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craft brewers conference

“Networking” is a cliché excuse to get a paid “vacation” and drink a bunch of beer with your industry buddies, but it’s clear that there’s sincere value in being able to look a peer in the eye over a cold one. We may be in the business of beer, but it’s the beer that makes the business worth the work.

The night before 10 Michigan breweries won medals at the 2018 World Beer Cup, the Michigan Brewers Guild hosted an at-capacity meetup at Nashville’s Hopsmith Tavern. With what seemed like even tighter camaraderie than last year’s party in D.C., we hung with a diverse crowd of industry contributors to get their perspective on what makes attending the Brewers Association’s annual Craft Brewers Conference (CBC) so special.

craft brewers conference

 

Scott Graham, Director, Michigan Brewers Guild

MittenBrew: On behalf of the Guild, how important is it to be at CBC?

We love to participate in some capacity every year. There’s so much content whether you’re a brewery or you represent a complementary business. For me personally, it’s a wonderful opportunity to network with my counterparts from guilds around the country, as well as connect with the Brewers Association. It’s nice to be in an environment that’s so supportive and recognizes the value of state guilds.

What’s your recommendation for breweries on the fence about attending?

This conference is an invaluable opportunity—one you should be budgeting for. I can tell you that one of the real benefits of CBC that’s not printed in any literature is that it gives you perspective. You get to step away from the hard work you do every day to learn how other people approach what we do. So often your nose is right in there that it’s good to take a break, come up for air, and put a renewed set of eyes on your business. It’s refreshing and invigorating.

When they return home from CBC, what can Michigan breweries expect from our Guild?

In a nutshell, we exist to protect and promote the craft beer industry in Michigan. Obviously, our beer festivals are the biggest promotions we do, but we want to be a resource, too. We work in a heavily regulated industry, and it’s the reality of our business that breweries are going to bump into regulation or have to deal with other parties who want to affect them. So, if we’re not paying attention to that aspect of the industry, it could cause grave problems. You don’t know when or where these things are going to pop up, but because of the growth of the industry we’re naturally going to be exposed to issues that have to be addressed. Certainly, there are nuances involved in making legislative change, so it’s critical to have a voice for the industry in that environment, and we take it very seriously in being a unified voice for our state’s breweries.

Advice for Michigan breweries that are either seasoned vets or fresh out of the gate?

Regardless of how long you’ve been in the game, from a legislative perspective, you have to make sure you know the people who are representing you. Whether those decision-makers drink beer or drink at all, they are very interested in your business. You’re employing people, you’re part of the community. If you haven’t met your representatives or senators, invite them down to the brewery to see how you work. They’re dealing with so many issues that I’m sure they’d be very interested to see what you do, and they’d be flattered that you took the time to invite them over for a beer. And when an issue does come up where you might need their help, it’s going to be a lot easier when you’ve already established a rapport with them.

craft brewers conference

Scott Graham

Dave “Rings” Ringler, Director of Happiness, Cedar Spring Brewing Company

Dave, this isn’t your first CBC rodeo. How many times have you attended, and what keeps you coming back?

This is my fifth year. I’m varsity letterman status. There are two reasons. One: To extract nuggets of information from the seminars, which I’ve found to be a success rate of about 50% of those I attend. Two: Networking here is big time. For most of us, we only see each other at the major festivals and conferences.

How do you approach the seminars?

I bring a notebook where I keep all of those nuggets, and I save them year after year. Three weeks ago, I actually went back to my notebook from the first time I attended because I remembered attending a seminar that addressed a problem we’ve been having, and those notes helped me navigate through the issue. So now, even if I attend a seminar that might not be completely relevant to where we’re at right now, I make it a point to still pay attention and document it because it’s likely going to be something that we’ll have to deal with at some point.

How many people did you bring?

We brought a bigger crew this time—five people. In the past, it started out with just me when we were in that startup phase. But as we’ve evolved we’re able to divide and conquer. I’m tackling distribution, marketing, and sales aspects. Our GM is working on brewpub management, and of course our brewers hone in on the technical side—yeast, safety, etc.

Advice for first-time attendees?

Talk to as many people as possible, and listen. The first time is always going to be a little overwhelming, but if you stay focused—and organized!—you’ll always get something out of it. And, remember, the World Beer Cup is every two years so you’ll get a lot more international exposure as well.

 

Shannon Long, Founder/CEO, BrewExport

You’re in a pretty unique space. I image attending CBC is particularly relevant for you.

Absolutely. It’s essentially the entire industry concentrated in one city for an entire week. It’s super efficient for me because I’m able to get facetime in one location with my suppliers from across the country as well as my international buyers. In some cases, aside from Skype, we’ve never met so it’s really valuable to get to know them, their beers, and their goals all a little better.

Aside from the in-person meetings, what other value does attending CBC provide for you?

They have an education track for export-relevant issues, including seminars on the TTB [The Alcohol and Tobacco Tax and Trade Bureau] and, particularly important to BrewExport, the intricacies in partnering with China, the UK, Latin American, Canada, all of which are great markets for me. There’s always new little tidbits of information I’m able to take away from the education track.

Anything in particular that’s been of notable success for you this year?

I was able to meet with the TTB and get a ruling on some of the legal interpretations that apply to me. They were great to talk to. They just made my life a little easier, so I’m a really happy girl right now.

 

Brad Etheridge, Brewer, Atwater in the Park, Atwater Brewery

For a brewery that’s distributed in over 20 states, what are you hoping to get out of repeat attendance at CBC?

Being my fourth visit to CBC, I’m focusing solely on the expo floor this year. Generally, you’ll see a lot of product repetition, but I try to look between the lines for something new—any detail that may spark a light bulb idea.

Have you found any needles in this giant haystack this year?

Yeah, what Crowler Nation is doing with their resealable twist-top lids, although I’m still a fan of Oktober’s small footprint designs. Personally, I’m over growlers—they’re heavy, awkward, and glass breaks. We’re trying to transition into being more sustainability-minded, so the ‘can route’ makes sense for us right now.

If you’re not attending any of the seminars this year, is there anything else that adds to your experience?

The expo floor here is just so massive, and it requires your attention. I do really enjoy the Michigan Brewers Guild’s annual conference—it’s definitely more manageable. But, when you walk the floor here, everyone you talk to is a networking opportunity. I try to learn from the practical applications of what other brewers across the country are doing. It’s honest feedback in real-time.

craft brewers conference

Chris Musil & Boyd Culver

Chris Musil, Co-owner, Coldbreak Brewing Equipment

You’re here as an exhibitor promoting your custom jockey boxes. Tell the people how Coldbreak came to be.

We’ve technically been around since 2005 when we were just an eBay store. In 2012, we started producing a line of homebrewing equipment, but it wasn’t until 2014 when we turned out our first jockey box at the request of Matt, the owner of Gravel Bottom. Then it just took off from there.

What’s your experience been like at CBC? I haven’t seen many other jockey box vendors, if any, on the floor.

This is our fourth year here, and probably the most successful conference we’ve had to date. There’s not a ton of competition out there, so if we’re going to be one of few it’s important that we deliver a premium product.

What makes your boxes different?

We design them from the ground up, having gone through several revisions over the years constantly working to make the best version of what we do. What the brewers like is that we keep the inputs for all the taps and lines up front in one location. It’s a clean look from  the guest’s perspective when they walk up to a booth, and the breweries really like that. We use only stainless steel—there’s no chrome. And, all of our coils are hand bent. They’re designed so that they won’t pop out of their shank. From the moment the beer enters the coils until it comes out of the fauces, its profile never changes. It chills the beer down to the proper serving temperature, and each coil holds 17 oz of beer so you’ll have a full pint everytime you pour a beer. All that being said, we also customize boxes with a brewery’s logo or branding. We partner with Premier Graphics in Grand Rapids, who wrap our jockey boxes with printed vinyl. They’re incredibly durable, and will hold up well during the rigors of festival season.

If there’s not a lot of competition, and breweries need jockey boxes, what assurances do you give them that they should choose Coldbreak?  

We back up all of our boxes with a one-year manufacturer’s warranty. But it’s truly more about the relationships we want to have with our clients, who we have all over the world. We stand behind every one of our products, but if you do have an issue, all you have to do is let us know. We’re approachable, we care, and we’ll make it right. We’re not just trying to sell them a jockey box, we want to sell them better experiences for their beer and ultimately everyone who consumes it. The product we make is something that’s critical in helping drive traffic from a festival back to a brewery’s taproom, and it’s a huge honor that we get to play a role in that.

craft brewers conference

Sherry Curry, David Ringler, Jen Hain

Scott Naylor, Sales Engineer, FOAM-IT

What’s FOAM-IT’s role in the industry?

We manufacture chemical application and distribution equipment.

Unpack that. How does what you do apply to CBC?

Creating sanitary processes around beer production increases quality control and creates better beer. The reality is that every brewery has to be using chemistry, and we’re here to help facilitate those relationships with the people who are supplying chemistry to those breweries.

Do you have exhibitor booth?

No booth, but we value attending because 15 of our customers are exhibiting here. We’ve created strategic partnerships with them to get our equipment in their booths so it’s really important for us to get facetime with those who are advocating our products to the industry. The ultimate end-users are the breweries; our immediate customer is the chemical supplier that’s supplying chemistry to the breweries. The better we can be as a supplier to them, the better they can be in providing solutions to the brewer.

What message do you hope your suppliers are able to communicate to breweries?

The understanding that [a brewery’s] sanitation products don’t do any good just sitting in a bucket, and that chemical application is critical to the sanitation of their operations. Founders has been a customer for about 15 years, and they’re about as good of a testimony as anyone.

 

Mike Moran, Sales and Marketing Manager, MI Local Hops

You’re relatively new to the scene, correct?

Yes. This is our second year here at CBC. We were here last year after our first crop year.

What’s been the reception like to your hops?

Increasingly positive! Breweries are being very intentional about sourcing and diversifying their ingredients geographically. Michigan’s been gaining a great reputation for sourcing and supplying hops.

Has anything helped your presence in the market?

Yes, resources like The Lupulin Exchange. It was originally established for brewers who had overages on their contracts and needed to unload their surplus. Then the Exchange opened it up to brokers and hop farms, so we’ve been selling on it for over a year, and have been able to reach breweries all over the world.

With only one previous year at CBC under your belt, have you had any standout successes?

Absolutely! Last year we met People’s Pint Brewing Collective from Toronto while they were still a brewery-in-planning. We’ve had the opportunity to work with them on recipes, and have been building a really great relationship. Since they opened, they’ve been awesome at promoting our hops to their network, and are proud to say they’re using Michigan-grown hops. That’s led to us earning the business from many other breweries in the Toronto area.

What’s been the most popular hop for you?

Definitely Michigan Chinook. We won the Hop Growers of Michigan’s Michigan Chinook Cup, recognized for the best Chinook hops grown in the state. It was judged by the Hop Quality Group, comprised of some heavy hitters like John Mallet, Jeremy Kosmicki, and Alec Mull. And, we’ve got two other brands, Copper and Mackinac, coming out soon that are becoming conversation starters because attendees here at CBC are looking for the next new thing.

craft brewers conference

Josh Gordon, Plant Production Manager, Odd Side Ales

Josh, this isn’t the first time we’ve talked over a beer, but this is your first time at CBC. What are you and Odd Side up to?

My targets for the last year or two have been on packaging, quality, and safety. We’re kind of at a tipping point where we’ve recently expanded and are likely hitting three new markets by the end of this year, so we’re scoping out what possible next steps are going to look like for us. We’re considering investments in software, process equipment, new packaging lines.

As a CBC virgin, what’s been your biggest takeaway so far?

Hands down, the camaraderie forged with people who might be randomly standing next to me when I’m looking at products, and the productive dialogue that’s come from it. It’s given me a lot of ammo in terms of ideas I can go back to the brewery with—what we can do to constantly refine and improve, and the things we can explore that might not have otherwise been on our radar.

Last year, MittenBrew published a survival guide for first-time attendees. Do you have any recommendations for first-timers or breweries on the cusp of a growth spurt?

Knowledge about the market overall. There’s so much room and so many beer drinkers for breweries to execute well, but there’s also finite real estate on shelf space—we all know that. So, if you get to the point where you’re considering distribution outside of your taproom, you better be prepared to not stop. If you do, you can easily become irrelevant.

How difficult is it to not stop and keep the quality and innovation on point—because it’s not as easy as just brewing more beer?

First of all, there has to be a place for that beer to go. Is there a market for your product? Do bars want your stuff? And more importantly, does the consumer demand your product? And if you’re ready to meet that demand, do you have quality assurances in place? In my opinion, there are two things that are really hard to catch up on—quality and safety. With rapid growth, there’s a lot of shortcuts you may want to take, but they will ultimately circumnavigate quality and safety, and can put your brewery and more importantly—your people—at risk that you could’ve avoided.

craft brewers conference

Nathan Hukill, Brewer, River’s Edge Brewing Company

You’re a first-timer here. What’s captured your interest?

I came for the education track, particularly the technical side, of course. But, one thing that’s been a little frustrating is having to choose between two equally enticing seminar topics that are happening at the same time. It makes for a tough decision.

Did you have any expectations before you arrived?

I didn’t totally know what to expect. Everyone who says the networking is great is right. I’ve been able to draw on the wealth of knowledge not only from Michigan, but breweries that I’m a fan of. There’s something about being able to connect to and learn from people over a beer.

Any parting words for CBC?

Nashville is awesome. I think it’s cool that we’re all fortunate to get to experience an amazing conference in a new city every year.

 

Pat Evans, Freelance Writer

Welcome back! Good to see you. Tell everyone why I’m talking to you.

Before I moved to Las Vegas last year, I covered the West Michigan beer industry for the Grand Rapids Business Journal and Grand Rapids Magazine, among others. When I left and told people where I was going, the general consensus from a lot of my beer peers was that the Vegas beer scene sucked. So, since I’ve been at CBC this week, it’s been a good opportunity for me to be able to spread the opposite message about beer from Nevada.

Why’d you come back “to Michigan” for CBC?

I missed it. Michigan beer is special. Covering it has allowed me to make a living. So, when I have an opportunity like this to dip back into the Michigan scene and reconnect with everyone I’ve spent the last few years writing about—and getting to know—I can’t not show up to continue to support our industry.

Okay, defend Nevada beer. If CBC ever lands in Vegas, where should we drink?

Tourists are easily swayed by the beers they’re exposed on the strip. Some casinos brew their own beer on site, and most of that isn’t a fair representation of the state’s beer. When you come visit, go support Big Dogs Brewing Company, Great Basin Brewing Co., Revision Brewing Company, Tenaya Creek Brewery, and Craft Haus Brewery.

craft brewers conference

Pauline Knighton, Sonia Buonodono, Steph Harding, Annette May – via Fermenta

Pauline Knighton, Sales Manager, Short’s Brewing Company

What’s been your experience at CBC?

I’ve been four or five times. Our industry is constantly evolving, and people’s roles change on a regular basis, so I think it’s important to continue attending so you can grow with the evolution. Originally, Short’s sent me because they cared about me learning as much as I could about what I was responsible for on a day-to-day basis, but they also wanted me to learn about the industry that fell outside of my scope.

What’s the conference done for you in that aspect?

It’s allows you to make multiple concurrent deep dives into every facet of the industry. In my current role, I’ve been excited to learn more about leadership development and distributors.

Short’s is a pretty iconic brand, with a very special identity. Does Short’s reputation impact your perspective when you attend?

There are a lot of breweries who are nailing it from a branding and sales standpoint, so it’s great to expand your perspective in terms of breweries of different sizes executing effectively.

Goals for attending?

I hope to help continue to grow Short’s, so if I can listen to breweries who are bigger than us and learn from their mistakes, I can better position Short’s to be successful while hopefully bypassing some of those unforeseen pitfalls.

Any advice for other breweries who might need help defining their brand?

We purposely embody the culture of Northern Michigan, and although we may grow operationally, which attending CBC can help us do, it’s important to Joe [Short] to maintain the power of smallness.

Are there any unintended benefits or consequences of growing while wanting to maintain your brand identity?

You’re marrying your partners in these professional relationships, so you need to make sure that when you meet them in person for the first time it’s a cultural fit. You’re going to go through good and bad times together, so you better make sure you can kiss and make up for the greater good of your company.

You’ve been multiple times. How does a brewery determine who on their roster to send?

I think it depends on what phase your brewery is in. You want to make sure that whoever you pay to fly, or drive, to whatever amazing city CBC is held in that they’re going with a purpose to bring something valuable back to your brewery. We’re all professional drinkers, and we can network with a beer in our hand any day of the week, but for the sake of respecting your brewery and the conference, be intentional about it, and it will be worth your time and your brewery’s money.

 

 

craft brewers conference

MittenBrew sent Jeff Rogers, Brewery Operations Manager at Harmony Brewing Company, to Craft Brewers Conference & BrewExpo America® in Washington, D.C. to document the annual event from the lens of a first-time attendee. What follows is his experience, and a few recommendations to ensuring a successful show for those considering attending. MittenBrew edited some of Jeff’s reflections for clarity because let’s be honest—it’s hard to keep everything straight when you’ve got a beer in one hand and a selfie stick in the other.

craft brewers conference

Pre-planning

  • Unless you have absolutely zero agenda for attending, which would seem counterproductive and a disservice to yourself and the brewery you’re representing, plan ahead. Don’t wait until you arrive to make a game plan. You know what your brewery needs better than anyone else, so establish goals for yourself based on those needs, and create a hit list of what you want to accomplish.
  • The Craft Brewers Conference website and conference app can be your best friends, if you use them, and especially if you familiarize yourself with them before you go. Seriously, download the app. It’s free.
  • After registering for the conference, use your credentials to log in to the Online Planner. Here, you can build and customize your own personal agenda, adding anything you want to see, experience or remember, which you can then sync to your phone’s native calendar. You’ll likely have a few beers on the expo hall floor and after hours, so having your schedule in your pocket already mapped out will help when you get distracted from where you’re supposed to be, with whom, and when.
  • Conference-sanctioned brewery tours fill up and educational bootcamps sell out quickly. If any interest you, register ASAP.
  • Watch the weather when packing your suitcase, and don’t forget your walking shoes. The first question everyone will ask you is, “Where are you from?” Beat them to the punch, and wear a shirt with your brewery’s logo or home state on it. It creates an easy conversation starter, and it’s free advertising.
  • Bring more business cards than you think you’ll need.

Travel and Accommodations

  • If you’re not shy about bunking up with someone, share a hotel room, and split the cost. If the hotels closest to the conference book up, and they will, don’t forget about Airbnb options or other hospitality-share programs. If you’ve got friends and family in the conference city, ask to crash on their couch. It’ll save you cash, and leave more money for beer not distributed where you live. But, consider distance to the conference from where you’re staying because taxi, Uber, and Lyft fares will add up quickly. Either way, don’t cheat yourself on a solid night’s sleep.
  • Shoot to arrive by mid-day the first day of the conference (the day before the expo floor opens). This will give you time to beat the lines when picking up your credentials, get your bearings in the convention center, and attend the Welcome Reception that evening (which you need your credentials for anyway).

 

BrewExpo America

  • Do not underestimate the size of this conference and convention floor. There were over 13,000 people in attendance, and 900 vendor booths. It can be a little overwhelming, and you can only do so much at a time. Don’t try to tackle visiting every booth in one day. Stagger your days by breaking up the expo floor into chunks in between any seminars you attend.
  • Say this with me: “I’m not the only person on the floor.” Practice self-awareness. You will be surrounded by hundreds of people at any given moment, many of whom are walking with a purpose. Please, don’t stop in the middle of an aisle or major walkway to check your phone or stare off into space. When you do, and someone bumps into you, it’s not their fault. Also, just like the rules of the road, walk on the right.
  • Swag. Yes, it’s free. Yes, you can have one. But, if you take it, put it to honest use. Companies pay good money for the stuff they give away. If you know it’s going to end up in the bottom of a drawer or in the garbage when you get home, save that company some money and yourself the hassle of hauling it around for the week.
  • Go early, and beat the rush. The expo floor generally tends to be a little quiet in the morning because there’s no shortage of industry parties at night that may or may not influence one’s ability to roll out of bed before noon the morning after. Don’t waste your mornings by getting wasted at night. This shouldn’t be amateur hour. We’re trained professionals.

 

 

Seminars

  • Including Sponsored Demonstrations, there were approximately 70 seminars covering 11 different educational tracks. You will miss some. If you’re attending with anyone else from your brewery, don’t all sit in the same seminars—split them up so you can be in two places at once. Compare notes later over beers.
  • Don’t let this be an excuse to not attend the seminars, but if you do miss any, their content and presentation slides are pushed out to attendees after the conference. Still, you’ll get valuable insight by sitting in the seminars live. Bring a pen, and take notes (throughout the whole conference). It’ll help you remember the nuances of what you learn, who you meet, and what you talked about. Things will get fuzzy.
  • Don’t hog the mic. Engage and ask questions. Don’t let your brewery’s unique anomaly of a problem that’s hyper specific you prevent others from getting their questions answered, too. We all remember that kid in class who raised his hand so he could repeat what the instructor just said, rephrasing it to look smart. Don’t be that guy either.

 

Eating and Drinking

  • There are beer stations everywhere. You don’t have to look or go far to sample an array of beers from all over the U.S. To keep things on the up-and-up on the expo floor, beers were understandably restricted to 2 oz. pours. It might seem cheap at first, but you’ll be thankful for it after three days in, and dozens of samples later.
  • You know what the most important meal of the day is. Eat it. It probably changes somewhat with the destination city and venue, but lines for food during peak lunch hours were brutal. Frustratingly long. Plan accordingly. Pack a protein bar or other snack each day to tide you over until you’re able to sit down and enjoy a meal. You’re going to be drinking, so don’t do it on an empty stomach, unless you want to miss the evening festivities and disappoint your colleagues who have to worry about getting you back to the hotel early.
  • During the first two days of the expo, there were multiple sponsored hospitality areas with beer, light food, and different activities or games from 2:30 p.m – 5:00 p.m. Conquer whatever essential business you might have before then, and spend these couple hours unwinding, making new connections, and batching whatever you’ve done that day.

 

 

After-parties

  • When you register for the conference, RSVP for the opening night’s Welcome Reception. This sold out long before the conference, and there’s a reason why. The host venue is usually pretty swanky—this year it was held at the Smithsonian National Museum of Natural History. Free beer from about 40 different breweries and fancy hors d’oeuvres make this event a no-brainer. However, food had a tendency to run out fast. So, if you go hungry, arrive early. Trim your neck hair, and put on a nice shirt.
  • There are sanctioned “official” off-site parties nightly. See the conference program for details on admission (typically complimentary with your conference credentials or via advance guest list sign-up). These will be busy, too. 13,000 people are going to go somewhere after the conference each day, and they’re probably going to go where the beer is free, so expect lines. Be polite when the hosts ask for your name or proof of RSVP. If you have to demand, “Don’t you know who I am?”, the answer is probably “No.”  
  • There are also dozens of other happy hours, meetups, and hosted parties by different breweries and state guilds. They’re not hard to find, and worth going to. You can do some of your best networking and learning during these informal socials. Talk to attendees, ask what they’re up to and where they’re going. You’ll have no problem finding a party that’s your speed.

 

 

After the Conference

  • You know all those business cards you collected? Use ‘em. At the very least, send those people a courtesy email thanking them for their time and whatever value they gave you. Your ride or flight home is a great time to draft that correspondence. Hit “Send” on those emails within one week of getting back to work so you’re still fresh in their minds.
  • Stay in touch with the people you met, traveled with, and partied next to. Despite the impressive size and attendance of the conference, our industry is still smaller and more intimate than you think. Word travels fast, and so do reputations. Take care of yourself, treat those you meet with respect, and pass along referrals even if they don’t benefit you right away. Karma is a thing, and—if you do it right—the Craft Brewers Conference is the place to share it, and receive it.

We’ll see you next year in Nashville, TN. Cheers!

 

Photography: Steph Harding & Jeff Rogers

 

GRAND RAPIDS, Mich —  Craft Beer Cellar Grand Rapids, a bottle shop offering a vast selection of craft beer will celebrate its Grand Opening at 404 Ionia Ave. S.W. on Saturday, March 18 with craft beer tastings, fresh donuts, raffles, and WGRD broadcasting live.

craft beer cellarThe store is a sector of the Craft Beer Cellar franchise, independently owned and operated by Brian Beaucher and Jessica Beeby, both Cicerone Certified Beer Servers. Craft Beer enthusiasts will enjoy a rotation of 20 meticulously selected draft lines from around the world, with the opportunity to open bottles and cans of beer from the walk-in cooler to drink in store with a small corking fee. Staff ‘Beer Geeks’ will provide proper glassware for in store purchases to bring out the aroma and flavor of every beer. Craft Beer Cellar will also provide the option to purchase online and pick up in store, from 4-packs to kegs. “Essentially, if there’s a legal way to sell beer? We’ll provide it.” Beaucher said.

“Every Craft Beer Cellar store tailors itself to what makes sense for the area. We personally designed the look of the store, we decided on the location, how many draft lines we wanted, where the cooler was going, and so on. The mothership simply approved it to make sure we’re doing right by their brand.” Beeby said.

craft beer cellar

Craft Beer Cellar will open with a staff of 8 full and part time employees. Everyone on staff has the title of a ‘Beer Geek’ and at minimum, are Cicerone Certified Beer Servers. Staff is compensated equally, trained to work every position and will make the effort to educate every customer that walks through the door. “Throughout the day, maybe you’re on the phone, behind the bar or register; tips get pooled at the end of the day and split equally regardless of where you worked. We want to provide a collaborative environment for our employees and customers.” Beaucher said.

The public will be welcome to bring in food, menus will be available from area restaurants, including the Downtown Market, located across the street. Food Trucks plan to occasionally stop by outside under the bridge, adjacent to their location. Craft Beer Cellar will offer snacks for purchase as well as free wifi and board games for patrons.

craft beer cellar

Hours of operation: Monday through Saturday, 10 a.m. to 10 p.m., and on Sundays from 11 a.m. until 7 p.m.

ABOUT
Craft Beer Cellar Grand Rapids is independently owned and operated. It is part of the Craft Beer Cellar franchise which opened in 2010 in Belmont, MA and now has 30 stores open around the country. Craft Beer Cellar is committed to driving the growth and awareness of craft beer through hospitality, education and support of exceptional beer.

craft brewers conference

The Brewers Association held their annual Craft Brewers Conference and BrewExpo in Philadelphia earlier this month. The 2016 edition of CBC drew a record 13,600 attendees and 835 exhibitors from all around the globe to the Pennsylvania Convention Center for the largest brewing industry trade show and educational series in North America.



Many representatives from Michigan participated, demonstrating our state’s value in the business. Ambassadors from several facets our state’s brewing industry exhibited their wares, offered education, or attended the tradeshow to network.

From ingredients, to brewing systems and serving systems, to some of the best brewed products; Michigan companies provide nearly everything beer-related.

craft brewers conference

Motor City Growlers displayed a product called “The Craft Station”, manufactured at their plant in Sterling Heights. Steve Lemieux, President, describes it as a “self-contained growler filling machine, that also can be used to expand capacity for any bar or restaurant. It comes complete, everything you need to start up and run and have eight extra taps,” he said. Many of Motor City Growler’s employees are former autoworkers who have found second careers in the beer industry through this innovation.

 

Boyd Culver, founder and co-owner of Coldbreak Brewing in Cedar Springs, wanted to get their jockey boxes “in front of as many brewers as we could, and there’s no better opportunity than the CBC,” he said. “Most of the components are made in Michigan, and we assemble them right there in Cedar Springs. Everything we make is USA made, high quality, we put a lot of effort into it,” Culver added. “We’re very proud of what we do.”

Motor City Growlers

Psycho Brew of Greenville attended as exhibitors for the first time. “Last year we went to the one in Portland and kind of checked it out as spectators to see if it was worth coming here,” said co-owner Chris Breimayer. “We thought we would try it this year because there’s really nobody in our size bracket. Everybody’s got big equipment,” Breimayer said. Two barrels to 5 barrels are their most commonly produced sizes. On display at CBC was a 10 barrel system that was being delivered to Farmington on their way home from Philadelphia.

“Everything is made in Michigan, all local, we buy all the steel local as much as we can,” Breimayer said, minus a few fittings they aren’t able to get locally. “We’ve had a really good response,” he added.

Motor City Growlers

Psycho Brew has established themselves as a trusted name across the United States and internationally. “Most of our equipment goes out of state,” he said. “We’ve sent some stuff over to Poland, and Panama.” Breimayer said. They’ve placed three systems in Poland at three different breweries.

West Michigan breweries have utilized their systems as well. They ventured into bigger tank territory when they created Cedar Springs‘ 15 barrel equipment last year, and Elk Brewing hired them to outfit their new facility.

Craftwerks Brewing Systems, a producer of larger brewing systems, held down a prominent corner of the showroom floor. Barry Johnson, Account Manager, estimated it took 12 hours to set up their impressively sizable display of equipment. “This is the biggest show on the planet, as far as in our industry, and so virtually every brewer is going to pass through this hall.” he said.

Craftwerks products are made in Michigan from American steel. “Every dollar made stays in Michigan. When I go through the shop, I see the guys whose families are being supported by the stuff that we’re making,” he added as he motioned toward the display.

According to Johnson, the company scored several solid leads for sales and will share the wealth with smaller companies when it’s a better fit to do so. “When we quote out a system, if a beginning brewery gets sticker shock or just doesn’t have the funding to do it, I give them Psycho Brews’ number and say ‘call Chris at Psycho Brew. It’s going to be an incredible system to get into and I’ll talk to you when you’re ready to make the next step’,” he said.

Brian Tennis, owner of New Mission Organics and Founder of Michigan Hop Alliance, answered inquiries about sustainable and organic farming and small industry hop farms at the exhibit for Hop Growers of America, USA Hops. “We’re representing all the (hop) growers in the United States, not just Michigan, but Michigan obviously grows the best hops in the country,” asserted Tennis.

craft brewers conference

“To be part of this is a real honor. They asked us specifically; they wanted someone outside the traditional growing regions of Yakima Valley and Willamette Valley. Michigan is now the fourth largest hop growing region in the country and it’s top ten in the world,” he said.

Also taking place within the conference was the competitive World Beer Cup, highly regarded as the Olympics of beer. More records were broken with nearly 7,000 beers entered by over 1,900 breweries from 55 countries that were judged by an elite panel of accredited judges from 31 countries. Two hundred eighty seven medals were awarded overall, with 5 Michigan breweries among the winners.

A Gold medal, the highest honor in each category, was awarded to Black Lotus Brewing Company of Clawson in the category of Old Ale or Strong Ale for “Ninja Pirate”.

Silver was brought home by Mitten Brewing Company of Grand Rapids for “Triple Crown Brown” in the category of English-Style Mild Ale.

Three breweries earned Bronze medals. Wolverine State Brewing Company of Ann Arbor in the Smoke Beer category for “Raucher”, New Holland Brewing Company of Holland in the Belgian-Style Flanders Oud Bruin or Oud Red Ale category for “2014 Vintage Blue Sunday”, and River’s Edge Brewing Company of Milford for “Dirty Frank Stout” in the Export Stout category.

Many Michigan beers could be found on tap at various bars across the city. Pilot Malt House hosted a special tap feature at Fox and Hound, sponsored by the Craft Maltsters Guild. Three beers using their malt and other ingredients produced in Michigan were served. One was brewed in Ashburn, Va. at Lost Rhino Brewing Company for their fifth anniversary. They chose to brew a lager exclusively with Michigan ingredients for their celebratory beer.  The two brewed in Michigan were Crystal Falls Pale Ale at New Holland Brewing Company’s Pub on 8th with Steve “Bert” Berthel, and Besto Pils from Pigeon Hill Brewing Company in Muskegon.

Ryan Hamilton, Maltster, explained that the focus of the feature was to “showcase the terroir of locally produced malt, the sense of place manifested in agricultural products. The three beers that were there are one hundred percent pure Michigan beers, all Michigan ingredients. Bert’s [New Holland] actually including the yeast, that’s from Craft Cultures Labs.”

Worldwide, the craft beer industry continues to grow at a rapid pace, and Michigan is poised to be a large part of the conversation for the foreseeable future.

 

Photography: Steph Harding


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