CCBA Summit Celebrates California’s Booming Craft Beer Industry

By Chuck Lenatti
The California Craft Brewers Association recently announced another historic milestone: California is now home to 700 craft breweries. That’s a stunning number, up 124% from just four years ago.
“Our industry is changing so fast right now it is literally making my head spin,” said Natalie Cilurzo, co-owner of Russian River Brewing and president of the CCBA Board of Directors. “For example, in 1994, when my husband opened his first brewery, we bought the only high-quality growler available: the flip-top 2 liter Palla bottle. Now there is a dizzying array of super-technical, high pressure-rated insulated growlers in various materials, shapes and sizes available.”
Becoming a commercial brewer is no less daunting today than it was when Natalie and Vinnie Cilurzo opened Russian River Brewing — maybe even more so, given the stiff competition. But unlike in the 1990s, organizations like the CCBA are eager to help brewers navigate the business side of commercial craft brewing.
The annual California Craft Beer Summit in September is a chance for new brewers to learn the nuances of the beer business, pick up tips from veterans and make valuable contacts, as well as for established breweries to keep up with the rapidly evolving California craft beer industry.
“The Summit is a great opportunity for networking in all tiers, particularly for someone who is new to the industry,” said Cilurzo. “Looking back 20-plus years, having an event like the Summit would have been extremely beneficial when we first started in the industry. It’s everything you need, from insurance companies to distributors and bankers to customers, all in one place,” she said.
“The Summit not only showcases the growth and the excellence of California’s craft beer industry, but provides educational and networking opportunities for new and growing breweries to improve the quality of their beer, build distribution channels, learn about new equipment or services that support the industry, and stand out in front of craft beer lovers in a growing industry,” said Leia Ostermann, managing director of the CCBA.
“One of the most valuable parts of the Summit for newer brewery owners is meeting the brewers that have walked the path before them, building friendships and a network to call on if needed, and bonding with the community of commercial brewers across the state,” she said.
“Attending the talks and educational seminars is a great way for new brewers to learn about trade practices, different beer styles and the history of our industry,” Cilurzo said. “The ability to network with so many people is invaluable for anyone new to the industry. Even as a seasoned vet to craft beer, I still ask questions and learn from others at events like the Summit,” she said.
Educational seminars and networking can help all breweries avoid some of the legal pitfalls that might crop up in areas such as marketing and social media advertising. “Laws and regulations are changing rapidly, the marketplace is becoming more competitive, and it’s important to stay up to date with changes and transitions in the industry to succeed as a craft brewer in California,” Ostermann said. “The Summit provides all of this and more to California’s craft beer family,” she added.
“This year’s Summit includes five educational tracks specific to brewers and the beer industry,” Ostermann said. “These tracks include business and industry sessions to improve understanding and knowledge of the marketplace, hospitality and retail training, building a brand and throwing events for beer lovers, technical skills and cicerone tasting classes, and a special ‘meet a distributor’ session, allowing one-one-one opportunities for brewers to meet new distribution partners at the Summit.
The Summit concludes with a massive party on the Capitol Mall in Sacramento. Beer lovers will have an opportunity to enjoy brews that they might not otherwise see.
“At the Summit Beer Festival, we have more than 160 California breweries pouring 450 beers from all over the state, including special releases, hard-to-find beers and possibly even a firkin,” said Ostermann. “Many of the breweries pouring at the Summit don’t distribute outside of their home towns, so you’ll have a chance to taste new beers and new styles that you won’t be able to try anywhere. It truly is a tasting tour through California craft beer.”
Cilurzo considers the Summit “our premier event in California, and California brewers are bringing their A-game. I’m bringing Pliny the Elder, our flagship double IPA, and a new sour beer that has never been released for sale to the public.  It’s a surprise!” 

California Craft Beer Summit
When: Sept. 8-10
Where: Expo Hall, Sacramento Convention Center, Downtown Sacramento


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