Tuesday, April 23, 2013

The 2013 Craft Brewers Conference Wrap-Up Post: Photojournalism!

From Monday, March 25th to Friday, March 29th, 2013, Washington, DC hosted the Craft Brewers Conference. Thanks to DCBeer.com, yours truly got to attend. This is what happened.

Tuesday afternoon I checked into the conference, as both Monday and Tuesday were pre-conference days and move in days for the exhibitors.

Every conference gives you a totebag, only this one
gives you beer. Pay attention, library conferences!
I opened this beer a few days later. There's a nice rye bite to this pilsner brewed specially for the Craft Brewers Conference by The Brewer's Art, DC Brau, and Devils Backbone.

On-site reception, courtesy of German hops growers.
The room smelled nice. 

Because, you know, science! 
I left the convention center and headed over to Churchkey, which put on an event featuring saisons, ales fermented with Belgian and Belgian-style yeasts originally made in farmhouses for workers in the fields. Beer geeks will be pleased to know that I sampled offerings from Hill Farmstead, Crooked Stave, Tired Hands, Jester King, and more.

From there the next stop was the Smithsonian National Air and Space Museum, for the conference welcome reception.

I'm in the National Air and Space Museum!
Drinking beer!

Towards the end of the event I found Heavy Seas, out of
Baltimore. They claim to produce more real ale than
anyone else in the United States, and brought a cask of
their Loose Cannon IPA with Cascade hops in the cask.
Yes, please. 

Beer and rockets. That's what it's all about, kids.
"I feel alive, so alive."  
I was happy to see DC Brau’s Brandon Skall, who’s been coming to this museum since he was a toddler, pouring beer there. If it was a cool feeling for me, imagine how he felt.

Selfie of the beer I brought into the Air and Space
Museum, just to prove that I brought beer into a
Smithsonian Institution. No ducky face. 
The conference began on Wednesday morning with a general session full of facts about the beer industry and a keynote from Kim Jordan of New Belgium. Said facts:

  • There are 2347 craft breweries in the United States, and they sold 13.2 million barrels of beer in 2012.
  • 1254 more breweries are in planning.
  • 409 breweries opened in 2012, though there were also 43 closings. 
  • The most popular style of craft beer is Indian Pale Ale. No surprise there. (The actual most popular "style" is "seasonal," but that encompasses at least 4 styles, one for each of the seasons.)
  • Amber lagers and wheat beers are on the decline.  

The conference schedule is posted here. At about 11:15am this session ended and the beer started flowing in the BrewExpo Exhibition area, which was overwhelmingly amazing. What better time for Deschutes Chainbreaker White IPA or a Sun King Cream Ale than 11am?

An Alsatian hop grower showcasing the finished product. Aramis, left, may
become a trendy hop. New Belgium is already using in in an India Pale Ale.    
Overall in terms of "it" hops, it looks like Mosiac will be the next big thing. Keep an eye out for it. It's already in use in a double IPA from Great Lakes and is the sole hop in a rye pale ale from Terrapin.

Local beer on tap in the Brew Expo.

A packaging company brought this. Sounds, delicious, no? 
I went to two sessions on the past, present, and future of malt and malting, and I feel like I took a 3-credit course on the subject. A wonderful experience. Here are my notes. Then it was back to BrewExpo.

As you can tell, they had a very good selection at this
station: Sweetwater, Dogfish, Left Hand, New Belgium...

Sly Fox Brewing's new can. Just peel back the lid.
The future!

Yeast man. There's no swag like mitosis swag.

On an eye-opening and perhaps disappointing note, I saw at least three vendors selling flavoring extracts, and one of these had a roster of craft brewers lined up for testimonials. So now I don’t know if there’s any actual chocolate in Rogue Chocolate Stout, one of the examples a vendor showed me, and I don’t know how I feel about that. Does it matter?

Over at DCBeer.com, there is some discussion about whether or not this conference was good for DC's beer scene and the local brewers, who may have been overshadowed by out-of-towners during that week. Praise for the week here, concern here. Cheers.


  1. Overall, sounds like a great conference, and a great experience. I may be a little put-off by brewers using flavoring extracts in their beers. If they are all natural though, it may be ok. I think some brewers use hop extract, and actually prefer it in some brews.

    1. Agreed on the hop extract. Lagunitas uses it in Hop Stoopid and hop flavors doesn't break down as quickly as when you use other hopping techniques. But that Rogue Chocolate Stout really threw me for a loop.