Sunday, April 15, 2012

What I Learned At ADI 2012

As with a lot of my coverage, I could give you a play by play of exactly what went down at ADI. I could...but I won't. First off, it's kinda boring (to me at least). Lew Bryson did a far better job of it for John Hansell's "What Does John Know" blog than I could so I'll give him that credit. He deserves it. Instead, I think I'll do what I did for my IPCPR Coverage back in 2010. This is simply "What I Learned At ADI".

Lesson #1:

 The craft distilling community is a unique one and it is at an interesting position. For the longest time, it seems as if the craft distilling movement was a "shoot from the hip" kind of thing. You tried things; they worked or they didn't. You tried again and again until you got something right: easily produced, aged, and the customer wanted it. But what I'm seeing now is a turning point. As you may know from reading my last post, I did a presentation on Small Barrel Realities, which is the chemical changes behind maturation in small barrels. If you want to check it out, the link to the slides is here. The sheer amount of interest in the article (I mean, LEW BRYSON covered it) means that we've hit a point in which many craft distillers are turning away from trial and error but rather towards a systematic, scientific approach. Based on the amount of people that mobbed me at the stage after the talk, while walking around the conference for the few hours after, and those that approached me even while I was out at the bars (I'm talking about you, bearded dude at the Seelbach), it seems like the craft guys are really hungry to get their hands dirty with the nitty gritty molecular stuff of what they're doing. And I think that's fabulous. I feel that, in order to expand and grow, you need to take a fresh look at what you're doing from a different angle. And if that angle is science, then I'm glad to help.

Lesson #2:

The craft distilling community is a unique one for a different reason. First off, the diversity of backgrounds of distillers, malsters, mashers, and every position under the sun is incredible. People that gave up solid jobs to heed the calling of a higher (more booze sodden) power. People that fell into the job with no prior experience. Homebrewers, economics graduates; they run the gamut. But the really cool thing?

They're all pretty damn nice.

They are encouraging, helpful, and insightful. Some of the questions asked of me were borderline dumbfounding in the best of ways. The bearded guy at the Seelbach asked a question that I could base my PhD on (not telling you). They're willing to share: knowledge, expertise, and new products. They are warm, friendly, and, remarkably, pretty sober for people that work in this industry. It triggers an awe-inspiring feeling, actually. While walking into the Brown Hotel bar for the first time, being mobbed by others in my profession...I found an odd sense of peace and acceptance. They were my people, and I theirs. A fascinating feeling to have that left me pretty giddy. If I had any doubt I was in the wrong profession, four days at the ADI conference erased that.

Lesson #3:

The gods above gave us two ears and one mouth. Some say that they want us to listen twice as much as you talk. Even though I gave a 25 minute, continuous talk...I'm pretty sure I listened six times as much as I talked. At a convention like this, you keep your ears and mind open. You learn things. You're given experiences. Don't take that for granted. Shut up and listen, you WILL learn something. Usually many somethings if you're in the right place at the right time.

Lesson #4:

I don't honestly think I say this enough: have I ever mentioned how lucky I am to work at Tuthilltown? I'm really lucky to work at Tuthilltown. REALLY. LUCKY. The fact that they flew me out there, paid for me to stay there, paid me to talk, and then flew me back astounds me. The fact that they put so much faith in my minute knowledge astounds me even more. After being an engineering student where, pretty much, you're taught you're not worth much until you've got 10 years experience in the's a crazy feeling to have someone trust and value your input and output from the get-go. How I fell into a job at Tuthilltown I'll never known...but I'm pretty stunned I did.

Lesson #5:

Be ever ready to drink. Ever. Ready. And don't forget water.