The Bar Towel is proud to present our annual preview of the Craft Brewers Conference (CBC), taking place from March 26th to 29th in Washington, DC. Part One of our preview covered our picks for some of the beer bars and cultural highlights to see in the city, and Part Two covers our picks for the conference seminars.
The Craft Brewers Conference seminar lineup, along with the industry trade show, forms the heart of the conference. The seminars cover a diverse array of lectures, presentations, pitches, panels and discussions covering a huge range of topics. Depending on what you do in the industry there will be something for you – topics include Brewery Operations, Brewpubs, Export Development, Government Affairs, Packaging Breweries, Quality, Selling, Start-ups, Sustainability and Technical Brewing.
It’s impossible not to come away from the conference seminars with something new, something inspiring or something to get you thinking about the beer industry. But with so much information over just three days, there’s a lot of overlap and you need to pick and choose accordingly to get the most out of the seminar schedule. So without further adieu, we present our picks for the seminars at the CBC that we feel can’t miss.
You’ll never want to miss the keynote, as it officially kicks off the conference and has all kinds of great information, including a recap of the last year and a look ahead. This year the keynote is being delivered by Kim Jordan, CEO of New Belgium in Colorado, making this her second keynote (she also did it 10 years ago).
Russian River has been a best-in-class brewery for many years now, so whenever you can hear from Vinnie Cilurzo you should. Both he and Tom Nielsen of Sierra Nevada will be giving this talk about dry hopping.
B.C. gets a spot to highlight themselves as an export market (as they did a couple of years ago), with a talk from Kim Giesbrecht of the BCLDB. Will be interesting to see how U.S. brewers react, considering B.C. seems to be an easier market for them to enter into (versus Ontario), and there’s a lot more now than a couple of years ago.
This panel discusses Mystery Brewing, an operating brewery started through Kickstarter funding. In light of KBC’s “community investment” model, will be interesting to see how Mystery used a new way of getting financing for themselves.
Often there’s scuttle about the U.S. craft beer scene being a bit overcrowded – and that theme is coming to life at this talk, presumably to help budding entrepreneurs really think about joining the brewing scene.
A landscape architect is giving this seminar about making a brewery visit compelling for tourists. Many US breweries have become legitimate destinations, and this is only starting to happen in Canada. Will be interesting to get some best practices to help our brewers do unique things at their locations.
Allies or Competitors
This panel promises to discuss if and how breweries should work together to promote craft beer when they compete in close geographic proximity. With more and more breweries in Ontario this would be quite relevant for our brewers. One of the panelists is the ever-entertaining Greg Koch of Stone.
Mitch Steele of Stone, a definite authority on the subject of IPA, discusses IPAs over the past 250 years. A style that’s not going away and perhaps Mitch will be able to provide some interesting new (old) ways of looking at it.
We’ve got a lot of contract and nano breweries starting up in Ontario, and this panel discusses this issue with representatives from 21st Amendment, Schmaltz and Terrapin as they have evolved into larger brewers themselves.
There’s so many more seminars to attend – it’s really up to you to decide what you most want to get out of it. But the key is to learn, take it in, meet some new people and share about your experiences as a brewer to those from around the world.
And please tell us about your CBC experience! Follow us @bartowel and let us know if you’re doing at the CBC this year. It would be great to meet up with some Canadians for a few great beers down in DC. Looking forward to seeing everyone there!