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Craft Brewers Conference Wrap-Up: Part I

Three weeks have passed since the Craft Brewers Conference graced DC with its delicious, boozy presence. We at DCBeer had some thoughts on CBC13, both the conference and expo, and the events surrounding them, and we’re sharing them here with you. Feel free to play along in the comments.

Nick Rakowski:

Actually, I had my favorite beer of CBC right before Bill shotgunned a Dale’s Pale Ale smokestack [ed note: there is video of this]: Oakshire Brewer's Reserve Framboise.  Wonderfully rich and full for a framboise, not too acidic, with a little funk to prop it up... and the feeling like a burly man in a Raspberry "Fruit of the Loom" costume was shoving your face into a bucket of fresh raspberries.

Aaron Morrissey:

Aside from local beer, it really seemed like people were discovering a lot of St. Louis beer. Can't remember what day that event took place at Meridian Pint (Wednesday? [Jake's note: yep]), but it definitely got people talking, especially about Perennial and Urban Chestnut. On a personal note, the saison event at CK on Tuesday was a big highlight for me.

Michael Stein:

I'd say one of the highlights was the "Botanical Brewing Workshop" w/ Bruce Williams (of Williams Brothers Brewing fame). Then hearing Ben Matz talk about how we all would like to have Bruce Williams' job.After Williams' panel, I talked to Ben about how cask ale is obviously best fresh, but how sometimes there’s a window for it. I wish I could remember what he put in Cerveza Nacional de La Capital (I think it was sarsaparilla because he said it tastes just like root beer), but he was saying how eight days is the peak. He's done the research and knows that seven days is too short to tap the cask, and nine days is too long. Eight days was the perfect meshing of botanicals with the beer in the cask and peak freshness. So that was insightful.

Some other insights from Bruce Williams during his workshop:

- His beers support the re-imagining of folklore, historical provenance, and literally use ingredients that come from the brewery's surrounding community.

- "People that don't enjoy hopped beers can get quite into these beers" on botanical beers.

- From the files of “this actually happened?” Williams noted, "Pop music is like Bud, Miller, Coors," and then he sung the Carley Rae Jepson hit "Call Me Maybe."

- Williams: "Please don't make cask conditioned beer if it’s NOT cask conditioned beer. PLEASE America... it's disrespectful to the style.”

- Consuming bog myrtle, seaweed, and heather ale before 10am...mmm..the things I do for DCBeer.

Andrew Nations:

I just enjoyed hanging out with all my besties. [Jake's note: Great seeing you, Andy!]

Chris Van Orden:

The Fast-Growing Brewers Panel had Omar Ansari, Joey Redner, and Clay Robinson talking about how to scale up smart. Their conversation was great - how to approach real estate, new vs. used tanks - but the best part was when other brewers sought out advice. Hearing their measured takes on the right approach for a given brewery was really informative and showcased the diversity in the US market. But most of all it showed how positive and supportive things can still be in this industry.

As for the rest of the week:

- At Smith Commons, always great to hear Bill Butcher talk, and No-Li's John Bryant (on Monday) was a smart dude (my wife is from Spokane, so she was pumped to meet him too).  And then the Hops Panel (Tuesday) was just a blast.

- Scion's crazy Wednesday night out-of-market event was a great time.  Got to have some Funkwerks again, which is always nice, and meet some readers(!). Tim being Tim, he gave me a bottle of Oakshire 6th Anniversary, which is spectacular.  

Bill DeBaun:

Some highlights for me included:

- Seeing how many folks used the DCBeer calendar to navigate their evenings. That's a lot of work and time devoted to that, so I'm glad it wasn't for nought.

- The Smith Commons Hop Symposium on Tuesday was a great time, lots of #dcbrews folks hanging out, chatting hops. Sure it was loud, but if even a few people walked away with a better understanding of hops, I think that was worth it. Thanks to Smith Commons for hosting!

- Talking to Brandon Skall the night after The Pietasters show at the Black Cat. Seeing the straight up joy Brandon had about having put on a successful event at the Black Cat that raised a bunch of money for a great cause and cleaned the venue out of beer was a really genuine moment where a whole bunch of things related to CBC came up for a great net positive.

- BrewExpo America is just a completely overwhelming experience. I'm not entirely sure that everything there is absolutely critical for craft beer. Same as any trade show, really, there are going to be some gimmicks. But seeing folks trying to change the way that beer is consumed was interesting and a reminder that there are still new things under the sun.

- Great conversations with Geoff DeBisschop (brewer) and Tom Knorr (owner) of Evolution Brewing Company were a reminder that you don't need to look out of market to find great beer you haven't had before. Jake and I had the opportunity to talk to both of them about bringing back some variation of Menagerie #4. For those who didn't have it, it was the Lot 6 DIPA aged in Cruzan rum barrels. There was exactly one keg of it, total, and that went to The Big Hunt in January of 2011. To this day, it remains a revelation for those of us who had it. I often can't remember what I had to drink last week, but I still remember this beer from over two years ago fondly and clearly. Truly one of the best beers I've ever had, and it came from a brewer in our region, and we got to try to convince them to bring it back. Does craft beer get any better than that kind of community?

Best beers consumed:

- Le Petit Prince from Jester King (at Scion, on Friday). So much flavor and complexity for 2.7%. I finally see what all the hype around Jester King was about (this was my first beer from them).

- Oskar Blues Felix (at Smith Commons, on Tuesday) - blonde sour ale that become a component of many of New Belgium's tastiest sours

- Triple Digit Chickow! (Hazelnut Double Brown Ale) (on the CBC Brew Expo floor) - This is everything I hoped Frangelic Mountain Brown would have been. More complexity, better mouth feel, but still that smooth hazelnut permeating everything.

John Fleury:

I loved the science based seminars including "Seminar: Beyond the Thermometer and Microscope: How to Get Real Answers From a Lab in a Craft Brewery"

Jake Berg:

As Aaron said, the saison event at Churchkey. Wow. Just wow. Getting a chance to try those aforementioned out of market beers was wonderful. Tired Hands, Hill Farmstead, Crooked Stave, Jester King... I was impressed by all of what I had from these breweries. 

Random thoughts:

- I went to two sessions on the past, present, and future of malt and malting, and I feel like I took a 3-credit course on the subject. A wonderful experience.

- The BrewExpo Exhibition was overwhelmingly amazing, with beer stations available starting at 11am during the conference. What better time for Deschutes Chainbreaker White IPA or a Sun King Cream Ale?

- Trendspotting at the conference, Mosaic is the next “it” hop, and European growers are really stepping their games up, too. Be on the lookout for an Alsacian hop, Aramis, and new varieties from Germany, which we often think of as hidebound and conservative.

- On an eye-opening and perhaps disappointing note, I saw at least three vendors selling flavoring extracts, and one of these had a roster of craft brewers lined up for testimonials. So now I don’t know if there’s any actual chocolate in Rogue Chocolate Stout, one of the examples a vendor showed me, and I don’t know how I feel about that. Does it matter?

 

If you, dear readers, have favorite moments and memories from 2013's Craft Brewers Conference, please share them below. Cheers! 

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