The very first conference for craft brewers was held in conjunction with the annual Homebrewers Conference in Boulder in 1982., put on by the American Homebrewers Association. At that conference, there was a separate seminar track of topics for commercial craft brewers. But it wasn’t until 1984 in Denver, after the Institute for Brewing and Fermentation Studies had been formed the previous year to represent the emerging craft brewing industry that craft brewers had their very own conference. It was still held at the same time and location as the Homebrewers Conference, but it had its own identity with separate registration and content specific to commercial small-scale brewing.
Regardless, the CBC has grown a bit since then. With over 14,000 attendees this year in Denver, it is now the largest craft brewing conference anywhere in the world. It kicked off today with a mellow tone and message during the morning General Session. In the recent past, the kick-off session has been used by the BA to sound the alarm against threats to its members such as attempts to erode brewery retail rights and to promote franchise reform. But this year, BA CEO and President Bob Pease and Board Chair Eric Wallace took to the stage to promote a more subtle message of unity, product quality and to announce the recent formation of the BA’s political action committee (PAC).
Keynote speaker, Iron Maiden lead singer Bruce Dickinson was a refreshing change from recent “inspirational” speakers at the CBC. Dickinson, who oversees an Iron Maiden-approved beer brewed by Robinsons Brewery in the U.K, gave a humorous talk on cultivating “fans and friends” rather than “customers” as most corporate companies try to do.
After the General Session, attendees flocked into the largest CBC trade show ever, with a footprint the size of 14 football fields. And the 35th (or…maybe the 37th…..) CBC was “on.”