WOW!! – CBC is Unlike Ever Before

As a veteran of all but two Craft Brewers Conferences, I would say the 29th annual CBC held in San Diego was unlike any before.

For starters, it was the largest CBC ever with about 4500 in attendance. Unlike the previous two CBC’s held at the Town & Country Hotel in San Diego, this was not an intimate gathering. Every guest room and every meeting room was booked for the conference. We owned the place.

But most stunning of all was the feel and vibe of the overall conference. Imperial excitement and optimism. I remember some pretty ‘heady’ conferences in the last hey-day, most notably Seattle in ’97. But there was a number of significant differences this year. I didn’t see the “suits” that we saw in the late 90’s from those who wanted to start a brewery because of dollars. This year, most of those who were “start-ups” were nanos. The main fuel of excitement this year was the fact that just about every brewery attending has a big ‘problem’ — trying to figure out how to manage double-digit growth and meet demand.

You might think this sounds ripe for a shake-out, but that’s not what most in the industry (including myself) believe. Unlike the late 90’s, we have a sophisticated retail and distribution tier that understands craft. We have a broadening of the demographics of craft consumer. We have 10-12 points of market share of high-end to grow into (to match the high-end market share that wine/spirits enjoy). We have almost universal high quality products and we have an economy likely to begin a slow expansion. Those are just a few of the reasons for optimism.

In my opinion, both the BA and the hotel staff stepped up to the plate in supporting the influx of attendees. More seminar tracks, more speakers, more food, more tables and sitting areas outside the conference hall, plenty of seats on the seminars, plenty of beer at the Tiki Pavilion; more fun.

Chime in with your thoughts…

Comments

  1. Pompeiisneaks says

    I had a great time, and it was great to meet you too! Yes it was pretty exciting. This was my first time, and I really enjoyed it. Coming from IT, I’ve been to a lot of conferences, quite a few bigger than this one, but none seemed to have this feel. Thanks to the BA for such a great conference. By the way Tom, Congrats again on your award!

  2. Mills says

    This was my first CBC too. It was awesome from top to bottom, the BA really rocked it. There was a good variety of topic for talks and they were well done. I would like to see a social media session however. Being that most of us operate on very small marketing budgets, it would be great to have some real top notch social media people showing the rest of us how to capitalize on this free and expanding media.

    Mills

  3. dfalken says

    My take from it was that the craft brewing industry is in the midst of a huge bubble. Yes there are very good excuses for the expansion but then again every bubble needs a good excuse to cling on to. Many will succeed but probably many more will not. NASDAQ, housing, now brewing? Sorry to be a naysayer but I did recognize those 2 other bubbles before they burst and this one is easy to spot as well. 🙁

  4. YSBrewer says

    dfalken wrote: My take from it was that the craft brewing industry is in the midst of a huge bubble. Yes there are very good excuses for the expansion but then again every bubble needs a good excuse to cling on to. Many will succeed but probably many more will not. NASDAQ, housing, now brewing? Sorry to be a naysayer but I did recognize those 2 other bubbles before they burst and this one is easy to spot as well. 🙁

    I prefer recovery over bubble – so we’ve got a ways to go before the recovery is complete! 😀

  5. BubbaBeerBacon says

    Thank you all for your time and visit at the show…always good to put a face on a voice or email.

    My biggest surprise this year was probably the amount of foreign breweries at the show…many brewers from Australia, Eastern Europe, Asia, Mexico…and obviously Canada . Looking forward to next year.

  6. Rosie says

    My first time at the CBC and was pretty much blown away by it. Worth at least 10 times the time and money required to get there. A great shot in the arm compared to the crap conferences that they have over here…Well done BA.

    Cheers,
    Jeff

  7. Fullcourt says

    As a former brewpub owner I attended a Portland Conference and the one in San Francisco where we were treated to Ninkasi beer in large bottles with straws. There might have been 500 attendees there. I was shocked when this CBC sold out weeks before the event.
    The professional approach of all of the exhibitors was noticeable. They realize that there is an ongoing economic benefit to keep a presence with Craft brewers.
    It took me about 10 minutes looking at the walk-in at the Tiki Lounge to realize that it had been built just for the CBC, with 140 taps!
    This is no bubble, the young beer drinker is not going to go back to light American lagers.

  8. Mike Elliott says

    While I enjoyed my first CBC overall, one thing that really concerned me was the abundance of one-time use kegs, both plastic and metal, that were being pushed. I understand the difficulties in getting kegs back from yonder village, but one thing I love about this industry is the multiple-use aspect of kegs, pint glasses and growlers.

    Anybody use these disposables on a regular basis? Are they saving you money?

    The speakers were great, the food was good, and the beer was VERY strong. Can we have the next one in Milwaukee? 🙂

  9. barleywhiner says

    This was my 4th and best CBC. I went to 4 different seminars that were absolutely indispensable. The two by the guys at New Glarus were astoundingly inspiring. The succession planning round table was incredibly informative and entertaining (Allen Newman is a character and a half) and I truly appreciate people like Ken and Steve giving their stories and succession plans to us.

    I was a bit put off by the repetitive talk and complaining about the BAs change of definition for a craft brewer. I hope that this is not signs of things to come. I feel that we need to be as inclusive as possible especially with our greatest success stories.

    The Town an Country is too small for this event though. I hope that they seek out a bigger space for the next one in SD.