Breweries in the market for a practical and affordable source of continuing education have no easy shopping trip. Brewing schools focus on the technical aspects of the brewing process, marketing seminars review case studies from other often-unrelated industries and public beer festivals concentrate on product promotion. Only the annual Craft Brewers Conference provides a broad perspective on production and sales strategy for today’s craft beer breweries and brewpubs.

Organized and presented by the Association of Brewers (AOB), the three day conference which took place from April 11 through April 13 offered forty sessions lead by industry experts. Over the last several years the AOB has streamlined the session schedules by developing separate “tracks”. One track is designed to benefit the brewpub industry and the other is geared for microbreweries. Both tracks cover a wide range of topics including brewing, production, packaging and marketing.

Held in Cleveland Ohio the 2002 Craft Brewers Conference was the best one ever. The AOB’s choice of the Renaissance Hotel for the site of the conference as well as the BrewExpo America trade show was excellent. Convenient and inexpensive mass transit shuttled conference attendees from the airport to the host hotel, centrally located at Public Square, the heart of downtown Cleveland. Within easy walking distance of the best the city has to offer the hotel is also connected to the downtown shopping mall. For those on a tight budget it was only a minute walk to the malls food court.

Thursday morning the conference opened on time and at full speed. First day management topics included managing distribution, a statistical analysis of the industry and a marketing session on “thinking outside the box” that covered ideas on cross promoting with other products and organizations. Sessions on brewing were equally informative addressing the design of draft systems, sources of wild yeast contamination, monitoring yeast performance and the latest advances in hops and barley varieties.

Over the following two days guest speakers outlined methods of treating wastewater, reducing air pick up and methods of sterile filtration. Management topics ranged from conducting promotions and festivals to a discussion on whether a brewery produce great products or great brands.

Representatives of the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms conducted one of the most beneficial sessions. The discussion provided an update on regulations and proposed changes, followed by a question and answer period. This exchange of information proved so helpful that the ATF distributed phone numbers to everyone in attendance and encouraged post conference follow up.

Reaching beyond the formal presentations, attendees were afforded additional opportunities to gather in less structured forums to explore common interests and innovative solutions to today’s craft brewing challenges. The daily schedule of events also provided ample opportunity to explore the BrewExpo America trade show, a one of a kind event featuring the very latest in brewery and brew pub supplies, products and services.

The 2003 Craft Brewers Conference is scheduled to be held in New Orleans, Louisiana. For conference dates and other information contact the Association of Brewers at www.beertown.org.

by Lisa Smith & Gregg Smith
Originally Posted August 12, 2002
Copyright 2002 North American Brewers’ Association