During the 2014 Craft Brewer’s Conference we ran into Steve Stowell, who is in process of opening Triple S brewing in Colorado Springs in the coming months. We followed him around the expo floor for a couple hours while he shopped for equipment, and asked him to summarize his time at the CBC. Thanks Steve for giving us the new brewer’s perspective on the conference!
I attended the Craft Brewers Conference all last week; it’s the largest trade show in the craft brewing industry. For a startup brewpub, it was exciting! All the heavy hitters were there: I sat behind Kim Jordan, Dick Cantwell and Sam Calagione at the keynote address. I regularly saw Ken Grossman, Charlie Papazian and all the BA crew wandering the halls. I also rubbed elbows with Mike Bristol, and a whole slew of Colorado brewers at the social hours at the end of each day. All that networking was great, but the other reason I was there was to find some steel. 304 stainless in particular, rolled and sanitary welded into a brewhouse, fermenters, bright tanks, kegs and taps.
The Germans had very efficient, well-made & expensive steel. The Canadians were friendly and had a lot to say about their steel. The Chinese had no frills, cheap steel. And of course, the Americans had good old made in the USA steel. I talked to all of them and still await the estimates they promised.
It was an international trade show, and I talked to everybody. Everybody was super friendly and willing to talk about anything: how they got started, how they got funded, issues they are currently having, things to avoid, and things to do. By the way, everybody was 9,000 people!
I also got to attend a number of seminars. They did a great job of including a bunch of seminars for startups, as well as for seasoned brewers. They even broke them down into 100, 200 and 300 “level” classes. I’m past thinking about doing it, but not quite open yet; some of the startup seminars were a bit too simple. But others were great! Like the 10 legal mistakes brewers make, and brewpub insurance. The last one was a bit dry, but the free-flowing beer from national and local brewers afterwards made it better! The most interesting seminar was the troubleshooting panel, which included the brewers from Firestone Walker and Crooked Stave among others. The audience posed brewing questions & problems, and they all answered how they would deal with them. Chad Jakobsen of Crooked Stave gave tons of great insight on barrel aging!
Overall it was a well-run and great experience for a brewpub in planning. The Craft Brewing community is only 7% of the overall beer market, and right now it’s us against the big beers. One of the big announcements was the Brewers Association’s goal of gaining 20% of the market in 2020. Next year when they have the Craft Brewers Conference in Portland, Oregon, I imagine there will be more people, and I’m excited to be a part of that growth! I am opening Triple S Brewing in Colorado Springs in January of 2015.