The Takeaways from Craft Brewers Conference

In case you weren’t able to make it to Portland last week for the Craft Brewers Conference, there were three takeaways that I felt were good for the brewing industry. One in reference to equipment, one for technology and one for the overall industry.

1) Canning: You already knew canning was a hot topic in the brewing industry. However, it appears that so many of the suppliers have also desired to get in on the canning action. All throughout the trade show floor equipment suppliers were showcasing new canning lines, packaging lines devoted to canning and packaging specifically devoted to canning.

Clearly canning has come onto the market in a huge way. It has its own argument over whether it’s better for the environment than bottling as well as whether it’s cheaper. Additionally, you could tell that brewers throughout were enjoying the power of all the canning lines as they continually watched and listened to example after example of how a particular line could be best suited for their brewery.

It appears that the canning and bottling war is on in full force. In my mind there will never be a winner, and there doesn’t have to. However, consumer preference, as always, will steer what the industry believes is the better at any given time.

2) Brewing Technology: I don’t mean this in terms of new fermenters, boilers, etc. Although there were great displays of greatness in that category as well, I’m more discussing brewing technology that provides an automated support system to brewers.

Yes, brewing technology, much like canning, isn’t new. But in this show I saw new technology that rivals anything ever seen prior. It’s my belief that in the coming years we will see technology in the brewery that will change the way beer is brewed forever.

Finally, the technology doesn’t stop in the brewery. Software continued to play a major role on into the tap room. Processes and orders were streamlined in a seemingly simple manner that will save breweries thousands of dollars in time and money.

3) Growth: I talked to several individuals that toted on the growth of the Craft Brewers Conference. It’s clearly a great time to be a brewer and involved in brewing. One person told stories of when the conference was in a hotel conference room; while another told about how the conference room wasn’t big enough and the adjacent parking lot had to be used.

What I saw personally was the largest trade show I have ever witnessed in my many years of trade show attendance. Prior to this show I felt that I had seen extremely large trade shows, but even after two full days of walking the floor, I can’t swear to you that I saw every single booth.

This is great for our industry. One person stated that the conference had grown by 22 percent from the previous year. If the conference is any indication of the growth of our industry, it’s clear that we could be on for a wild ride.

Finally, I don’t believe we are anywhere near the peak of the brewing growth. We are witnessing new philosophies in the business of owning a brewery, as well as breweries dipping into old-style recipes that hadn’t been generated for decades. It’s a very exciting time for brewing, both for the brewer and the consumer. My only concern is we can all hold on long enough to truly see the full potential of this great industry.

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