34th Annual Craft Brewers Conference Touts UnityAndrew Montgomery
More than 13,000 industry professionals recently descended on Washington, D.C. to make the 34th annual Craft Brewers Conference (CBC) the largest of its kind. The gathering brought together 900 exhibitors and 440 companies, some of which offered cutting edge beer supplies in the nation’s capital.
While any large beer get-together always means a good time and a place for brewers to discover a new hops supplier, the CBC took the time to honor the achievements of several of its best. The Brewers Association Recognition Award was presented to Vinnie and Natalie Cilurzo of Russian River Brewing. The Russell Schehrer Award for Innovation went to Will Meyers, Cambridge Brewing’s brewmaster. Matthew McLaughlin of the Mississippi Brewers Guild earned the F.X. Matt Defense of the Industry Award.
In many ways, the CBC gathering is about understanding the place of micro, independent and home brewers in the marketplace and world at large. The non-profit organization brought in keynote speakers to help industry professionals and beer enthusiasts reflect on their roles.
Keynote speaker Alison Levine compared craft brewing to climbing the highest peak. The craft world understands all too well the challenge it faced and continues to experience against macro brewers for market equality.
The highly-respected Dick Cantwell shared his thinking about unity in the craft beer community. Unlike macro companies, craft people are stronger when they work collectively. While knowledge is certainly power, beer lovers reveled in this year’s CBC Symposium Beer. Attendees enjoyed a Belgium pale ale called Family Tree. The beverage drew from influences of five brewers in the D.C. area: nothing highlights a beer gathering like a good cold one.
Anytime you trek to a craft beer fest of any sort, there will be important and interesting offshoot events. This year, Dogfish Head Craft Brewery hosted a traditional round of informative Brew Talks alongside the conference that included the likes of Dogfish founder Sam Calagione, Firestone Walker’s David Walker, and Rhinegeist Brewing’s Bryant Goulding for a Tuesday panel discussion.
The threesome explored the evolution of craft beer, insider business development and the importance of balancing the deeply personal mission of craft beer while being cognizant of the importance of a strong financial foundation. Basically, how does a beer lover and brewer hold on to their soul in the face of capitalism.
An early talk featured Dogfish’s Todd Bollig, Left Hand’s Chris Lennert and Brian Murphy from the Massachusetts Beverage Alliance. The mini group covered topics such as direct-to-consumer and taproom sales and legal reform to protect beer distributors, among others.
Craft brewing has grown by leaps and bounds over the last 20 years and Brewers Association conferences spur confidence, camaraderie and direction. The excitement of these conferences undoubtedly motivates home and startup brewers that will require a good hops supplier and beer supplies from local companies like Hop Havoc.