Craft Brewing Blast – Joining 6400 Friends at the CBC in DC

Brewers looking at Air and Space in DC at the Reception

This year’s Craft Brewers Conference was held in Washington DC March 26 – 29 – in a large convention hall – cause representatives from more than 1000 breweries and 400 vendors and tons of media showed up to cheer the seemingly endless growth of craft beer in America. The opening was on the anniversary of the late Micheal Jackson’s birthday, no less.

Considering that just 2 short years ago, the CBC in San Francisco had about 3500 attendees, the sheer number of attendeesn (6400 this year) was staggering. And the news for the US craft beer business is good indeed.

While 7 of the top 8 US mega-brands have lost share in 2012, thanks largely to craft beer 2012 was the first year of actual growth in beer consumption in the US since 2008. Craft beer now represents 6.5% of all beer purchased and over 10% of all beer dollars spent in the US, with 409 breweries and brewpubs opening in 2012 alone! The Brewers association reported that there are some 1200 breweries in planning, and with their conversion rate in mind – we could have another 500 opening breweries in 2013.

The members of the brewers association that addressed the throngs of giddy craft beer fans on the first day of the conference congratulated each one of them on staying true to their ideals, and NOT becoming a commodity or succumbing to negative or cost cutting tactics. When Sam from Dogfish got up on stage and said that craft brewing was his “tribe” you could see the pride in the faces of the others.

That said, more than previous CBC’s I’ve been to, there was much talk about how critical is was to “maintain quality” and that there was danger in investors who were just trying to get profit from the popularity of craft beer, without really caring about the quality of the beer. There was even mention of “private equity” starting to invade the industry.

Clay Robinson – the owner/brewer of “Sun King Brewery” in Indianapolis said: “My investors know they aren’t getting any money back in the first five years or so – all that is reinvested in the beer and brewery”. The keynote speaker, Kim Jordan – the co-founder and CEO of New Belgium Brewery reminded the attendees that it is their inventiveness and free spirit that drives them – and not to lose it.

In a later breakout session Greg Koch from Stone warned the crowd – “There haven’t been much in the way of headwinds in our industry in quite a while – and I am worried that we may not be a strong as we think we are when those winds do blow – and they will blow eventually”.

But, with these warning were couched in beer and friendshp -there was a lot of mutual love in the room where ever you looked, and a lot of very happy people to be in a business with such a shared passion and success – thanks to you Beer Appreciators.

More stories and insights I gained from this event later. Congratulations to you!

Lots of tap handles to pull at this year’s Craft Brewers Convention