What is the Craft Brewers Conference?
The Craft Brewers Conference is an annual event for professional brewers held at various locations around the United States and thrown by the Brewers Association. With over 10,000 attendees annually the conference facilitates a place for brewers like me to discuss brewing education, and idea sharing on how to improve our quality and diversify our offerings. Each day consists of both Seminars as well as a BrewExpo where we can meet with Hop suppliers from all over the globe, as well as brewery manufacturers, malt suppliers, and quality control specialists. Whether you’re the assistant brewer for a super local brewpub out of Minnesota, Sam Calagione the founder of Dogfish Head Brewing, or just some brand new 10 BBL Brewery out of Lakewood, we all come together to find a way to improve the experience we give to each and every beer drinker.
The Classes – What I learned
For each Class Time there were 10 Class options offered in the categories of: Brewery Operations, Brewpubs, Government Affairs, Quality, Packaging Breweries, Safety, Selling Craft Beer, Start-Ups, Sustainability, Technical Brewing, and Export Development (Not sure exporting to Norway or Sweden are on my short term plans, sorry guys). Unfortunately I can only be in one place at a time, which meant I need to keep focuses on both my job as a Brewer as well as a new Small Business Owner, and learn both the things that are interesting to me as well as the nitty gritty of management.
First Class – Marketing 101 for the Start-Up Brewery
Apparently my Business Minor in college does not make me a Marketing manager, guess I will not be trading in my Dickies and steel toed boots for a tailored suit and polished shoes anytime soon. Some of the steps they suggested to improve my Marketing are to
- Know My Market – Well if you’re reading this, you’re probably my market, and could use a beer by now.
- Press Releases – Rumors of Print Medias demise have been greatly exagerated.
- Media Advisories- Mailers, or how to send mail to your garbage cans and Email to your spam box.
- Statistics- 73.9% of all Statistics are made up on the spot, but apparently numbers sell.
- Change the Voice on our Social Media from time to time- I would be tired of hearing my voice as well.
Second Class – Training Successful Sales Reps
Notice a theme here? Taught by the Head of Sales for Firestone Walker, so at least when I become one of the 25 Largest breweries in the Country I’ll have phenomenal advice to go off of.
Third Class – Brewing Quality on a Budget: How to Use a Little to Do a Lot
So this is why I became a brewer, finally. While some of the things learned here were rehashes of years of brewing there is always a few tips that are very helpful
- Force Diacetyl Test- I have always done a diacetyl rise to make sure the ketones that cause the unpleasant buttery flavors and aromas are out of the beer are gone, but never truly tested further than taste to be sure. The suggestion was to take a sample at the end of fermentation, shake, and then heat to force the diacetyl out to be sure the diacetyl is out of the beer
- Graph everything, especially Terminal Gravities- If you find yourself re-brewing the same batch over and over its nice to understand why certain trends happen such as a raised terminal gravity which would result in a sweeter but lower alcohol beer. With enough data you could then see if the change is because of different brewers, seasonable malt changes, process changes, or just random variation.
- Set up a Lab- While we already plan on having a basic yeast lab, all it takes is a Alcohol Lamp for sterilization of an area, a pressure cooker since none of us can afford an autoclave, membrane filter using a faucet aspirator pump, and growth media and you have a sufficenctly sophisticated lab to pair with your microscope, and gram stain apparatus.
Fourth Class – The Science, Art, and Mystery of Sour Beer Production
This was by far the most popular class of the Conference, everyone loves sours, but no one truly understands them. This class was taught by both the Director of Quality for Avery Brewing as well as the Microbiology Lab Manager for New Belgium Brewing, the amount of knowledge on the subject they had to offer was nearly endless. If you fear Microbiology and Organic Chemistry, you should probably avoid this subject.
- Heterolactic vs Homolactic souring – Heterolactic has to create CO2 and Ethanol as well as Lactic Acid, Homolactic just creates lactic acid and a lot of it.
- Lactobacillus – Produces a softer lactic flavor, does not ferment maltotriose, very low alcohol and CO2 produced
- Pediococcus – Slower than lacto, much more harsh lactic flavor, cannot digest diacetyl, very temperature sensitive
- Brettanomyces – Breaks down dextrins, can be helpful when paired with pediococcus, can create some super interesting aromas like Ethyl Lactate (Pineapple aroma)
- Still a changing field with constant new experimentation to create some truly delicious and/or atrocious beer.
Just as there was no way to fully understand everything about sours in one hour seminar, there is no way to learn everything about sours in this blog, so I’d strongly suggest looking into Amazon – American Sours.
Fifth Class – Sustainable Design and Build Strategies for Craft Breweries
Well we’re not dumping radioactive waste into the drinking water, so that’s a strong start for an Ocean County industry. We’re definitely looking into a lot of what we learned in this class to help be a little bit more environmentally conscious as well as the long term cost savings in being more efficient. Plus, who wouldn’t want to wash their hands in the toilet?
Sixth Class – Crafting Your Brand
Apparently I walked into a Brewpub branding class, okay I dropped the ball on this one.
Seventh Class – Top 10 Legal Tips for Start-Up Breweries
Apparently my Google Lawyer skills have led me mostly straight. Key things I learned here were:
- Trademark everything you want to keep
- Lawyers will empty your bank accounts real fast
- Regulatory agencies are no joke
- Don’t be in need of 10 Legal Tips as a Start-Up Brewery
The Expo – Like a Brewer in a candy shop
Everyone has their “If I win the lottery I’m buying…” well, I’ll be at the Expo in the Craft Brewers conference buying every possible brewing “toy” imaginable. Whether it be a super accurate flowmeter, oak barrels, Foudres, niche hops, or brew gear, I want it. While we are currently relatively broke until we can start brewing and selling beer, we can always dream. For now we made a few contacts with hop growers so we can end up on the lists early as new experimental hops are released, including testing out a batch of Idaho 007 from Hollingbery and Son Hops. We also were finally able to meet our reps at Forgeworks, Premier Stainless, and Pro Refrigeration who have to deal with me on a mostly daily basis.
Looking to the Future
Its a bright future for Craft Brewers, especially ones opening 10 BBL Breweries in Lakewood, NJ. Based on what we’ve been told in the last few weeks we should be in the home stretch with our federal Tax and Trade Bureau limited brewery license, which hopefully means we are finalizing our New Jersey equivalent in the near future as well. We are finalizing everything with Lakewood Township so we can start building our Tasting Room and have everything piped in as well. Beer Soon?