The CBC Experience from a First-timer

The Craft Brewer’s Conference is a painstakingly organized, industry-focused, multi-day event that covers the gamut of the beer industry. New brewery owners, master brewers, long-time idols, industry supporters, and those looking to grow all have a place. Whether you make beer, write about beer, taste beer, make the systems that make better beer, or are part of the science that makes beer possible, CBC has your people.With ever increasing attendance numbers and a expo floor expanding like a midsection, the conference can be an intimidating, daunting and nearly overwhelming three days. Here is a bit of takeaway from my first go at the CBC (and some hints for making it awesome if you attend in the future).

Choose your ancillary activities wisely.

Along with CBC comes a cornucopia of ancillary activities like beer tastings and tapings, special events at nearby breweries and restaurants, concerts, anniversary parties, tours, interview opportunities, and book signings. With a full time conference schedule these extra perks can get to be too much. At some point too many things to do makes it all less enjoyable, unless you are the energizer bunny.We did a tour in the Virginia Countryside (read about it!) that was spectacular. It was an opportunity we would never have had otherwise, exclusive and all-inclusive. That was a great choice. We also went to an event at Right Proper Brewing Company that highlighted farm and foraged beers from some of the speakers at the Agricultural and Foraged Beers Seminar (which was packed!). Also an excellent choice as it put amazing beers in our hands that are hard to make and harder to find.But we also had a couple of nights we went to dinner then just went back to the AirBnB to crash because that was all we could do that day. It was fine and kept everyone relatively sane.

Choose a track – or don’t

One of the amazing things about CBC is that there are tons of opportunities to learn just about anything you wanted to know about beer and brewing. Media and marketing, yeast science, water conservation, distribution, packaging and labeling, and plenty, plenty more. I did a self-guided sustainability track and went to seminars about how brewers are trying to shift their water ratios or use less chemicals during cleaning so they can re-use water, or prepare for potential draught conditions by working with their city utility ahead of time. It was fascinating and full of amazing insight, but the best part is that it wasn’t the only track available and no one is tied to anything when it comes to choosing seminars.Basically, unlike college, you get to learn whatever you want and create your own program to better yourself as a brewer and a human.

Say “No” to some of the free stuff

I love free stuff. I love pamphlets of information, stress balls that look like hop buds, plastic glassware for tastings, and reusable tote bags, but CBC expo people are generous and borderline out of control. Yes, you might need some packets of new fangled hop pellets, but do you really need another t-shirt? Okay, bad example, we all want both of those things. See, it is hard! Take it all! Ship it home!But seriously, if you go with a purpose you will walk away with information, at minimum. If you go with an empty bag you will walk away with a full one and end up with some confusion as you try unpacking it all and realize you don’t have anywhere to put any more koozies.

Plan some time on either side of CBC

The opportunity to travel to drink beer and talk to beer people is great, totally. But if you are already traveling, why not add some time on either side to take EVEN MORE advantage? This is the best thing we did and we got a lot out of it (cases and cases of Heady Topper, for one.)Take a tour, enjoy the town where you are, let the brewers and restaurants nearby show you what they are made of and inspire you!

Wear better shoes and bring a backpack

Not just good shoes. Wear better shoes then you have ever worn on your feet before. You will be glad you did. Also, all that free stuff needs somewhere to go so bring a bag you can stuff with goodies or grab one from one of the exhibitors that are handing them out.I sincerely wish I would have worn better shoes. It was rough being on my feet all day, walking everywhere (6 miles a day or more), and being out for 12+ hours a day. I am not complaining (yes, I am) because I loved the experience, overall, but shoes, people. Shoes.

State of the Industry

One of great things about going to CBC is that you get a full rundown on the state of the Industry. Read our write-up HERE. I will just say that hearing first hand what has been happening economically and hearing what trends where popping up as they are emerging, and connecting to the larger picture of craft brewing across the country, and the world, was remarkable. They crunch the numbers, you just sit back and enjoy the mark that craft beer is making. It’s a good thing.See you at CBC next year, ya’ll!