The only thing that seems to be growing faster than the craft beer industry these days is the annual gathering of those within the segment. This year’s Craft Brewers Conference (CBC) & BrewExpo America, presented by the Brewers Association, is expected to draw some 6,000 to Washington, D.C. , March 26-29, a gain of around 25 percent over last year’s edition in San Diego. It’s been growing by at least that much, in some cases more, over the past several years and, with nearly 2,300 craft brewers operating in the U.S. and another 1,200-1,300 in planning, that trend’s not likely to slow down any time soon.
The advantage of being in the Nation’s Capital this year is that—aside from getting the chance attend the opening reception at the Smithsonian Air & Space Museum—there gets to be a strong political component of the CBC’s activities. “One of the reasons that we’ve decided to go to D.C. is, in some ways, the culmination of the government affairs activity that the Brewers Association has been increasingly involved in over the past several years,” says Brewers Association sales and marketing director Barbara Fusco.
The association has organized a Capitol Hill climb for attendees, enabling small brewers to discuss pertinent federal issues with their respective members of Congress. As of last month, participants from 41 different states had signed up for the climb. During the past couple of years brewers had participated in Hill climbs in conjunction with the Brewers Association’s Savor craft beer and food pairing event, which, since its inception in 2008 had been staged in Washington, D.C. Since the CBC’s in D.C. this year, Savor will take a brief detour to New York City in June before returning to the District next year. Since dramatically more brewers attend the CBC than Savor, it’s likely that this year’s Hill Climb will make its most significant impact yet. High up on the agenda is lowering the federal excise tax on small breweries.
Once again, just prior to the start of the regular conference schedule, the CBC will host the Craft Beer Wholesalers Conference on Monday March 25 and Tuesday March 26. That component on the program has grown significantly and now about 350 distributors attend. For the second year, the gathering will host the Craft Beer Bar Owners Conference for those in the on-premise sector.
The trade show element, BrewExpo America, runs Wednesday March 27 and Thursday, March 28. That’s another part of the event that’s grown significantly. Nearly 400 exhibitors were signed up as of a few weeks ago, up from the 255 that exhibited in 2012. (For more on BrewExpo America, see the Production & Packing Equipment section on page 60).
Next year, it’s a sort of homecoming for the Boulder, Colo.-based Brewers Association, as the 2014 event will be held in Denver—in the same convention center that hosts the organization’s annual Great American Beer Festival. For information on the Craft Brewers Conference & Brew Expo America and to register, visit craftbrewersconference.com.
Says Fusco: “It’s going to be huge.”