the other 20-odd volunteers, we donned our festival t-shirts, pocketed our OLCC licenses, and were briefed by Oregon Brewers Guild Executive Director, Brian Butenschoen. Most people were assigned to serve beer, but I opted to work at the check-in table.
Brian briefs the volunteers
People were lined up at the entrance before noon so we started working right away. Greg's task (of pouring beer) was relatively easy, but he stayed busy during his entire shift. My job involved unpacking glasses and stuffing them with tickets & ballots, setting up & selling festival swag (t-shirts & hats), and eventually selling additional beer tickets. I also checked in subsequent shifts of volunteers, distributed their t-shirts, and made sure they had the necessary OLCC paperwork. Finally, I even had the privilege of cleaning up broken glass, emptying the trash cans, and dealing with other minor issues.
lined up for beer
The reward for our four hours of hard work was the t-shirt, a festival glass (worth $10, required to sample the beers), and 10 sample tickets. Unexpectedly, we were also given food tickets (worth $5 each) so we could eat at either of the two food vendors, Koi Fusion or Philadelphia's Steaks & Hoagies.
my free cheese steak
Our shift ended around 4pm and, since I hadn't gotten a lunch break, we immediately grabbed our first beer samples and headed outside so I could get a Philly cheese steak. Greg had eaten around 2pm but made the mistake of sampling some of the strongest beers (11% ABV) first and it wasn't long before he needed to soak up all that alcohol with more food. We decided to walk a few blocks north to Widmer Brewery's Gasthaus Pub where we each enjoyed some tasty grub (and I even ordered a beer!).
Abe Goldman-Armstrong
We returned to Metalcraft around 7pm and did our best to try as many of the 40 specially-brewed Belgian-style beers as possible. But considering that the average ABV was around 8% and each sample equated to 3.3oz of beer, that was a daunting task! We eventually surrendered at 9pm because we finally ran out of tickets and everyone was starting to pack up anyway.
always happy to volunteer for beer
The following day, we were supposed to be at Cocktail Camp at 10:30am as I had won tickets from PDX Pipeline. However I woke up with a migraine (can't imagine why?!) and had to delay our departure until mid-day. Still, we made it in time for the afternoon sessions on being "The Perfect Host" and the "Introduction to Aperitifs" and the requisite free cocktails, of course! I thought it was quite appropriate that my first drink of the day was called "Signs of Life!"
Here is the list of beers that Greg & I sampled at Cheers to Belgian Beers. I put an asterisk in front of my favorites. 
Alethea's beers: *Breakside Brewery Heet Blond, Columbia River Brewing Tripel Vision, FOTM James Bruin, Double Mountain Formidable, *Fort George ABCDA, Laurelwood Cascara Obscura, *Max's Fanno Creek St. Fanno, Upright Monk & Mingus, Occidental Voorjaar, Portland U-Brew Tiger Blood, Flat Tail 8, Track Town Swarm
Greg's beers: Block 15 Hellion, Cascade Chugit Pucker the Deuce, Ambacht G++, Hopworks Canadian Tuxedo, Lucky Lab Yadda Yadda Yadda, Rogue Donker Kong, Oakshire Zwarte Nacht, FOTM James Bruin, Coalition Smoke 'em if you got 'em, Green Dragon Digression, Max's Fanno Creek St. Fanno

Wednesday, April 25, 2012

My Winning Strategy

I am a firm believer in the saying, "Luck is where the crossroads of opportunity and preparation meet." This quote is attributed to Seneca, a first-century Roman philosopher. I actually don't believe in luck as it is commonly defined:  Success or failure apparently brought by chance rather than through one's own actions. The point of the Seneca quote is that it takes individual action to be prepared when opportunities arise, which can lead to positive outcomes (the so-called luck). This is the area in which I have notably excelled recently, but has been a common theme running throughout the better part of my life.

Seneca clearly lived well before the time of Facebook & Twitter. But is it too far of a stretch to think that part of what he was referring to was social networking? In my case, I can definitely apply "the crossroads of opportunity" to the internet and, more specifically, to social networking sites and even blogs. As for the preparation, I've put in hours of "research", mostly by connecting with industries, companies, individuals & organizations that share common interests.

One of the great things about the prevalence of the internet in our society today is the ability to communicate information more quickly and to a broader audience. In addition to running promotions or contests via traditional methods like mailings, printed coupons, billboards and radio/tv ads, it is fairly easy to set up a contest on your website or Facebook page. You can take an even simpler route by asking people to share or respond to one of your posts with the option to pick your favorite comment or just randomly draw a name from all of the entries.

I could go on & on about all of the possibilities of using social media to your advantage, but the point of this post is to explain how I've been winning lately. Since we moved to Portland at the end of January, I have won at least six "contests!" None have involved money, meaning that I did not have to contribute financially or purchase anything in order to win. I didn't even have to be physically present anywhere!

I'd estimate that I enter an average of two contests per day, most either directly through Facebook or via links that are posted on Facebook. Note that I generally do not enter large, national contests but prefer to focus my efforts on local companies & events. Nor do I enter a contest for something I don't really want to win. Thus my odds of winning can be as high as 1 in 3 (sadly, I didn't win that particular contest which was chosen by random draw) and as low as 1 in 100+. But these odds are great compared to winning the lottery!

Since I do not have a tv or unlimited mobile phone plan, I use my computer for everything - news, entertainment, social networking, etc. I have created location- and topic-specific Facebook lists to help me prioritize my time and make sure I don't miss an important post from a close friend or family member and to also keep me informed about local events and, of course, contests! I allow about 30 minutes every morning to check for updates and to do any necessary follow-up. 

Here's what I've won in the past three months (all, with one exception, directly via Facebook):

To some extent you could even call my extra work on Grimm, at least initially, as similar to winning a contest just because I discovered the opportunity while researching local events on Facebook. For that matter, the only reason I'm in the March/April 2012 issue of Beer Magazine is because they posted a request for submissions on Twitter and mine was selected to be featured.

The way I see it, that 30 minutes I spend every day scanning Facebook & Twitter is my way of coming to the crossroads where opportunity and preparation meet. I don't attribute my good fortune to luck but to creativity, hard work and dedication. So be on the lookout for a cute gal on a new bike, sipping a Signs of Life cocktail, wearing nothing but leopard print pajamas, with a box of pizza & a growlette of beer in her basket!

Sunday, April 8, 2012

Volunteer for Beer!

This weekend we attended our first beer festival since moving to Portland. When we were here in 2010, we enjoyed participating in several festivals and even volunteered at one of them, Cheers to Belgian Beers. Based on that experience, we decided to get our OLCC (alcohol servers) and food handlers licenses this year so we are fully eligible to serve adult beverages and food, not only at festivals, but in all Oregon bars and restaurants.
post-volunteer beers at the 2010 Cheers to Belgian Beers
The Spring Beer and Wine Fest is an annual event which raises money for charity. This year's fundraiser was for the Muscular Dystrophy Association. The festival takes place over two days and features many Oregon breweries, wineries, cideries and distilleries as well as cheeses, chocolate, and other local food & services vendors. Since we had volunteered to work the closing shift (7:30-11 pm) on the final night of the festival, we decided to go on opening day to use the eight free tokens we each received for our services.
The Convention Center is just 2.5 miles from our apartment but there is no direct way to get there via public transportation (it requires either 1 bus + light rail or 2 buses) for a cost of $2.10 per person and about 45 minutes of transit time each way. We recently signed up for free membership in a new local car-sharing program, car2go, where you pay by the minute ($0.35) and there is no penalty for ending the rental in a different location (in the Portland metro area) than where you started it. Since we each received 30 promotional minutes when we joined, we decided this was an excellent opportunity to try out the program.
We only had to walk a few blocks to the nearest car and then simply used our membership card to start the rental. It took 13 minutes to drive to the convention center and find free parking (you can park a car2go vehicle in metered spaces without paying as long as they're designated one hour or more). Thus the total cost of the rental would have been $4.55 but was free with our bonus minutes. Compared to the $4.20 bus fare for two people plus much greater overall travel time, this was a win-win!
We ended up spending over three hours sampling as much of the delicious food & drink as we could manage. A 3 oz sample of beer "cost" one token so we had a total of eight samples each but also got a lot of extras because some of our friends were participating as vendors and introduced us to their friends who then generously offered us free samples of their products. I particularly want to mention Cindy Anderson who publishes the fantastic Portland Happy Hour Guidebook and the Oregon Wine Country Guidebook. It was also great to catch up with Bertony Faustin, a tasting room supervisor at SakeOne in Forest Grove, whom we met in 2010 when we went there for a tour and tasting. Bertony is also a partner in Abbey Creek Vineyard. And we had fun chatting and posing for photos with Don Bourassa, the community director for Portland Yelp.

after sampling these items at the festival, we just HAD to buy them!
After all of that drinking we needed to eat some heavier food. Greg and I had previously wagered on this year's NCAA basketball tournament. If his bracket did better than mine, he would "win" the right to use a free coupon for 12 wings at Buffalo Wild Wings at Lloyd Center that we received in the mail. If I won, I would get a 22 oz bottle of Rogue Voodoo Doughnut Maple Bacon Ale. Since I picked Duke to go all the way and they were eliminated in the first round, my odds of winning were pretty low. Thus we ended up using Greg's coupon to eat dinner at BW3 on Friday night!
Since the car2go experience was so easy, we opted to drive one home and then ended up using the same car, which we had parked on the street in front of our apartment, to get back to the convention center to work our shift on Saturday. We checked in at 7 pm to collect our volunteer t-shirts and attend a mandatory briefing, then went to our assigned stations. I served beer for Goodlife Brewing and Greg served beer for Shock Top and Belgium Beers (Stella Artois, Leffe, Hoegaarden).
The 3.5 hour shift flew by! I was lucky in that the owners of the brewery, which is located in Bend, OR, were present almost the entire time and thus could chat with anyone who had more detailed questions about the beer or their business. They also had informational placards about both beers (Descender IPA and 29'er India Brown Ale) we were serving which were very helpful. Best of all, their beer is fantastic so no one ever walked away disappointed. In fact, many people said they were the best beers at the festival! The owners also generously gave me a Goodlife t-shirt as well as a 22 oz bottle of their Mountain Rescue Pale Ale. Plus they introduced me to the producer of Bottless which specializes in custom printed reusable/refillable bottles for the craft beer industry. Thus I also got a free growlette (a 32 oz amber glass growler).
At the end of the night, we all filled our serving pitchers full of whatever beer we had remaining then gathered in the volunteer room to partake. Most of us brought a total of two pitchers per person so there was more than enough beer to go around! The volunteer coordinators had indicated we might get some free food as well, but, as it turned out, the pickings were pretty slim. The food came in waves (first some chicken and grilled sausages, followed by a couple of pizzas, then 10 minutes later some meat on skewers...). As there was never enough for everyone, people learned to make a mad dash for the serving tables as soon as they saw someone coming into the room with food. This video I shot doesn't do the scene justice, but gives you a little idea of the craziness!
We had to clear out by midnight and, since there was still a lot of beer left, I filled up my growlette from the pitcher of Leffe that Greg had brought from his booth. I think we did quite well for a few hours of "work"! It's a good thing that we enjoyed the experience because we are already confirmed volunteers for Cheers to Belgian Beers, the North American Organic Brewers Festival, Portland International Beerfest, and Oregon Brewers Festival! And, yes, we will also receive tokens good for free beer at those festivals. :)

Here's a list of the beers we sampled:
Calapooia Brewing - Chili Beer
Collaborator - Steel Bridge Porter
Eel River Brewing - Organic Porter
Falling Sky Brewery - Pouring Porter
Fire Mountain Brewery - Steam Fire Stout
Flyers Brewery - Pacemaker Porter
Gilgamesh Brewing - Vader
Goodlife Brewing - Descender IPA & 29'er India Brown Ale
Harvester Brewing - Gluten Free Pale Ale
Pelican Brewing - Kiwanda Cream Ale
Portland U-Brew - Last Unicorn IPA
Rusty Truck Brewing - Taft Draft Toffee Porter
Seven Brides Brewing - Becky's Black Cat Porter
Widmer Brothers Brewing - W'12

Here are some of the wines we sampled:
Barefoot Bubbly Moscato Spumante, Pinot Grigio
Tesoaria Bella Bianca, Mistral, Sangiovese
Zerba Cellars Malbec

And some of the food we sampled:
A and S Jerky
Brazi Bites Cheese Bread
Cosmo Corn
Crazy Good Snacks
Cypress Grove Chevre
Duker's Dills
Exotic Chocolates
Fatdog Mustard and Pretzels