This year, what happens in Vegas hopefully follows you home and stays with you all year long. The annual Craft Brewers Conference is of course a time to network (and commiserate) with fellow brewers, a chance to inspect the newest technology and equipment, and to make connections. It’s also a chance to attend well-researched seminars given by thoughtful, experienced presenters and hopefully bring that knowledge back to your breweries. 

Let’s look at five standout sessions that you should consider attending.

Your Brewery Is a Business, Not a Hobby

Business & Leadership Track

Scott Metzger has seen a lot in his career, which has spanned from running his own brewery in San Antonio to running breweries for other folks, such as Wormtown Brewery in Massachusetts. Metzger is now the president and COO for Craft ‘Ohana (the combined entity of Maui Brewing and Modern Times). Recognizing the competitive nature of the current craft beer landscape, Metzger’s seminar will walk attendees through the “foundations of managing your brewery like a business, not a hobby, to succeed in the modern marketplace.” It will help “establish actionable goals that everyone in your organization can affect and will allow your business to thrive; identify, monitor, and manage the key performance indicators (KPIs) that drive you to your goals; build a management and operations toolkit to best position your brewery for success,; and establish management routines that engage and involve your teammates in your journey to success.”

No Brewery, No Beer, No Problem

Government Affairs & Legal Track

Many of the seminars at this year’s CBC revolve around a similar theme: it’s hard out there and expected to only get harder. It’s time to get smarter and this seminar, hosted by attorney Jason Barker, a partner at Holland & Knight LLP, will help you navigate the process from incubating a brewery idea to building a brand. Noting the challenges in securing commercial real estate loans and getting traditional bank lending without an established brewery, Parker’s seminar seeks to answer the question, “how does the craft brewery startup survive and thrive without its own brewery or a proven beer product?” This seminar “examines proven strategies for thriving in this challenging marketplace through a legal review of various non-traditional rubrics for marketplace success, including brewing arrangements such as contract brewing or an alternating proprietorship (alt-prop) relationship, production of non-beer products such ready-to-drink (RTDs), ciders, and other wine products, and other strategies for harnessing sustainable margins while building a successful brand.”

With owning your own place looking less of a sure thing, Parker will explore “the use of contract brewing or alt-prop arrangements in lieu of owning a brick-and-mortar brewery.” It will help attendees understand the key legal considerations for producing and maintaining compliance for non-beer products, including a 50-state comparative law analysis of trade practice and franchise law matters. Parker will also give tips on how to remain legally compliant without breaking the bank. 

Brewing a Culture of Wellness: Nurturing Sobriety and Promoting Responsible Drinking in the Craft Beer Industry

THRIVE Workshop

This panel discussion will “confront the crucial topics of sobriety in the brewing industry and promote responsible alcohol consumption.” Offered as part of the THRIVE workshop, which is a “day-long experience, appropriate for owners, people leaders, human resources (HR) and diversity, equity, and inclusion (DEI) practitioners, that provides an integrated dive into DEI, HR, and wellness topics for craft brewers of all sizes.” A sometimes uncomfortable and often ignored area, recent years has seen an increase in elevating the importance of maintaining a mindful and wellness focused relationship with alcohol, especially for those working in and around beverage alcohol all day. A key part of the seminar is the opportunity to hear from three industry professionals who have personally struggled with the subject and found a positive way through.

Moderated by Meagan Anderson the founder and CEO of the AFicioNAdo Certification Program, the seminar will address alcohol use disorder (AUD) and help attendees “gain a deep understanding of the factors that contribute to this issue and learn effective strategies to engage in open and honest conversations about sobriety with your staff.” The panelists will “explore practical approaches and initiatives that can be implemented to cultivate healthy drinking habits among your staff and educate customers on making informed choices.”

Engaging Brewery Staff and Customers Through Beer Education

Taprooms & Brewpubs Track, THRIVE Workshop

This session with its lively, enlivening panelists will attract a crowd and hopefully more drinkers in your taprooms. Based on the premise that craft beer is no longer the underdog, the panelists will show you how to educate and inform potential customers in a sea of thousands of brewery options. The panelists include Master Cicerone Max Finnance, Pints & Panels creator Em Sauter (and co-host of the All About Beer podcast), Kaylyn Kirkpatrick, Director of Education for the Brewers Association, and Chris Shields, Director of Education at Rhinegeist Brewery. With their wide range of different experiences, the panelists will “share how beer education can be used as a tool for employee engagement while celebrating innovation, flavor, creativity, and fun.” They will offer advice for equipping staff with “the tools to acquaint and excite the new generation of customers” and offer specific and creative techniques to employ with the public. 

Innovation: What Does It Mean and How Can It Help Your Business

Business & Leadership, Production & Operations Tracks

A veritable murderers’ row of brewing and beer talent will help inspire and guide you to tackle innovation in your own brewhouse. These innovation experts come from a broad range of breweries and will discuss how to define and implement innovation for your own space. The panel includes Natalie Rose Baldwin, Brewmaster at Wayfinder Beer, Tonya Cornett, Innovation Brewmaster at 10 Barrel Brewing Company and Tilray (and the recently announced recipient of the 2024 Russell Schehrer Award for Innovation in Craft Brewing), Kelly McKnight, Lead Research & Development Brewer at New Belgium Brewing, and Megan Parisi, Head Brewer at Samuel Adams Downtown Boston Taproom. The speakers will discuss their processes, explain how they approach innovation while balancing the greater interests of their respective breweries, and help their brands stay relevant, continue to push boundaries, and ultimately help your bottom lines.


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