Craft Brewers Conference Recap

It was an exciting and tiring few days at the Craft Brewers Conference. I kept busy talking with other brewers and vendors, as well as drinking some amazing beers all day long. I managed to behave myself, and was able to wake up in time for the 8:15 seminars.

Speaking of seminars, all of the ones I went to were worthwhile and I’m glad I made the trip. Dr. Michael Lewis touched on how to deal with multiple batches going into one fermenter, and brought up many issues I wouldn’t have thought about myself until it’s too late. The talk was primarily on yeast pitching practices and the effect of stratification of wort during fermentation. I spoke to him after the talk on the effects of 1 or 2 batches in the 3 batch-size fermenter (17 to 34 bbl in a 60 bbl tank). He didn’t think the differences in tank geometry would have a significant effect on ester development, but he cautioned me about oxidation with such a large headspace.

The non-traditional ingredients panel was a good discussion of the different and exotic sugars that are suitable for brewing, as well as many interesting herbs and spices. Speaking with Randy Mosher in person was a great opportunity also.

The media training and branding panel gave me a lot of good information on how to sell my beers. These were probably the most helpful seminars in telling me what I didn’t already know.

Another great seminar was Total Oxidative Exposure and Increased Flavor Stability. New Belgium uses a lot of interesting methods to increase shelf life, and while I won’t have the sophisticated equipment to mirror what they do, I can take a few tips away.

I went to the Brewers Association members meeting, which is held once a year at the CBC. The primary issue at the meeting was the definition of “craft brewer” according to the BA’s standards. This was a heated conversation among the 300 or so members present. I won’t repeat the details, but many brewers are not pleased with the definition that the Board of Directors came up with.

Part of the conference is BrewExpo America, which is a trade show where vendors set up and demonstrate their products. This gave me the opportunity to pay for my brewhouse, talk with brewers and different vendors, and try a lot of great beers. During each day there were 20-25 different beers being served.

Being far away in Texas doesn’t feel so far away when there are many familiar faces. I enjoyed talking with Lee Chase (consultant to The Bruery), Noah Regnery (Pizza Port San Clemente), Jeff Bagby (Pizza Port Carlsbad), Greg Peters (Pizza Port Solana Beach), Tomme Arthur (Port Brewing / Lost Abbey), Gina and Vince Marsaglia (Pizza Port / Port Brewing / Lost Abbey), Mitch Steele (Stone Brewing), Greg Koch (Stone Brewing), Dave Keene (Toronado), Don Barkley (Mendocino Brewing), Vinnie and Natalie Cilurzo (Russian River), Mike White (White Labs), Chris Graham (More Beer Pro), Karl Wichmann (More Beer Pro), Justin Crossley (Brewing Network) and many others I’m failing to mention. Might as well have been at a festival in San Diego or San Francisco! I did have the chance to talk with many other not so familiar faces, especially guys from New Belgium, Ommegang, Surly Brewing, Buckbean Brewing, Unibroue and Wyeast. All were generous in sharing tips with me.

I brought my toothbrush, underwear, deodorant, and everything else that I needed besides my camera. Sorry, no pictures!

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