The 2015 Monktoberfest

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As pre-conference headlines go, “astronomical tides,” “biblical rain” and “massive coastal flooding” would not be high on my list. Particularly if your conference is, like the Monktoberfest, on the coast. At a distance from it measurable in feet, in fact. The rains were so bad on the Wednesday before the Monktoberfest that it was for a brief period not clear that I would be able to make it back to Portland from Freeport where I was picking up the last of the conference supplies. According to the locals on our Monktoberfest Slack instance most of the major arteries into the city from Franklin Street to Forest Avenue had leveled up to actual rivers.

The Whole Foods in Portland, which is less than a mile from my office and the conference venue both, is on Franklin. It looked like this a bit before noon on Wednesday.

When that’s the scene a few hours before you’re supposed to host a chartered cruise to welcome your inbound attendees, things get interesting. Forecasts are consulted, phone calls are made, emails are answered and tweets are sent. The meteorologists assured us, however, that the worst was behind us and that the rain would blow through. Which, for once, is exactly what happened.

By five thirty, we were still looking at a lot of clouds but they’d quit actively dumping water on us. We were even treated to an actual sunset.

The moment the boat, biblical rains that day or no, nimbly pushed back from the dock everything was set in motion. The Monktoberfest at that point began its work, and arguably its most important function: connecting and re-connecting the people who take the time out of their schedule to be with us up here in Maine. On the boat, at dinner afterwards, and at Novare Res late that night, the kinds of conversations that people only have in person were had. Repeatedly.

At 10 AM the next day, we gathered at the Portland Public Library, as we have every year, to listen to talks, to contribute to talks with questions, and to meet each other. Over the next day and a half, we had talks on everything from building a volunteer legion and open APIs/platforms to medievalism in gaming and brewing beer with cylon.js and raspberry PIs. Being an impostor to the economics of the hop industry. Our speakers were, as always, prepared, unique and excellent. And before you ask, yes, all of the talks were filmed and will be available later.

The Monktoberfest is, as the saying goes, a labor of love. Like any other conference, it involves hundreds of hours of labor on the part of a great many people. But we love it. We hope the attendees do too, of course, and every year it is reactions like this that make it all worthwhile.

I say this every year because it’s true: it’s the people that make this event worth it. Every Monktoberfest the people who help put it on ask me about how the group we have assembled can possibly be so friendly. My answer is simple:

If I read that from someone else I’d dismiss it as hyperbole. I had a difficult time explaining that, for example, to Whit Richardson, a reporter for the Portland Press Herald, who stopped by to talk about the event with me.

But the simple fact is that it’s not hyperbole. That description is verbatim what I am told, year in and year out, by our caterers, by the people we have staffing the show, by Ryan and Leigh and by all of the people new to our event. Exactly how we end up with such a good group is a mystery to me, but I certainly appreciate it.

The Credit

I said this at the show, but it’s worth repeating: the majority of the credit for the Monktoberfest belongs elsewhere. My sincere thanks and appreciation to the following parties.

  • Our Sponsors: Without them, there is no Monktoberfest
    • HP Helion: We can’t make the investments in food, drink and venue that have come to characterize the Monktoberfest without a lot of help. We were very grateful that HP Helion stood up and made a major commitment to the conference. They’re one of the main reasons there was a Monktoberfest, and that we could deliver the kind of experience you’ve come to expect from us.
    • Red Hat: As the world’s largest pure play open source company, there are few who appreciate the power of the developer better than Red Hat. Their support as an Abbot Sponsor – the only sponsor to have been with us all five years, if I’m not mistaken – helps us make the show possible.
    • EMC{code}: The fact that we’re able to serve you everything from Damariscotta river oysters to lobster sliders is thanks to EMC{code}’s generous support.
    • Blue Box: We should first thank Poseidon that we were able to get out on the water at all, but once he cleared the weather for us Blue Box was the support we needed for our welcome cruise.
    • Apprenda: Hopefully your brilliant new Libby 16oz tulips made it home safely. When you get a chance, thank the good folks at Apprenda for them.
    • DEIS: Of all of our sponsors, none was quite so enthusiastic as the DEIS project. They sponsored coffee, breakfast, snacks and they bought you a round. Food, coffee and beer makes them one of the conference MVPs.
    • Cisco DevNet: Got some bottles while you were out and need to open them? Thank the team over at Cisco DevNet for your bar quality spinner.
    • Oracle Technology Network / Pivotal: Maybe you enjoyed the Allagash peach sour. Maybe it was the To Øl citra pale. Or the Lervig/Surly imperial black ale. Either way, these beers were brought you by the Oracle Technology Network and the team at Pivotal.
    • CircleCI: Our coffee, supplied to us by Arabica, got excellent reviews this year. Part of the reason it was there? CircleCI.
    • O’Reilly: Lastly, we’d like to thank the good folks from O’Reilly for being our media partner yet again and bringing you free books.
  • Our Speakers: Every year I have run the Monktoberfest I have been blown away by the quality of our speakers, a reflection of their abilities and the effort they put into crafting their talks. At some point you’d think I’d learn to expect it, but in the meantime I cannot thank them enough. Next to the people, the talks are the single most defining characteristic of the conference, and the quality of the people who are willing to travel to this show and speak for us is humbling.
  • Ryan and Leigh: Those of you who have been to the Monktoberfest previously have likely come to know Ryan and Leigh, but for everyone else they really are one of the best craft beer teams not just in this country, but the world. As I told them, we could not do this event without them; before I even start planning the Monktoberfest, in fact, I check to make sure they’re available. It is an honor to have them at the event, and we appreciate that they take time off from running the fantastic Of Love & Regret to be with us.
  • Lurie Palino: Lurie and her catering crew did an amazing job for us, and as she does every year, deliver on an amazing event yet again. With no small assist from her husband, who caught the lobsters, and her incredibly hard working crew at Seacoast Catering.
  • Kate: Besides having a full time (and then some) job, another part time job as our legal counsel, and – new for this year! – being pregnant, Kate did yeoman’s work once more in designing our glasses and fifth year giveaway, coordinating with our caterer, working with the venues and more and more.How she does it all is beyond me. As I like to say, the good ideas you enjoy every year come from here. I can never thank her enough.
  • Rachel: Knowing that Kate was going to be incapacitated to some degree by her pregnancy, we enlisted Rachel’s assistance to share some of the load. Little did we know that we were going to get one of the most organized and detail-oriented resources in existence. Every last detail was tracked, interaction by interaction, in GitHub, down to the number and timing of reminder phone calls made. We couldn’t have done this without Rachel.
  • The Staff: Juliane did her usual excellent job of working with sponsors ahead of the conference, and with James secured and managed our sponsors. She also had to handle all of the incoming traffic while we were all occupied with the conference. Marcia handled all of the back end logistics as she does so well. Celeste, Cameron, Kim and the rest of the team handled the chaos that is the event itself with ease. We’ve got an incredible team that worked exceptionally hard.
  • Our Brewers: The Alchemist was fantastic as always about making sure that our attendees got some of the sweet nectar that is Heady Topper, and Mike Guarracino of Allagash was a huge hit attending both our opening cruise and hosting us for a private tour on Friday afternoon after the conference ended. Oxbow Brewing, meanwhile, did a marvelous job hosting us for dinner. Thanks to all involved.

On a Sadder Note


The first year that we held the Monktoberfest – before there was such a thing as the Monktoberfest, in fact – Alex King offered to help. Some of you might know Alex from his early work as a committer on WordPress. Others from Tasks Pro. Or FeedLounge. Or the now ubiquitous Share This icon. Or Crowd Favorite. Anyway, you see where I’m going: Alex was a legitimately big deal professionally, yet still happy to help me get a small event off the ground. His team produced the t-shirt design that have been used every year of the show. His company Crowd Favorite was our first sponsor, and sponsored every year that Alex ran the company. And he attended and evangelized each and every show.

He was, in many respects, the conference’s biggest supporter.

In July, he called to tell me that for the first time he was not going to be able to make the conference – but used the opportunity to keep supporting us. On September 27th, three days before the conference he helped build began, Alex passed away after a long fight with cancer. I did my best to tell our attendees who he was and what he had accomplished, but to my discredit I could not hold it together long enough. The best I could do was call for a moment of silence.

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I’ll have more to say about Alex, but in the meantime it is my hope that everyone who wears their 2015 Monktoberfest shirts for years to come will see the crown on the sleeve and be reminded of Alex King – a man who helped ensure there was a Monktoberfest, and a man who was my friend.

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