Tom McCormick isn’t getting much sleep these days. In just a couple of weeks, the executive director of the California Craft Brewers Association (CCBA) will welcome some 150 craft breweries, along with home brewers, retailers, wholesalers, beer enthusiasts and others to celebrate the state where craft beer was born. “It’s an event that’s never been done in the craft brewing industry anywhere in the country,” said McCormick.
The two-day California Craft Beer Summit and Brewers Showcase, which will be held Sept. 11 and 12 at the Sacramento Convention Center and on Capitol Mall, respectively, will be unlike any other beer event. The Summit on Friday and Saturday will feature exhibitors and tap talks on the convention floor, as well as chefs demonstrating how to pair beer with food and how to cook with beer. The Summit will also include interactive discussions about the four primary ingredients in beer: hops, water, barley and yeast. Tasting stations will offer an array of beers, including some new releases.
Speakers represent a who’s-who of California craft beer, from pioneers like Fritz Maytag and Mark Carpenter of Anchor Brewing and Ken Grossman of Sierra Nevada to David Walker and Matt Brynildson of Firestone Walker Brewing, Natalie and Vinnie Cilurzo of Russian River Brewing, Tony Magee of Lagunitas and Steve Wagner and Mitch Steele of Stone Brewing, to name a few.
“We intentionally picked topics that we thought will be of interest to the broad spectrum of people attending, but also compelling topics such as, what’s the potential for the industry looking into the future?” said McCormick. “Is there a bubble? Will it continue to grow? And for the Sacramento brewers panel: What can we expect in Sacramento? How many new breweries can open up?”
McCormick added: “We’re offering demos, educational seminars and exhibits specific to each of the individual groups attending the event. But we feel we all have something to learn from each other. For example, the brewers are really excited that we’re going to have three or four home brewing demos going on. Home-brewing clubs are bringing the latest and greatest equipment in home brewing. The brewers are excited to see what the home brewers are up to. Likewise, vendors for the professional brewery are exhibiting equipment, and the home brewers are excited about that. The retailers have a lot to learn from the consumers and the wholesalers have a lot to learn from the retailers.”
The Craft Beer Summit will shine a light on the unusual synergy among consumers, home brewers and professional breweries. “It’s a unique industry in that the consumer is really connected with the manufacturer, in this case the craft brewery. You don’t see that in many consumer products,” McCormick said. “The roots of craft brewing are absolutely in home brewing. So many of the current craft brewers come from a home brewing background originally.”
It’s a sure bet that some of the consumers attending the Sacramento event will become home brewers and some of the home brewers will open their own breweries. It’s already happening. “There are hundreds of what we call ‘breweries in planning’ on our database list. A lot of consumers are thinking about it and a lot of the people who are coming to this event are actively in the process of starting a brewery,” McCormick said.
The beer drinking will commence in earnest on Saturday afternoon after the Summit, a few blocks away on Capitol Mall. The Brewers Showcase will offer a unique opportunity to sample beers from all over the state side-by-side, especially beers from Southern California that usually don’t make it outside their local markets. “That was a big part of our goal, and it wasn’t easy,” McCormick said. “A lot of the (Southern California) breweries that will be at the Brewers Showcase would not typically go to a beer festival in Sacramento or even Northern California because they’re so small and a lot of them are already selling as much beer as they can make anyway.”
To make it easier for SoCal breweries to bring their beers to Sacramento, the CCBA set up a logistical system of drop-off points in San Diego and Los Angeles where the breweries can drop off their beers and equipment. “It’s great, because some of these tiny breweries are able to just drop their beer off and then hop on a plane or drive their car up rather than their van full of beer. Then we’re taking all of their empty kegs and jockey boxes and whatever they want to put in there and are shipping it back to them,” McCormick said.
At the Brewers Showcase, each of the 150 breweries will bring two kegs and as many bottles as they want. One of the requirements for the event is that someone from each of the breweries will be pouring at their booth. “We’ve told the breweries that this event is for them, so bring some special beers,” said McCormick. “We anticipate some very special beers and we’re starting to see some specific products as the breweries fill out their sheets. There are definitely going to be some unique beers poured that breweries are bringing out of the aging rooms and cellars because it is a special event.”
The Craft Beer Summit and Brewers Showcase is an ambitious maiden voyage for an organization known mostly for its advocacy for craft beer legislation, such as lobbying the state legislature to allow craft beer to be poured at farmer’s markets. “Although we’ve done a lot of events over the years, the association has never done a consumer event before,” said McCormick, whose background is in the beer industry and not events. “We’re all entrepreneurs. You have to be a pretty crazy entrepreneur to get into this business. You don’t get into this business for the money. You get into it because you love it and you’re passionate and creative. We wanted to do something different, and I think we are.”
Happily, this year’s Summit and Showcase won’t be a one-off. “We have a five-year strategic plan, and this event signals that the association wants to further promote craft beer both as a product and as an industry,” McCormick said.
“Our vision is for this to be an annual event and ultimately not just a regional event. Our vision is that this will be a showcase event for the craft brewing industry that people from all over the country come to California to see and do, similar to the Great American Beer Festival in Denver.”
For more details about this historic event, including how to get tickets, go here.
Use this code for a discount: CAcraftbeer10