Apr 21, 2008 - The Craft Brewers Conference, which concluded Saturday in San Diego was, well, just plain awesome in all ways.
I've been to a few of these things. Like all but a couple. Over the years there has been an ebb and flow in the craft beer industry, and the CBC tends to reflect the mood and spirit of the industry at that particular moment.
This year can be summed up in a few words; upbeat, family, maturity and a whole lotta new-industry-hopefuls.
When Charlie Papazian did his annual "raise your hand if you are wanting to open a brewery" tally at the opening session, there were more hands in the air since the crazy heydays of the late 90's. For better or worse, we are now in a new era of a flood of people wanting to get into the industry. The big difference this time around? There are limiting factors, primarily a somewhat important ingredient called hops. I walked the trade floor with a few of these people who were attending in hopes of opening a brewery soon, and at just about every conversation they were told "you can't do it this year unless you have all your hops secretly stashed in your garage." This may be the 'not healthy to have too many new breweries opening up at once' gods intentionally installing a limiting factor on this ground swell of new enthusiasm.
Meanwhile, the family bond that is so unique to this industry was a strong as it has ever been. This was showcased in a rather stunning way with the construction of a 150 tap cold box smack dap in the center of the sprawling hotel grounds. The Tiki Pavilion soon prompted a well used phrase "see you at Tiki Time," which referred to the rather massive and friendly social that commenced at 10:00 each night at this temporary tap house.
With approximately 2600 attendees gathering, this was the largest CBC in quite some time. The rooms during the talks were full, but perfectly so; none were overflowing. The conference was, in my opinion, as good as it gets.
Next year's CBC will be held in Boston.