There was more than one reason to travel to Charleston, S.C. on August 21st. There was, of course, the chance to be in the path of totality for the Great American Eclipse, but keep in mind, “totality” can mean a few different things—especially when Ashley Christensen, a local James Beard Award winning chef, Sean Lilly Wilson, a Durham beer legend, and Gary Crunkleton, the master of spirits and cocktails from Chapel Hill are there, too.
These folks, along with an intrepid food and beverage app developer, some not-so-surly bartenders, and one would-be writer went for BevCon 2017.
BevCon, an industry-only gathering in its second year, featured classes and seminars led by legendary drink slingers, beverage historians, and masters of wine. Topics ranged from new and innovative cocktail techniques to bookkeeping for bartenders. There was even a class on how to get published, taught by James Beard award-winning author Brad Thomas Parsons.
Some of our local food and beverage heroes shared their knowledge, too. Crunkleton of The Crunkleton in Chapel Hill, Wilson of Fullsteam Brewery in Durham, and hometown favorite Christensen all spoke about their respective areas of expertise. To listen to them, you might say, was to be in the path of totality.
Before and after their events, each instructor from the Triangle sat in other seminars and classes, soaking up even just a bit of knowledge from their peers. David Wondrick, the pre-eminent cocktail nerd—and I mean that in the greatest way possible— taught my class in the morning and then sat behind me in the afternoon. Maybe that puts totality in a different perspective.
Some, like one would-be writer who moonlights as a bar owner, might wonder why some of these folks are teaching these classes, much less sitting in on others on a beautiful summer day in Charleston. Is there really much more out there when you own an enormously successful business, have been written about nationally, and have won countless awards in the region and beyond?
It comes back to totality, I guess. Totality, in a non-eclipse sense, means the whole of something or the quality or state of being total. Most who participated in BevCon were chasing totality whether they arrived in time to see the eclipse or not.
The awards don’t start piling up by sitting back and relaxing. Some people chase a little more and a little bit more until it adds up to—well, I’m not going to say it anymore.
BevCon, which will be returning to Charleston next summer, had an impressive cadre of participants and attendees. Our beloved Triangle had a more than respectable showing in both categories. If you would like to attend next year, keep in mind, it’s for industry only. If you are in the beverage industry, even on the periphery, I recommend you pay your price of admission, and spend a few fun and informative days in one of the South’s best cities.
There may not be an eclipse next year, but we can all still chase totality. Oops. I said it again.