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Craft Brewers Conference 2012
San Diego is Beer Paradise!
Some 4,500 of the beer industry’s closest friends gathered for a group hug at this year’s Craft Brewers Conference, held May 2–5 at the Town & Country Hotel in San Diego. The craft beer industry’s largest annual gathering got larger this year and shows no signs of anything but continued spectacular growth.

A series of bus tours took early arrivers to many of the local breweries and brewpubs. The Welcome Reception, held Wednesday night, had a small army of buses taking nearly all of the attendees to the San Diego Zoo, where a special section was set up for hospitality, with food and local breweries featured among the exhibits. Lions and tigers and beers, oh my.

The business part of the conference got started Thursday morning, with Brooklyn Brewery’s veteran owner Steve Hindy giving a rousing romp through early craft beer history. Brewers Association Director Paul Gatza brought us up to speed on the industry’s rapid growth over the past 10 years with beer industry statistics and societal trends in relation to craft brewing.

The craft beer industry’s largest annual gathering got larger this year and shows no signs of anything but continued spectacular growth.

BrewExpo America, the conference trade show, filled the massive Grand Hall to capacity, so additional tents were erected to handle the overflow. Every conceivable resource to the craft beer industry seemed to be represented at the show. Beer stations were offering craft beer from all around the country, and sponsored hospitality suites provided even more excuses to indulge your taste buds.

Seminars and presentations continued daily, targeted at beer production, marketing, regulation, distribution and much more. A seminar on Sour Ale Production, featuring Tomme Arthur (The Lost Abbey), Vinnie Cilurzo (Russian River), Peter Bouckaert (New Belgium) and Ron Gansberg (Cascade Brewing), was packed. Plenty of great examples of sours were opened and shared with the standing-room-only audience.

A Cheese and Beer Pairing seminar had an all-star panel, including Janet Fletcher, Michael Landis and Randy Mosher, talking about the characteristics of six different cheeses and beers. A guerrilla marketing talk by David Buhler (Elysian), Marty Jones (Wynkoop) and Greg Koch (Stone) saw the lads conclude by stumbling through the introduction of a beer parody tune until a professional rocker (Keri Kelli, co-owner of Aces & Ales in Las Vegas and Alice Cooper’s lead guitar player) jumped on stage (where his own guitar and amp were amazingly waiting) to help the boys out. Obviously, this was a huge treat for the packed room and a guerrilla-inspired happening sure to be the buzz for many years to come. Point made.

A huge San Diego beer treat was the evening Tiki Bar — two massive cold boxes stuffed with kegs of the best beers in the region and beyond — with 81 taps on the big cooler and 57 taps on the small cooler. All this great beer was available on a complimentary basis to attendees and was yet another example of San Diego hospitality and beery generosity.

The Symposium Beer (given to each conference attendee) was brewed by Karl Strauss Brewing Company in collaboration with the San Diego Brewers Guild and was called “San Diego Pale Ale.” This was obviously a tongue-in-cheek name, as this amazing “pale ale” was closer in profile to a West Coast double IPA — further driving home the notion that beer rocks in San Diego.

The conference concluded with the World Beer Cup Gala Awards Dinner, set up in the Town & Country’s largest exhibit hall for nearly 2,100 people. The dinner included beer pairing throughout, beginning with Malheur Brut with Hampshire Pork Pâté and Rillette of Liberty Farms Duck. Nice start. The main course was a Grilled Eye of Beef Rib, served with Tröegs Troegenator. All the beers served were WBC award winners.

Some 95 categories of beer were judged by an impressive list of the world’s foremost beer experts. Nearly 4,000 beers were entered, and only three awards could be given in each category. For a complete list of WBC awards, go to

This year’s CBC was shoehorned into the now-much-too-small Town & Country Hotel. The organizers had to turn away over a thousand potential attendees and nearly 150 possible trade show vendors. Next year’s CBC will be held in Washington, D.C., and should be able to accommodate our rapidly growing beer industry in total. That should be quite a show. Visit for details.

Firestone Walker Brewery (Paso Robles, California)

Pelican Pub & Brewery (Pacific City, Oregon)

21st Amendment Brewery (San Francisco, California)

Alaskan Brewery (Juneau, Alaska)

Beechwood BBQ (Long Beach, California)

Dogfish Head Craft Brewery (Milton, Delaware)

Elysian Brewery (Seattle, Washington)

Fifty/Fifty Brewery (Truckee, California)

Lost Abbey/Port Brewering (San Marcos, California)

Mammoth Brewery (Mammoth Lakes, California)

Marin Brewery (Larkspur, California)

Maui Brerwery (Maui, Hawaii)

Merchant du Vin (Seattle, Washington)

Pike Brewing (Seattle, Washington)

Russian River Brewery (Santa Rosa, California)

Sierra Nevada Brewery (Chico, California)

Greg Koch, Dave Beuhler, Marty Jones and Keri Kelli rock out at the conference

Lions and Tigers and Beer, oh my!

Opening reception was held at the San Diego Zoo

Paul Gatza gave the industry statistics

Steve Hindy from Brooklyn Brewery was the Key Note Speaker

Tom McCormick @ CBC

The Trade Show featured all sorts of brewery gear

Tomme Arthur hosts a dinner tasting at Lost Abbey/Port Brewing



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