Last week 11,500 brewers and brewery-related industry professionals descended on Portland, OR for the Craft Brewers Conference (CBC). Kendall and I were first-timers at the CBC this year, and while it was everything we expected in terms of amazing beer events, it was also a whole lot more:
It’s a traditional conference with a huge variety of seminars, for example everything from creating a third place with your brewery (which we attended), to the latest techniques in dry-hopping, which completely filled a 700-capacity room. Brewing technique, brewery management, business practices, marketing, distribution – the seminars had it covered.
Beer and Brewing Equipment Heaven
The CBC is also a huge brewery-related trade show, with over 600 exhibitors on the convention center floor, more stainless steel than I’ve ever seen in a single room. Like for many industries, brewers come here to shop for new equipment, often getting trade show floor specials. We saw the Black Raven crew on a brew deck from Premier Stainless (the company that manufactured their system), then we bumped into Robert and Piper, owners of Propolis Brewing, who were checking on JV Northwest, the company who is manufacturing their new system set for delivery this August. And we know from social media that Don Webb of Naked City picked up a shiny new keg washing system.
A Music Fest or a Beer Convention?
Some evening events were ticketed and open parties for CBC badge holders only, and many revolved around live music. Supersuckers, Kyle Hollingsworth of String Cheese Incident and Mudhoney were just three of the acts playing at local venues for the CBC. And then there was the party with Sam Calagione of Dogfish Head rapping as the opening act for Tone Loc. (No, really. That happened.)
Even more evening events were open to the general public and many included special beers created for and/or brought in for the conference. One outstanding example: Friday night, Apex hosted a Dwarf Hop Specialty Brew night. We sampled a lineup of beers featuring Azacca Hops from breweries like Founders, 3 Floyds and Phillips. We landed at Belmont Station for two different events, one a special night celebrating Belgian influences on American craft beer (and vice versa); the other a Barley Brown’s tap takeover with no less than 19 of their beers on tap.
Portland is also home to a lot of beer-related industry like Metalcraft, a stainless steel tank fabricator located just north of Downtown, who played host to several events. We met up with local brewers for a special night of live music with 17 beers on tap served up by the Washington Beer Commission.
The conference also offered an opportunity for national and international beer organizations to meet. Kendall attended the annual meeting of the North American Guild of Beer Writers, to discuss exciting stuff like establishing an ethics code for beer journalism. I joined 150 women of beer (including women from our own Pike Brewing, Fremont Brewing and Boundary Bay Brewing), for the Pink Boots Society annual meeting.
Next year, the CBC is in Philly in conjunction with the World Beer Cup, which is best described as a big beer fest. Someday maybe Seattle will be lucky enough to play host to the CBC again, as it did about 10 years ago. It was like Seattle Beer Week times ten, with every bar, and venue packed beyond capacity for four long blurry days. In other words, Portland really was Beervana last week.