The Craft Brewers Conference was held in April in Denver this year. Each year this conference happens on the heels of my busy season and I’m caught up finishing the books for my clients and have time for little else. But now I’m back in the saddle and have a few things to share from the conference.
- CBC is primarily a conference for start-up breweries, with an exhibit floor.
People will always attend CBC. It is the one time of year where everyone in the industry goes to network and see the latest equipment. However, there is very little educational content at the conference for an established brewer. When mentioning this to the Brewer’s Association, they say that start-ups (and pre start-ups) are a large percentage of the attendees. So naturally it makes sense that a lot of the educational sessions are geared toward new breweries. I find it ironic however, that in the state of the industry, there was talk of saturation . . .
- Craft Ingredients are taking the exhibit floor by storm.
In retrospect, we shouldn’t be surprised. If consumers care about how the product is made, it is only natural that they (and we) will want to know where the ingredients come from. I was struck by the variety of craft maltsters and hops growers exhibited this year. I am a natural malt lover, so I was thrilled to see that there is a craft malting association. I asked if it were possible to take tours, and they told me YES. You better believe that I will be looking at their website whenever I travel.
I knew that hops grew all over. Now I’m seeing a lot of small hop growers in many parts of the country start to sell their wares. When I was getting into the business, I was told that it was cost prohibitive for anyone outside of the Yakima valley to grow hops. They had two problems: a virus that is prevalent in may parts of the country, and the cost to efficiently pelletize the harvest. People are finding solutions to these problems and we are seeing hop production all throughout the country. Keep an eye on this space:
- Canning vendors had the floor to themselves
Bottling lines used to be on full display at CBC. Now all I saw was cans and canning lines. I’m in awe as to how quickly the industry moved from bottles to cans. Yes, cans are lighter, cheaper and easier to stack, but it wasn’t that long ago that bottles and cans shared the store shelves.
- Vendor lounges outside the exhibit floor were very inviting
These lounges have been part of CBC for a few years now, but this year, they went to a whole new level. It was certainly a nice place to sit and recharge your body and your phone. There were full-on displays at some of the booths. It was tempting to skip the exhibit floor and just relax in the lounges. It was much easier to have a conversation while sitting down sipping a beer.
- Podcasting came to the exhibit floor this year
Maybe it was because I did my first podcast on the exhibit floor, but It seems like someone in every row had earphones on and was speaking to a microphone with a screen in front of it. It makes sense, the industry was in one place, so it was a great time to record a podcast. But in the middle of the exhibit floor? It is a brave new world.