For me, 31C3 was all about the workshops. I reasoned that these were the things I could not catch up via youtube and would be the most engaging. It was a good call.
I attended the obligatory lock picking workshop and spent most of the time moaning about the hit-and-miss nature of the art with chatty strangers. I didn't actually unlock anything, but joined in the merriment when the chap next to me did. He admitted he had resorted to mashing it by that point also, and that blind luck was what opened the thing. Whilst I was poor student, the teaching guys really knew their stuff so I brought a small pick set and follow-up guide booklet in gratitude. I'll learn the german language at some point so I can read it.
Next, I has earlier learnt that a fellow 57north hacker had pledged some money to some food hacking group and had cooked up some sweet sounding lamb in their prep area. I tagged along to found a full-on kitchen with shelves of food and tables of people cooking and tasting.
The kitchen residents, The Food Hacking base (FHB) are a bunch of hackers from all over the world who share the love of experimenting with food and beverages. They have a very inclusive mindset and openly invited anyone interested in the sport to take part - I found myself taking part alot over the event. The idea is that those interested pledge money before hand, but being late to the party I donated at every visit instead. We know time follows skewed tangents at events like 31C3, and concepts like days and schedules collapse. Accordingly, I am a little fuzzy about the order of the happenings:
Random people brought in bottles from their own locales (Me too, but I left my bottle at the apartment grrr). I learnt that I prefer smokey whiskeys to peaty - awesome to know. Simulates that comforting experience of smelling the Friday-night bonfire on a shitty work Monday, via that scent-impregnated scarf.
Cheese and beer tasting
Same as with the Whiskey tasting, a wide range of donor beers and cheeses that FHB people arranged into plated groups. In terms of taste revelations, the nameless Lavender cheese was quite cheeky, with a very soggy german brie'ish blob (sorry no name either) found to be plate-lickingly gut.
Of particular pleasure was the Makgeolli, a rich runny-yogurt-like beer native to Korea, fermented using nuruk, a dry a wide clod of many microbes. I learnt that the resulting microbial orgy creates a great deal of CO2 and when opening the bottle, the entire contents generally ejects out in your face. Double bowls are needed to prevent messy disappointments on bottle opening.
I missed this but honourable mention to the black pudding sushi served with a whiskey chaser. Most creative.
A guy was working on recipes to make insects (meal worms in this case) more palatable by grinding them up into power and using in cookies. Tasted like cookies to me, so bravo. I was inspired to take the opposite route with a fresh hunk of pork cut from a large hung leg (used as a sign for the FHB until time came to eat it). When dipped moist in to dried meal warms, it tasted like a crispy ham nugget but yea, looked like something an Ork would serve at his we-conqured-the-shire dinner party.
Local and homebrew tasting
Lots home-brew with people explaining their creations around the table. Ranging from nettle wine, ciders of different ages, prison hooch (served complete with zipbag, straw and bucket) and working-mens beers. I really wish I had taken some notes, as it happened I got progressively jolly and make friends instead. Good call.
The people: the real magic at the FHB
Those running the space give a HUGE amount of their time to the group and I for one really appreciated their efforts. People can just rock up and help, which I did where I could. Certianly I encourage anyone in the vicinity of a FHB event to offer their help - you will have a great time! After experiencing the cheese tasting, some of use stayed to prep the next session with the remaining cheeses. After, I found the whiskey I'd forgotten earlier. As others found their stashes, we had a follow-up evening of fine sampling with bread, meat, cheese and spirits. I think it was here decided I wanted to make some Viking (i.e. wild) mead, and I got a lot of roaring drunken advice about it (which seemed topic appropriate).
Certainly I shall be pledging ahead for CCC camp and if the above sounds fun, I recommend you do also.