2018 Craft Brewers Conference Key Seminars

Right before putting your beer in a bottle, can or keg is the most important time for a beer notes Jim Crooks.
“All the magic doesn’t happen in the brewhouse,” the Masterblender and Barrelworks Manager for Firestone Walker Brewing said. “People think that is where the magic and synergy is. It’s not. The magic happens right before package.”
Crooks will discuss many aspects of what he means in his “Mind Bending Blending Techniques” discussion at the 2018 Craft Brewers Conference in Nashville.
A few other seminars that were chosen by The Brewer Magazine staff as “must go” are “Navigating Hop Contracts in a Changing Market,” hosted by Lynne Weaver, the founder and CEO of Three Weavers Brewing Company and “Flavor Stability,” which will be presented by Deniz Bilge, the Deputy Department Chief of the Research Institute for Beer and Beverage Production for VLB-Berlin.
The seminar topics are just three of dozens over the four-day event, beginning April 30.

Mind Bending Blending Techniques
Crooks will tackle blending, but it’s not just a talk about sours or barrel-aged beers, the discussion will be for breweries of all sizes and all experience levels. No beer should leave the brewery without a brewer being happy with the project, even if that means tweaking it after fermentation.
“I hope this talk does something to salvage those beers that people want to dump,” Crooks said. “You might make something better you never intended to make. I’m pretty open-minded and we all have opinions of what is right and what is wrong but I definitely don’t think there are people out there intentionally making bad beer, at all.
“I also am not trying to say that you can take a beer and pull the wool over people’s eyes either. It’s always to make the best beer possible.”
Crooks noted that blending is a way to make beer more well-rounded and palatable than would have ever been made before.
“It’s not just blending sour beer, it’s all beer,” said Crooks, who has been with Firestone Walker since 2001 and with his science background has helped shape the Barrelworks blendery for the California brewery since 2008. “The idea is to open a brewers mind to making better beer in general. There is no one out there saying you can take two beers and make it into one.”
Crooks hopes people that attend the seminar will see that they don’t have to dump beer. Crooks said he has been to other breweries to taste something from a tank and it’s a great IPA, yet that brewer was looking to make a Pale Ale.
“They don’t know what to do with it and they want to dump it,” he said. “It’s that idea where you can salvage it.”
Brewers need humility in making something and it’s not what they thought it would be. For younger brewers they may see it as a failure and it’s not. That happens, Crooks said.
“Maybe it’s rough around the edges, but sit down with that beer and pull out something from your stash and blend with it to see what you can do with that. You might not call it an IPA. Free your ego from that beer and the attachment to it, and make something awesome from that,” he said. “There are no mistakes, aside from a contamination where you have harmed the beer. That doesn’t happen a lot. You might make something you didn’t intend to make, or the wrong hop or malt was used, or your brewhouse had a problem that day. It happens where there is a problem that makes a beer you have volume of that you didn’t intend to make and now what? I tell people to not dump the beer, do something with that.”
Crooks will show how Barrelworks and Firestone Walker goes through blending for compliance to a label, such as the beer’s specs, acidity, barrel character, mouthfeel or aroma.
Concentrations and blending will also be touched on to give depth and then he will go into some actual multi-stage blending techniques.
Setups of the techniques and the equipment needed will also be shown with a video presentation. “[I want to show] how these setups look in a process environment,” Crooks said. “People can see they need a pump and to recirculate this way. They will need a magflow meter to show total volume. I think it will be an intense talk for people to see that there is a lot of opportunity to use blending to make great beer.”

Flavor Stability
Bilge’s main concern in the seminar will be to show which factors influence the instability of beer flavor, causing a loss of freshness and the formation of off-flavors.
“After a theoretical overview about the chemical pathways of possible degradation reactions, a list of useful counter measures will be presented,” he said. “Low hanging fruit in this aspect is successful oxygen management. Additionally raw materials, sensible brewhouse work, as well as good yeast management are known to positively influence flavor stability.”
Bilge said that having the German company presenting at this year’s CBC gives VLB the chance to contribute to the constant efforts of the craft beer scene and to help improve the quality of craft beers.
“It also gives us the possibility to show off our expertise in this field,” Bilge said.
“I am looking to connect to every brewer regardless of size, beer style and objective because it´s a pain for all brewers.”
Bilge also said it will be a ‘great pleasure’ to speak in front of such a huge audience.
“I learned in previous seminars that American craft brewers are pretty disciplined — there’s no chatting, texting or going in and out — and they are highly interested and take up information like sponges,” he said. “That’s pretty satisfying for a lecturer.”

Navigating Hop Contracts in a Changing Market
The idea for the panel came during one of Weaver’s visits with Eric Desmarais of CLS Farms.
“We wanted to learn more about the hop market, it’s natural fluctuations, and how we as brewers impact those fluctuations,” Weaver said, who founded Three Weaver in Inglewood, California in 2013 and was on pace to produce more than 10,000 barrels in 2017.
As founder of Three Weavers, Weaver runs many aspects of her brewery, including operations, sales and finance.
“What can we, as an industry, do to reduce such large swings in supply, demand, and pricing?” she pondered about what breweries can do for the hop market.
Weaver said she has been lucky to have many mentors guide her and her brewery, even to this day.
“I am continuously learning, but recognize the need to contribute time and resources towards improving our industry,” she said about why she wanted to be a part of the 2018 CBC panel on hop contracting. “In a way, presenting panels is a way for us to give back. The BA covers the cost of a speaker’s conference fee, which is nice. But in truth, the time and energy in creating engaging panels is not small, but well worth all the effort.”
Ryan Hopkins, who is the Director of North American Sales at Yakima Chief – Hopunion LLC, will also be on the panel for discussion. The panel will focus on current hop market conditions, natural economic cycles, dollar cost averaging, and responsible forecasting and contracting.
“We are looking to connect hop farmers, brokers, and brewers to encourage better communication between all levels,” Weaver said. “The hop market affects all brewers regardless of brewery size.”

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