Beer + Me = Fish Out of Water

Jane Wells and Stephan
Jane Wells and Stephan

Don't get me wrong. I enjoy beer. I especially enjoy craft beer, as long as it's not too hoppy or bitter.

But beer is not my go-to adult beverage. I'm more of a red-wine gal. So it was with curiosity, rather than rabid desire, that I covered the Craft Brewers Conference in San Diego.

Craft brewing has a pretty nice head these days, growing double digits in terms of volumes and sales while overall beer consumption has fallen. This year's conference is packed, with a record 4,500 attendees. The convention hall at the Town & Country Resort was so crowded, I feared someone might need to call the fire marshal.

Who's here?

Men. Lots and lots of men.

I saw zero men wearing ties and three sporting mohawks.

Other observations:

This is the one event I've covered where the line to the men's room is longer than the line to the women's room.

I'd say the ratio of men to women is 20:1.

One in four men has a beard.

The men do not appear to be here for the eye candy. While the women working the booths are certainly pleasant-looking, they are not plasticized models. They look normal, maybe because they actually know beer. "Here, take this," a nice woman named Carla said as she handed me a baby wipe after showing me how to rub hops in my hands to release the aromas. "You'll need it because your hands will get sticky," she said maternally.

Elsewhere on, I report on the former Wall Streeters who've traded in finance for brewing. It's a dream you see on the faces of legions of guys walking around here, guys who can't believe they can drink at 10am while walking around looking at beer after beer, all in the name of "research."

Ladies, let me explain it this way. Imagine you were told you could get a free facial, massage and mani-pedi. Yeah, that's how they feel.

It was a fascinating and educational assignment for me, one I shared with my husband over the phone. The more I described the scene, the quieter he got...until there was silence.

"You okay?" I asked.

"Yeah," he sighed. "Just wish I was there..."

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