Craft Brewers Conference, Chicago
Imagine the best brewers in the country all in one place for 5 days and they brought beer. It happens every year and it’s called the Craft Brewers Conference(CBC). Held in Chicago this year, it represents the largest U.S. industry-only gathering.
This is based on the number of breweries represented and, believe me, they came to represent. With a 40% growth in attendance this year, there was a palpable buzz in the air.
A quick check of the stat sheet shows the craft beer segment, which represents 4.3% by volume, grew in 2009. This growth was in contrast to losses by the mega breweries and import segment. Not only are craft brewers brewing more beer but more of them entering the market. A focus on new craft breweries was addressed by the Brewers Association (BA) at CBC with a 3 part lecture series on starting a new brewery. All three sessions were standing-room-only with hopeful attendees planning their entry into craft brewing. With craft beer experiencing such growth in a troubled economy, an enthusiastic Julia Herz(Craft Beer Director for the BA) remarked “These are historic beer times!”
CBC kicked off Wednesday at the Field Museum and was hosted by the Illinois Craft Brewers Guild. Drinking great beer in the shadow of Sue the T Rex and in the company of so many great brewers was a rare treat. A genuine sense of camaraderie exists amongst brewers, big and small, that could be felt throughout the weekend. CBC hosts lectures on every aspect of running a brewery. Of interest to the craft drinker was Vinnie Cilurzo’s (Russian River Brewing) session on sour beer techniques which could mean more varieties of sours for 2010. Sessions dedicated to Belgian White and Wit beers, dry hopping, barrel aging, and food pairings will be sure to push the envelope of the craft experience.
Conference events like the Glunz sponsored “Rare Beer Tour” and Goose Island’s Fulton Brewery “Beer and Food Open House” were not to be missed. The later featured 12 varieties of Bourbon County Stout!! My two favorites were the Coffee Stout and the 23yr old Pappy Van Winkle Bourbon Stout. The former had the aroma of cold pressed coffee followed by chocolate notes in the body and a lingering vanilla on the finish. The later had a nice balance of bourbon, coffee, and chocolate notes and was exceptionally smooth. If that wasn’t enough, they tapped five sours, Madame Rose, a cherry sour, was a favorite. With hundreds of barrel aging beers and 11,000BBL fermentors as a backdrop, it was a memorable event.
After the open house at Goose Island we headed over to a SKA Brewing sponsored night at the Cobra Lounge with ska music by the Pinstripes. There were dozens of official events happening throughout Chicago during CBC that were open to the public. Wednesday, the excellent Map Room tapped a Ska Strong Foreign Stout aged in Merlot Cask, Great Divide Espresso Oak Aged Yeti, Surly 4th Anniversary Beer, and The Bruery Saison de Lente. Wow! DogFloydapalooza returned at the Bottom Lounge featuring 10 special beers on tap. Sam Calagione of Dogfish Head and 5Nick Floyd from 3 Floyds were on hand with music by Jon Langford. These events arguably had some of the best beer being tapped. With more to do than time could possibly allow, CBC delivered for any lover of good craft beer. Next year CBC will take place in San Francisco. Road trip?
For more info visit: www.craftbrewersconference.com