Wednesday, May 10, 2017

Craft Brewers Conference 2017: Recap

With the Craft Brewers Conference (CBC) back in DC for 2017 I was asked to sign copies of American Sour Beers as I have at Great American Beer Festivals and Homebrew Cons before. All of these events are under the umbrella of the Brewers Association which also houses my publisher, Brewers Publications. That was only good enough for a day pass to the expo, so I applied for and received my first media pass for the full experience!

CBC is a bigger, more expensive version of NHC. Rather than homebrewers from around the country, there are thousands of professional brewers. With those larger brewery budgets come more vendors, sponsors, and events.

Drinking beer at Smithsonian Natural HistoryWelcome Reception at Smithsonian Institution

The last time I was drinking beer in a museum it was seven years ago at the Lambic Summit at Penn Museum. Drinking (mostly) solid local beer is the crowded Smithsonian Natural History Museum didn’t quite measure up. Although I had fun chatting with Brewmaster Alexis Briol from St. Feuillien (a technician as he described himself) and a many other people I ran into! We should have headed over earlier to the Smithsonian American History Museum which was much mellower, and had a better selection of beers.


In a move that would be nice for NHC, seminars started a bit later in the day. While there were a few technical topics that piqued my interest (e.g., A Practical Perspective on Foraged and Agriculturally Based Beers, and How Dry Hopping Affects IBUs and Bitterness) most were on the less glamorous areas of safety, regulations, and business (e.g., Contract Details for Purchasing Equipment in the Brewing Industry, China Market Overview: Export Opportunities & Trademark Issues, Arming Reps for Success in Today’s Beer Market). The National Homebrewers Conference tends to be far more about brewing itself, CBC more about topics specific to craft brewing (surprise!). I can always download and listen to the seminars later if something becomes more relevant. The State of the Industry is available on the Brewer's Association website.

Book signing at CBCSigning Books

Always nice to sit next to John Palmer while signing books! Excited for the new edition of How to Brew as well! I answered a few questions for John about sour beers over the last year, humbling to have input on the fourth edition when I learned to brew from the third! Also fun to talk to Brian Burke who is opening Burke Brewery in Massachusetts (a family name and location, not sure if any relation - but hopefully enough for a free pint once they're open anyway).

BrewExpo America

The Expo was out of control. Two gigantic halls, hundreds of vendors, many with bottling lines, brew houses, and other equipment set up. However, photos were not allowed so nothing I can show here.

I did stop by the Sahm booth when I saw a copy of American Sour Beers up next to the Sensorik, the same style as on the cover. I signed their copy and took a business card... a few weeks later a box of glasses showed up that you'll be seeing photos of in tasting posts.

The most fun part of the whole thing was bumping into people I knew at the Expo and around town. Jeff from Bootleg Biology, Jeramy and Greg from Commonwealth, Blane from Sinistral, Matt from Modern Times, Adrian from Ocelot, and Garrett from Old Trade.

CBC-Week Events

So many brewers were in town every beer bar in DC had about nine events that week. I moderated a talk between Walt Dickinson from ABInBevWickedWeed and Nathan Zeender at the Right Proper brewpub. The bar was mobbed and acoustics weren’t great, but getting to ask those two about their views on house cultures, fruit, and growth was fun even if I was the only one who could hear their answers. Not surprising that Wicked Weed sold out given the massive scale they are expanding sour production, including contracting fruit like most breweries contract hops.

Stan and Scott talking hops.After that event I walked next door to Howard Theater for the Here We Grow featuring a band and beers brewed by 3 Floyds, Creature Comforts, Beechwood and other with the new Yakima Chief Cryo Hops lupulin powder (LupuLN2) and debittered leaf... promising stuff! I took home some samples of Citra and Mosaic to brew my next IPA with.  I also had the fun of introducing two of the biggest hop-nerds I know, Stan Hieronymus and Scott Janish.

The next day I was planning to stop by the Right Proper Brookland production location to chat with Fonta Flora, Scratch, and Jester King on my way to the conference. I left six hours later after trying a range of wonderful foraged beers with commentary from some of the best brewers in the country… never made it to the convention center.

Beer festival at 3 StarsI went back to work Thursday but that night I walked down the street to 3 Stars Brewing for an event that featured beers from Other Half, J Wakefield, Aslin, and a few others. Enjoyed getting to try a bunch of South African hops in Other Half’s Other Southern especially. The only beer I’d had with them before had actual passion fruit in addition to Southern Passion hops, not exactly a showcase for the hops. Was nice to try a few J. Wakefield beers and actual meet John after emailing back and forth a few times over the years.

Is CBC Worth $1650 for a Homebrewer?

No, but then that’s like asking if buying a 30 bbl brewhouse is a sensible idea for your hobby. I got much more out of it than I would have a few years ago, but that was because I kept bumping into industry folks! Not sure I'll make it to Nashville for 2018, but you never know!

The best beer I had all week.


Unknown said...

Glad to see the 3 Star tap room so full! They were very welcoming when I spent my summer in DC

Unknown said...

Did you hear any talk at the CBC regarding the availability of those S African hops? Hate jumping on the Chicken Little train, but...

Unknown said...

Are you planning on attending or speaking in Minneapolis next month at Homebrew Con?

The Mad Fermentationist (Mike) said...

The South African hop announcement came after the conference. AB can do what they want with the hops they grow, but it certainly undermines my interest in buying beers from their allied breweries. You can always buy them from AB-owned Northern Brewer for $2-5/oz.

Skipping Homebrew Con this year, just not enough vacation days to make it to every event I want to!