The Craft Brewers Conference blew into San Francisco this year and took the town by storm. The Craft Brewers Conference (CBC), is the preeminent conference for packaging breweries, as well as brewpubs and is sponsored by the Brewers Association, which is made up of more than 1,000 US brewery members. This years CBC saw more than 3,900 industry attendees and 53 seminars, and shaped up to be quite a week for members of the craft brewing industry. The conference also featured BrewExpo America, a trade show that features vendors from all over the world showcasing the latest products and services available to the brewing industry.
Day one of the conference really began the night before with the welcoming ceremonies which were held at the California Academy of Science in Golden Gate Park. Sponsored by Briess Malt and Hopunion, it featured beers poured by Moylans, Beach Chalet, Russian River. It was an amazing night and a great way to ease everyone into the task at hand: establish life long business relationships that would allow growth with America’s beer culture and expose brewers big and small to industry best practices.
Keynote Speakers for this years conference were Sierra Nevada founder and pioneer Ken Grossman and Fritz Maytag, former owner of Anchor Brewing and often thought of as the father of craft brewing in the United States. Grossman and Maytag sat in lounge chairs sharing a beer together, while regaling the audience with tales of their beginnings. Rather than just giving the usual stand at the podium speech, they engaged in a conversation with each other that was as educational as anything you could ever watch.
Over the course of the 3 days, attendees, who included brewers, brewery owners, distributors , wholesalers and media, were treated to seminars covering a wide variety categories, such as: Technical Brewing, Government Affairs, Brewpubs, Productions Breweries, Export Development and Brewery Start-Ups. The seminars themselves covered topics such as: Yeast, Increasing Brewhouse Efficiency for Small Brewers, Getting Your Brewpub Open, The Versatility of American Hops, How to Raise Equity: From Start-Up to Regional Brewer and How to Protect and Advance Small Brewer Interests in State Legislature. I truly enjoyed the seminar on yeast, as well as listening to craft beer pioneer and San Antonio resident, Jack McAulliff, talk about his days opening New Albion Brewing in Sonoma, California. That mans desire was Un-paralleled in his day. It is truly a pleasure to be in the same homebrew organization with him here in San Antonio.
The seminars were great, no doubt and a lot was learned by all, however no price could be placed on the benefits gained from just meeting with Brewers and owners from around the United States. There was plenty of time between seminars, in the morning and at days end to socialize. It really showed that despite the occasional dispute, an example being Sam Adams suite against San Tan Brewing over glass design, this is a tight nit community that looks out for each other and is interested in helping when they can. From an observational stand point, it was great to see brewers asking each other questions about how they do things and showing genuine respect for each other. We are all in this together was the feeling.
Surrounding the seminars were many off-site events around town that were sponsored by various breweries. I attended events for Deschutes at Toronado San Francisco and City Beer Store, as well as a Lagunitas event at the historic Filmore and a Stone event at the Public House by the AT&T Center where the San Francisco Giants swing their bats.
Needless to say, a lot was learned, friendships made and the craft beer cause furthered in San Francisco. Times are tough with the economy, and micro-breweries/brewpubs closing each year. What is encouraging is that more are opening than closing, a total of 152 in 2010, bringing the total of micro-breweries/brewpubs to 1,716 ! Although the market share has not changed, craft beers sales are up and sales of the big guys are down, with 2011 looking even more promising. Cheers!