Craft Brewers Conference: It’s Not Just A Party

April 15th, 2010 · 2 Comments · Beer Travels

Garrett Oliver of Brooklyn with Vinnie Cilurzo of Russian River. Click on the photo to see my full set of CBC pictures.

As a beer writer, attending my first-ever Craft Brewers Conference last week in Chicago was a learning opportunity, a chance to meet an array of industry members, and a way to be closer to the industry itself. For those not familiar, the CBC truly is a trade show and industry conference just like any other. The only difference is that this one revolves around beer and is a hell of a lot more fun. Brewers and industry members from all over the world converged on Chicago for the opportunity to attend some of the 47 seminars concentrating on topics like social media and other marketing topics, pairing beer with food, technical brewing issues, and much more. Most of the sessions I attended were quite interesting, and the Brewers Association did a great job of putting together relevant topics. BrewExpo America was also held during two of the days and consisted of various industry-related vendors manning booths on two floors of the venue. This Expo is an unparalleled opportunity to have all of these resources for breweries and restaurants together in one place. While I myself was a bit intimidated when walking the Expo floor and occasionally being approached by someone selling something such as a bottling line, it is a very useful event for businesses looking for new vendors (or meeting existing ones) for many facets of their business, from hop vendors, to label makers, to brewing equipment and more.

Greg Koch of Stone

Two of the themes that seemed to recur throughout the conference were the use of social media for marketing and the increased competition brought about by the continued growth of the industry and the astounding variety of beer brands available to consumers today. Most readers of this blog probably aren’t surprised to hear that social media was one of the hot topics. Sites like Facebook and Twitter are free tools to help grow businesses, and the craft beer industry has been ahead of the adoption curve. Just head to your local bottle shop and you can see the thoughts behind the second theme first-hand. With seasonals, specialty releases, new local breweries, and newly distributed breweries from out of state, how can all of the businesses remain competitive?

Here is video of Vinnie Cilurzo of Russian River discussing the demand for Pliny the Younger and how a bar owner in Philly who didn’t get his Pliny set off the recent bar raids there.

This is a video of Vinnie talking about a brewing mishap that took some serious time and effort to fix.

I also attended a seminar titled, “Getting Ink: How to Tell Your Story to the Media.”, which sounded like it might be of interest to me. I should have read the details of the seminar a bit closer, as this was entirely focused on how to get your stories to the national media, the Wall Street Journal and Men’s Journal in particular, and I had assumed it would cover much more than that. I do hope it was helpful to the attendees, but it just seem to me (yes, I do have a unique personal point of view here) that a session focusing on how to use local media to your advantage would have been much more useful to the majority of attendees. This one read like a panel on how to get on the short list of the two panelists (from the publications listed above). It’s hard enough to get the local media to pay attention that it seems like a stretch to focus on national media, unless you are the likes of Stone, or other similarly large craft brewers.

Overall, attending the conference was a great experience and I’ll likely make next year in San Francisco my second year of attendance. I’m guessing more Washington brewers will manage to make the trip for that one as well.

A writeup of some of the bars, brewpubs, and events that I managed to hit will follow shortly. Then, I’ll stop babbling about all of this CBC stuff and get back to regularly scheduled programming. You can click on any of the photos here to see my full set of CBC pics.

Vinnie Cilurzo of Russian River, Joe Short of Shorts, and Sam Calagione of Dogfish Head

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