The annual Craft Brewers Conference is back in person after a one year, pandemic-induced hiatus. The 38th annual conference hosted by the Brewers Association (BA) takes place next week at the Denver Convention Center beginning on Thursday, September 8th. Although many things will look, taste and feel the same as past CBC’s, be prepared for some aspects of the conference and trade show to be different.
Without a doubt the biggest difference this year (besides the fact that it is being held in September instead of the traditional April or May) will be the size of the conference. According to Ann Obenchain, marketing & communications director at the BA, attendance will be “just shy of 7,000 people,” or about half of what has been in recent years. The tradeshow will also be smaller with around 600 exhibitors compared to the usual 1,000.
And of course, there will be numerous changes in place to accommodate the health and safety of attendees. The BA will be asking all attendees to wear a face covering, regardless of vaccination status, while indoors. Proof of vaccination or a recent COVID test will not be required to enter. The BA is following state and city guidelines, which currently allow for 100% capacity at indoor events regardless of size. The overall footprint of the conference will be about the same as it would be in a normal year so expect less crowded hallways and gathering areas. Higher traffic areas will be set-up for one-way traffic flow to increase distancing.
One of the biggest changes this year has been the reservation system required to attend all talks and seminars, including the keynote address. Selecting which seminars to attend was offered when registering online and the deadline to make any changes has passed, so the seminars you are currently signed up for are the only ones you will be able to attend.
An optional coding system will also be made available so that attendees can indicate their comfort level in social distancing and interaction. Attendees can choose to have a red, yellow or green sticker on their conference badge. Red will indicate “keep your distance” yellow indicates “I’m ok for a fist bump,” and green would be a “all is good”
Another twist at this years CBC is the inclusion of the Great American Beer Festival awards ceremony, normally held during the public GABF at the Denver Convention Center in late September or early October. Because of COVID, the BA decided not to hold an in-person GABF this year and instead will announce the 2021 medal winners at the CBC on Friday, September 10, from 5:00 pm – 6:30 pm at the Convention Center. The ceremony will be broadcast live by the Brewers Network and can be seen here.
There will be some familiar conference traditions that will not be in place this year, notably the symposium beer and the brewery tours. Both are planned to return for next years CBC in Minneapolis in May.
Unrelated to COVID, and in response to the recent MeToo Movement in the industry, the BA will be utilizing the #NotMe app. This app is a free, open, resolution-seeking reporting platform for those who’ve experienced or witnessed racism, harassment or any type of discrimination or misconduct during the conference. Reports can be turned in via the app anonymously if the user prefers.
Outside the Convention Center walls there will be the usual variety of events occurring during the evening hours. The BA has a list of outside events during the CBC here. In addition, this year’s Denver Beer Week will overlap with the CBC and take place September 10-18, 2021. More details on Denver Beer Week here. One event not to miss is the “Class of ‘96” party hosted by ProBrewer to celebrate those brewers who opened for business 25 years ago. It is an epic lineup which includes Firestone Walker, Shmaltz, Bear Republic, Two Brothers, Coronado, Victory, Stone, Iron Hill, Thirsty Bear, Lake Placid, BJ’s, and others. Come hoist a pint with these formidable breweries and enjoy electrifying live music on Friday, September 10 from 7pm – 10pm. CBC Badge or Eventbrite ticket is required. More details and register here.
See you in Denver!