Extracting Inspiration at Engine Yard’s Distill


“Trapped on an island” for two full days, attendees experienced a developer conference like no Distill beakersother. Distill took place at the Winery SF on Treasure Island in San Francisco. Yes, you read that correctly, a winery. Reinventing Events completely transformed the venue into a conference space with a main stage placed amongst barrels of wine, breakout rooms, reliable wifi, an all-day coffee bar, lounge area complete with charging stations, and a parking lot-turned-park packed with picnic tables and lawn games. Attendees arrived in shuttles from a hotel in the heart of the city and gave attendees no reason to leave the island.

Distill speakerContent is key and Distill nailed it. Best practices like application architecture and user experience, to testing and security were discussed. A universal geek-out spread amongst attendees when Nolan Bushnell, founder of Atari and Chuck E. Cheese’s, and his son, Brent Bushnell, CEO of Two Bit Circus, kicked off the morning with their first dual keynote. They shared anecdotes about growing up in a creative family of eight children who were always encouraged to make and build stuff. Challenging the audience to create stimulating environments at home and in the office, Nolan and Brent also talked about their other family practices that helped shaped them into successful professionals.

Distill JengaFor lunch, attendees got to refresh outside on the ‘lawn.’ Everyone was encouraged to buddy up with five or six people, old and new friends, and grab a picnic crate! Each crate had food for six and was a great opportunity to get social over lunch. In addition, attendees could challenge each other to outdoor games that included giant chess, Jenga, dominos, bocci ball, and cornhole. The gorgeous view overlooking the San Francisco skyline was the best part!

Distill breakout

The first day of the conference ended with eight lightning talks from attendees who signed up earlier during the day. They had less than a couple hours to put together their talks and present to the audience. We were blown away by how wonderful, entertaining, and thoughtful all of the talks were. That’s what you get when you attend Distill.

We celebrated the first day of Distill at the Moonshine Kickoff Party in one of San Francisco’s historic buildings, the Old Mint. Rebecca Jean Catering was inspired by the venue and theme to recreate a space for guests to get a little taste of Moonshine with a modern twist. Attendees enjoyed speciality drinks such as the Blue Relic and Aqua Fortis served in mason jars with wood drink stirrers. If you ventured into the dark corner of the vault, you were surprised with a candy bar with a sweet array of treats. The outdoor courtyard provided guests with a refreshing break that included an open photo booth with custom props, including large horse heads, lab coats and a plethora of glasses. Indoors, folks enjoyed plush leather lounge furniture inside and a front row seat to Rebecca Jean Catering’s unique food and displays such as the Thai green curry popcorn.

Distill coffee test tubesAttendees grabbed a much-needed cup of coffee and griddle breakfast sandwiches, as day two of Distill with Michael Lopp waking us up with an inspiring morning presentation on Stables and Volatiles. Michael, always thinking about the mindset of the developer community, gave us all a meaningful way to think about our lives, what we do, and the implications.

Extracting inspiration was not only for Distill attendees. The hand-picked sponsors also aligned with the theme whether that was a custom stamped Field Notes notebooks, the sponsored Ritual coffee bar or Smitten’s afternoon ice cream break. The little details enhanced the overall experience and included colorful breakers in the lounge area, grass charging stations, wood etched name badges and Distill branded lawn games like Jenga and cornhole.

Distill swagEnding the conference with happy hour, Distill asked attendees to create their own fireside chats while sipping on Winery SF Rose, Chardonnay, and Pinot Noir, as well as an array of beer. It was an intimate way to say goodbye to a rewarding two-days of sharing, learning, and inspiring each other.

Want to see more, check out this Distill recap video from the eyes of the Engine Yard Panda.


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One Response to “Extracting Inspiration at Engine Yard’s Distill”

  1. Why is Fall Prime Time for Conference Season? » Reinventing Events

    […] for event planning as our team is usually working on multiple conferences. We recently produced Distill, hosted by Engine Yard, on Treasure Island in August and are currently working on production for New Relic’s […]


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