It’s been one week since the Brewers Association’s annual Craft Brewer’s Conference (CBC) and I am just recovering. I’m sure there is a study on the benefits of craft beer consumption in moderation, but alas, that was not my approach. It is the craft brewing industry’s biggest show, and cooler than any other beverage alcohol conference I have ever attended.
The cool factor of the CBC wasn’t just from the endless beer stations and surrounding events with rotating craft beers from around the country and world (although it certainly didn’t hurt); it was the intense energy and excitement buzzing through the Washington, D.C. Convention Center, held in our Nation’s capital for the first time.
What struck me most about this conference, and the industry for that matter, was the sincere camaraderie between breweries, both large and small. Maybe it’s the social nature of the craft brewing community, maybe it’s a bond over beards, but this is a group that takes the “rising tide lifts all boats” aphorism to heart. Unlike many other beverage industries, craft brewers are collegial, in the best sense of the word. One would think a tiny craft brewer with local distribution would resent a larger craft brewery with national reach encroaching into their region; or a large craft brewer wouldn’t find inspiration from a micro-craft brewer. Luckily, that is not typically the case.
From the highly successful trail blazers available around the country (think Sierra Nevada and New Belgium) to the creative and quirky “crusaders who stand tall and never eat sh*t” (love me some Flying Dog) to newer kids on the block from farther afield (check out the UK’s Beavertown, co-owned by Logan Plant, son of the legendary rock god, Robert Plant, and Canada’s Du Ciel, who recently brewed a collaborative and spice-filled IPA with Dogfish Head), this is a uniquely supportive brotherhood that offers support both up and down the ladder. Thanks to groups like the Pink Boots Society, it’s also a supportive sisterhood, opening up good beer to all.
Camaraderie and the endless pursuit of quality were the main themes of this year’s CBC, reiterated by the Brewers Association director and keynote speaker, Paul Gatza during his “State of the Craft Brewing Industry” report last week. And why not? Given the wildfire growth of the industry, it seems there is plenty to toast.
Stay tuned for a special Booze Bin Craft Beer series over the next few months, featuring discussions with the many spirited characters responsible for communicating the ethos of their respective breweries. In the meantime, seek out these tasty brews on your next beer run:
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