BevCon 2017

Wayne Curtis is telling me, and everyone within earshot, why the Sazerac is “the best cocktail ever invented.” In this moment, one of the last events of BevCon Charleston 2017, I pause to reflect on the previous four days. So many enjoyable seminars:

  • Gary Crunkleton’s excellent session discussing the good, bad and ugly of running a bar
  • David Wondrich talking immigrant influences in drinking culture
  • crunching beverage consumption statistics
  • Privateer Rum‘s Maggie Campbell covering wine/spirit overlaps
  • Duane Sylvestre‘s fascinating history of black bartenders
  • Miles Macquarrie discussing inventive modern bartending techniques
  • Robert Simonson‘s photo history of the current cocktail renaissance
  • The hugely entertaining slacker drinking (gotta love day drinking!)

But for as entertaining and informative as BevCon’s seminar were I most enjoyed the time spent talking and drinking with so many talented people who willing share their knowledge and creativity. Chatting over a cocktail, sharing an opinion, discussing triumphs and failures, laughing over a good meal, listening to a bad joke, even sharing a moment of sorrow. It was in this collective shared experience I found inspiration. 

BevCon is a big, little event. Of the thousand or so who attend are a mix of vendors, presenters, creators, producers, retailers, writers, publicists, bartenders, wholesalers, etc.  who come together to speak and learn about the beverages we consume. Unlike New Orleans’ massive beverage event which occurred a month earlier, BevCon has the casual feel of old friends reuniting after a year of life’s hassles. It’s the kind of event where you More than once I heard someone say how nice it is to see the same people knowing that see someone in passing one day and know you will be able to catch up with them tomorrow. That often is not the case when people are wandering around NOLA’s French Quarter during Tales.

During the week, I tried a number of terrific gins including a new favorite, Sutler’s Gin from Winston-Salem, NC. It was good to see more rums represented this year including Brugal 1888, Smith & Cross Jamaican, The Scarlet Ibis from Trinidad, the hot new release Doctor Bird Jamaica, and the entire range of Plantation rums (5 Year, 20th Anniversary, Stiggins Fancy, OFTD, etc.)

Big thanks to Scott Blackwell, owner of High Wire Distilling, for sharing a sample of his excellent, small batch 2016 South Carolina Agricole. He harvested a variety of nearby sugarcane fields for the 2016 production run and he has two fields planted for 2017’s holiday release. Something to look forward to.

In it’s first two year, BevCon has proven to be an excellent conference bringing together a wide variety of small-to-medium sized craft beverage producers. The speaker lineup’s and bar takeovers have been spot on. I look forward to future years of this new Southern gem.

Sad Note: BevCon attendees were stunned to silence by the tragic shooting death of Shane Whiddon, Executive Chef at Virginia’s On King, which occurred only a few blocks away from the conference. Our hearts and prayers go out to Shane’s family and all who were effected by this sad event.


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