Once a year the whole world of craft brewers, and I do mean the whole world, gathers together for four days of catching up, digesting new ideas, staying up way too late, and, of course, tasting beer in limitless varieties. We call it the Craft Brewers Conference, this year held in Washington, DC.

The All About Beer Magazine team started the week hosting a rotating panel of most of today’s legends in the beer industry at RFD’s Lupulast. We ended the week hosting a get-together of many of the young guns in our recent cover story: 30 Under 30.

Sitting on a riser in the back room of RFD gave me an amazing vantage point during the presentation. The room was filled with a dozen members of beer press, even more well-known and respected brewers and several dozen serious beer lovers.

The list, according to date opened, included Mark Carpenter (Anchor Brewing), Ken Grossman (Sierra Nevada Brewing Co.), Gary Fish (Deschutes Brewery), Larry Bell and John Mallett (Bell’s Brewery), Sam Calagione (Dogfish Head Brewery), Rob Tod (Allagash Brewery), Tomme Arthur (Lost Abbey Brewing Co.), Greg Koch and Mitch Steele (Stone Brewing Co.), Nick Funnell (SweetWater Brewing Co.) and Bill Madden (Mad Fox Brewery).

What did they talk about? How crazy it was getting into the business. How difficult it was to sell the beers they liked, back then. And, most importantly, what fun they were having now with talented people in their brewhouse and more time to enjoy this exciting beer market.

Two days later, I was again on a riser in front of a crowd, but this time with a distinctly different audience. After meeting the people in our “30 Under 30” cover article, the team here decided to bring as many of them as possible together at the National Press Club, where they showcased some of their beer. Given their relative youth, these people represent the future of craft brewing.

This gathering included the cover brewer Yiga Miyashiro (Saint Archer Brewing Co. and formerly of Pizza Port Ocean Beach), Joe Mohrfeld (Pinthouse Pizza), Meg Gill (Golden Road Brewing), Luke Kemper (Swamp Head Brewery), Justin Stange (Seventh Sun Brewing), Luke Livingston (Baxter Brewing Co.) and Doug Constantiner (Societe Brewing Co.). Check out our YouTube channel for interviews with these brewing professionals.

What unifies the young Turks and separates them from the Old Lions are two huge differences. First, today’s new brewer has only to make good beer and the market laps it up. Their grandfathers spent an amazing amount of energy building the market for their beers. Second, today’s beer market embraces wide-ranging diversity of style and flavor. Gone are the days where a tried-and-true portfolio was the key to success.

As the legends start to enjoy the fruits of their quarter of a century or more of work, the new crop is having a decided impact on their local markets. And the beer industry appears to be in good hands.

This originally appeared in the March 2013, Vol. 34, No. 1 issue of All About Beer Magazine.