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.
- Craft Beer saw a 15% volume growth in 2012 (vs. 1% by Imported Beer and 0% by Domestic Non-Craft Beer); pricing is up 3.5%
- 409 new craft breweries opened in 2012, making a total of 2,347 with 1,253 more in planning
- Biggest growth in craft beer is on-premise, especially at the high end
- In 2012, craft beer’s share of the segment grew to 6.5% by volume from 5.7% in 2011 and to 10.2% by dollars from 9.1% in 2011
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:
- Sierra Nevada Ruthless Rye: Smooth, spicy with a touch of citrus and pine, this brew can be found rapidly disappearing from my refrigerator after my kiddo’s bedtime on any given evening.
- New Belgium Hoppy Bock Lager: Part of the newly released “Hop Kitchen” series from New Belgium, this bit of hop-inspired delight is a springtime German-style lager, crisp with a bit of sweet herbs to pair with the warmer days ahead.
- Flying Dog Snake Dog India Pale Ale: I like ‘em hoppy and Flying Dog doesn’t disappoint with this IPA. Floral with a pleasant touch of bitter lemon, try this one on your next foray into cooking with curry.
Images and statistics courtesy of:
- Houston Press
- Brewers Association
- Flying Dog Brewery
- New Belgium Brewing Co.
- Sierra Nevada Brewing Co.