Wow. That’s really the only way to describe our first Craft Brewers Conference.
Sponsored by the Brewer’s Association, this year’s conference was held in San Francisco. We had a view of the Golden Gate Bridge from our hotel. We rode the BART. We ate dinner one night at Zuni. We also attended a beer and chocolate event at Pier 17 and a concert at the Fillmore. Other than that, the conference could have really been anywhere in the US.
We spent most of our time in classes, in the exhibit hall or at hospitality events hanging out with other people in the industry.
First, let me tell you, the beer flowed. Craft breweries from around the nation were invited to provide kegs and cases of beer. We had the opportunity to sample beer that we would never be able to find in Missouri. For example, in one sitting Brian and I split a can of extra pale ale from Baxter Brewing in Maine and a bottle of summer Kolsch style ale from Alaskan Brewing. It’s not often you can do that in one sitting. Wednesday night’s opening reception included a “conference beer” and beers on tap from breweries around the Bay area—some of which would only be available in a brew pub setting. What a treat!
Around all that beer it sort of felt like a never ending beer festival. We got into San Francisco in time to check into our hotel and hop on a bus for California Academy of Natural Sciences museum. We were greeted by a T-Rex skeleton and an official glass. The BA gave us the run of the place that night with great beer and appetizers everywhere. It was awesome!
I exuberantly quipped to Brian, “It’s not every day you get to drink beer in a museum!” At that time Sam Calagione of Dogfish Head Craft Brewing was walking by, and he asked, “Are you going to drink tonight?” He held up his glass to clink to mine. In an effort to not miss an opportunity, we thanked Sam for his book’s influence on our decision to start making and selling craft beer in the Ozarks.
The fun didn’t stop there.
We ran into Mike, Lynda and Greg Hess from Hess Brewing in San Diego. They are operating a nano-brewery in San Diego and championing small breweries across the nation. We’ve been following them online since the middle of last year.
I attended the Pink Boots Society meeting with Michelle Kelsall of Offbeat Brewing in Cheshire, England. Michelle is a brewer that is currently on a small system, and her brewery was being upgraded to a 6 barrel system while she was in San Francisco.
The male to female ratio at the CBC was heavily skewed to the dudes (especially heavily bearded, young and skinny dudes, a.k.a. brewers). About 70 women in brewing came together for the aforementioned Pink Boots Society Meeting for a couple of hours on Friday. At the meeting were the women who founded with their husbands Pizza Port in Carlsbad, Maui Brewing in Hawaii and O’Dell Brewing in Fort Collins, and there were women like me who are newly involved in the brewing industry.
Brian and I spent some time talking to some of our “local” craft brewers—Marshall Brewing in Tulsa; COOP Ale Works in Oklahoma City and Mother’s Brewing in Springfield.
"Musical" painter dancing and painting to the music at the Fillmore.
The exhibit hall was packed with vendors of everything from chillers to hops (and lots more beer to sample). We met some of the vendors we’ve been working with, and we met some that we will work with down the road. We honed in on the canning line we intend to use. We brought home a stack of information to wade through.
We attended classes on marketing, hops, law, sanitation and more. Missouri’s own Dan Kopman of Schlafly and John MacDonald of Boulevard were honored by the BA for contributions in the industry. Ken Grossman of Sierra Brewing and Fritz Maytag of Anchor Steam Brewing opened the conference on Thursday morning with a sit down session sharing from their hearts about how and why they are in the brewing industry and what the industry was like when they started out. As they ended their talk, special 30th anniversary beers were handed out to each row in the audience. Corks were popped off the bottles throughout the room, and at about 10:30 in the morning on Thursday, 3,900 people in the brewing industry shared a toast. That’s pretty much the way things roll when you’re in brewing.
Chocolate beer event at TCHO Factory.
We learned a lot. We met a lot of people, had great conversation and shared our stories. We’re already planning to attend next year’s CBC. And most importantly, we’re excited to be back in Bucyrus where we will crank up the machines to brew some more great beer to share with our friends and neighbors.