Sunday, May 5, 2024

Why the Craft Brewers Conference is So Rewarding


By Owen Ogletree
Last April's Craft Brewers Conference (CBC) & Brew Expo America took place in fabulous Las Vegas. The event brings together craft brewers from around the world. When strolling through the conference and exhibitor halls, one can sense the enthusiasm and eagerness among the attending brewers. Unlike many other business models, craft brewers love to share, collaborate and build each other up. With each presentation, panel and social network gathering, the CBC promotes and encourages these qualities with deep earnestness and veracity. Diversity and inclusion also form a vital focus at the conference.  
Organized by Colorado's Brewers Association, the CBC offers educational programs and allows international and domestic brewers to come together to share ideas, make contacts, problem-solve and discover new solutions and resources—usually over a beer. CBC also forms the culmination of several blind judging sessions of the annual World Beer Cup that awards medals to the best world-class global beers in several categories. Judges in each category were given beer samples identified only by an anonymous number, and judge teams sniffed, tasted, discussed and decided on the top entries.
This year's World Beer Cup boasted 9,300 entries from 2,060 breweries in 50 countries. 290 beer judges from 37 different countries judged the beers according to strict style guidelines in 110 beer style categories, and medal winners were announced at an impressive and boisterous awards ceremony taking place at the conclusion of the CBC. 
Winners celebrate at the World Beer Cup Awards Ceremony
Being from Georgia, I wanted to mention our four medal winners from the Peach State:
- Bronze went to Tie XII from Monday Night Brewing Garage in the Wood- and Barrel-Aged Strong Stout category.
- Gold was awarded to The Virtue of Patience from Bold Monk Brewing in the Fruited Wood- and Barrel-Aged Sour Beer group.
- Bronze went to Hazy West Coast IPA by SweetWater/Green Flash in the Juicy/Hazy Pale Ale category.
- Bronze was presented to Bartow Brown from Drowned Valley Brewing Company in the American-Style Brown Ale category.
2024's most entered style categories in the World Beer Cup:
1.    Category 109, Juicy or Hazy India Pale Ale: 326 entries
2.    Category 110, West-Coast Style India Pale Ale: 281 entries
3.    Category 40, German-Style Pilsener: 221 entries
4.    Category 108, American-Style India Pale Ale: 213 entries
5.    Category 29, Wood & Barrel-Aged Strong Stout: 198 entries
As an attending media representative at CBC, I was honored to attend the welcome reception, stroll through the expansive hall of exhibitors and chat about the current state of the craft brewing industry. I also enjoyed sipping beers in various hospitality suites and sitting in on informative seminars such as:
- Exploring Hop Picking Windows and Their Impact on Aroma and Flavor
- Exploring the Boundaries of Innovation: Biotechnology and Brewing Ingredients
- The Flavor of Your Taproom: How the Drinking Atmosphere Shifts the Taste and Memory of Beer
- Getting Your Guests into Your Taproom and Keeping Them There.
- Beyond Cell Counts: Off-Flavor Sensory for Aspiring Yeast Whisperers
Owen Ogletree chats with BJCP Grand Master Beer Judge Sandy Cockerham at Silver Stamp Pub
Of course, all the visiting CBC brewers enjoyed evenings of sipping brews around the best taprooms, bars and breweries in Las Vegas. Many facilities offered special celebrations, beer tastings, rare beer tappings, and opportunities to network. Among my favorite beer spots in Vegas were Atomic Liquors, Hop Nuts Brewing, CraftHaus Brewery, Nevada Beer Works, Able Baker Brewing and the extraordinary Silver Stamp pub. Silver Stamp is only around three years old but was built to make customers feel like they'd entered a neighborhood dive bar from the 1960s. However, this Vegas "dive bar" offers the best international beer selection in the city. Of course, no beer trip to Vegas would be complete without a visit to the city's amazingly accurate and enjoyable recreation of Munich's HofbrÀuhaus.
Want to learn more about the intricate details of craft beer? Are you thinking of starting a brewery or amping up your current brewing business? Please plan to join me at the Brewers Association's 2025 Craft Brewers Conference & BrewExpo America, which will be held from April 28 to May 1 in Indianapolis, Indiana.
CBC/World Beer Cup photos courtesy of Brewers Association.