Tuesday, June 29, 2010

Traveling overseas this summer? Don't forget travel insurance

Traveling overseas this summer? Don't forget travel insurance
Story and photos by Christopher J. Davies

We travel a lot for business and on journalistic assignments. While most of these trips are "fam trips" or familiarity trips, that are funded by tourism associations and governments, we always take out travel insurance for personal protection. Most people are not aware that their domestic health insurance is not accepted by international doctors and hospitals.

Our good friend, radio broadcaster Pierre Wolfe always takes out travel insurance before going on an international trip. Several years ago he and his wife Jean were strolling through Paris and Pierre suddenly tripped and fell on Jean, breaking her ankle. "You never know when something like this can happen". Fortunate for Jean, she was able to receive medical attention at the hospital and resume her trim, albeit on crutches. She returned home to Denver and recovered fully.

Some of the travel we take has slightly increased risks, like cycling in the Loire Valley, hot air ballooning in South Australia or extreme travel through the fjords of Patagonia. So for a peace of mind, we always take out travel insurance, just in case. The cost is reasonable, because most people never file a claim. Our cost for a typical ten day trip is under $300.

Travel insurance packages usually include other benefits like coverage for trip cancellation, trip interruption, trip delay, medical expenses, baggage loss and more. This came in very hand this April when my wife and I visited Italy to cover the VinItaly trade show, Italy's colossal wine convention.

Our trip to Italy was ambitious, we were planning to start in Verona to cover the Vinitaly show, then travel south for the purposes of researching stories about Italian food, cuisine and luxury travel. We visited the lovely lakeside town of Peschiera del Garda, tourist crammed, historic Florence, Lucca, which is famous for its intact Renaissance-era city walls and for producing the best olive oil in Tuscany, Montalcino the Tuscan hill town most famous for Brunello di Montalcino wine, Perugia the notable artistic center of Umbria and Rome the capital of Italy, the city of lost empires and the gateway to god.

My memories of this trip have all of the experiences and joy of being one of our trips of a lifetime until the last 48 hours before we were supposed to board our flight back to the US. It was Thursday April 15th. We had just arrived at our final hotel of the trip, The Hotel dei Consoli, located in a quiet neighborhood only 4 blocks from the walls of the Vatican. http://www.hoteldeiconsoli.com/

When we arrived at our hotel by cab, the desk manager came out and assisted us with our luggage. When we entered the lobby, I noticed that it was dark. The manager told us that there was a power outage in the neighborhood. And since our room was located on the third floor and the elevator did not work, we left our bags at the desk and decided to find a restaurant for lunch.

When we returned 90 minutes later the hotel lobby was bright and illuminated. The desk manager greeted us with a grin on his face. "Your luggage is in your room. Did you hear about the Volcano eruption?"

Over the next two days we watched the story of the Icelandic Volcano unfold on TV into one of the world's biggest airline catastrophe's of all time. First all the flights in and over the UK were cancelled. Then Germany and France. It did not take long for the whole of Europe to be grounded.

We were stranded in Italy! Our friends still laugh about our predicament. They all say that they wish they were "stranded" in Italy.

Our trip was extended an additional 7 days longer than the original planned 13 days. Total trip length in Italy was 20 days. The cost of the extra days was $2,900. Fortunately for us we had travel insurance. Our policy's trip interruption feature covered us for a maximum of $300 per day (hotel and meals). It also covered us for the theft of our brand new Garmin GPS unit, which mysteriously found it's way out of my wife's luggage.

So while no policy offers 100% coverage, we were elated to receive a refund check from Travel Guard insurance reimbursing us for two thirds of our additional expenses incurred in Italy. To say that we are now big believers in travel insurance would be an understatement. Who could have imagined that a natural disaster like a volcano erupting in Iceland could affect so many people in Europe, so quickly?

The fantastic memories of this trip will be forever with me. But I can't erase my memories of the tens of thousands of stranded people that we saw at the Rome train station and at the Frankfurt Airport.

Protect yourself!



Travel Guard

Insure My Trip


CSA Travel Insurance

Saturday, June 5, 2010

Anatomy of a Beer Competition

Anatomy of a Beer Competition

Story and Photos by Christopher J. Davies

We have been running professional wine competitions since 2004. Our annual Denver International Wine Competition has grown to become one of the nation's well respected double-blind wine competitions with a rapidly growing amount of entries received every year. www.denverwinecomp.com

Over the past several years Darcy and I have become friends with Keith Villa, the Brewmaster at Blue Moon Brewing a division of Miller/Coors. Keith is an interesting guy who also likes to make his own wine every year!

I was excited to learn that gourmet food and beer pairings are just starting to become popular in the US. I am talking about the typical beer and a hotdog at Yankee Stadium. I mean premium craft beers and gourmet food.

It should not be hard to do you think? After all, the Germans have been pairing brews with their cuisine for centuries. Want an nice beer and food pair? Visit the Hofbräuhaus in Munich and try Two original Munich veal sausages with a Münchner Weisse. Yummy! www.hofbraeuhaus.de

August 6-8, 2010
14th Berlin Beer Festival
The International Berlin Beer Festival attracts around a million visitors to the Karl Marx Allee. Every year at the first weekend in August more than 240 breweries from 80 countries present 1,800 different brands of beer. www.bierfestival-berlin.de

Denver International Beer Competition

Our goal this year was to recreate our popular chef contest "The Taste Of Elegance" replacing award winning wines with award winning craft beers! After consulting with fellow journalist and beer expert Dan Rabin, I was surprised to learn that there were as many as 70 different styles of beer nowadays. After careful review Dan was able to provide us with a food friendly list of 24 beer styles.

We launched the Denver International Beer Competition in March. The double-blind competition was held on May 1, 2010 at the Omni Interlocken Resort. Eighteen certified beer judges and 7 beer stewards participated. www.denverbeercomp.com

I learned a lot during this judging. Beer competitions are more precise and by the book than wine competitions, primarily because beer can contain a lot more ingredients than fermented grape juice. In contrast wine is subjective and 6 different judges may have different opinions about what they are tasting.

The beer judges awarded 33 medals that day including three best of show.


Best of Show
Gold Samuel Adams Imperial Stout, Boston Beer Co.
Silver Full Sail IPA, Full Sail Brewing
Bronze Samuel Adams Stony Brook Red, Boston Beer Co.

Category 1: Lagers
Gold Mama’s Little Yellow Pils, Oskar Blues Brewery
Silver Saranac Adirondack Lager, F.X. Matt Brewing Co.
Bronze Samuel Adams Octoberfest, Boston Beer Co.

Category 2: Amber Ales/Hybrids
Gold Samuel Adams Irish Red, Boston Beer Co.
Silver Red Mountain Ale, Silverton Brewing Co.
Bronze Samuel Adams Boston Ale, Boston Beer Co.

Category 3: Dark Ales
Gold Strom Bomb Stout, Wind River Brewing Co.
Silver Black Butte Porter, Deschutes Brewery
Bronze Bear Ass Brown, Silverton Brewing Co.

Category 4: Pale Ales
Gold Fuller’s London Pride, Fuller Smith & Turner P.L.C.
Silver 5 Barrel Pale Ale, Odell Brewing Co.
Bronze DPA, Great Divide Brewing Co.

Category 5: IPAs/Double IPAs
Gold Full Sail IPA, Full Sail Brewing
Silver Odell IPA, Odell Brewing Co.
Bronze Gordon, Oskar Blues Brewery

Category 6: Strong Ales/Lagers
Gold Russian Imperial Stout, Boston Beer Co.
Silver Old Chub, Oskar Blues Brewery
Bronze Samuel Adams Doppelbock, Boston Beer Co.

Category 7: Wheat Beers
Gold Samuel Adams Imperial White Ale, Boston Beer Co.
Silver Don De Dieu, Unibroue
Bronze Blanche De Chambly, Unibroue

Category 8: Belgian-style Ales
Gold Samuel Adams Stony Brook Red, Boston Beer Co.
Silver Trois Pistoles, Unibroue
Bronze Samuel Adams New World Tripel, Boston Beer Co.

Category 9: Fruit Beers
Gold Samuel Adams Coastal Wheat, Boston Beer Co.
Silver Samuel Adams Cherry Wheat, Boston Beer Co.
Bronze Ephemere, Unibroue

Category 10: Spiced and Specialty Beers
Gold Samuel Adams Utopias ’09, Boston Beer Co.
Silver Samuel Adams Chocolate Bock, Boston Beer Co.
Bronze Samuel Adams Honey Porter, Boston Beer Co.

Many of these winners including Samuel Adams Utopias(54% Alcohol/$150 per bottle) will be showcased in the Taste of Elegance Chefs Competition on June 9, 2010 at the Omni Interlocken Resort, Broomfield. Tickets and details are available at www.denverbeercomp.com