The California Craft Beer Summit was two days in Long Beach, packed with informative and entertaining sessions, and a constant flow of craft beer.
The summit opened with a panel of California craft beer A-listers: Sierra Nevada’s Ken Grossman, Karl Strauss’s Chris Cramer, Drake’s John Martin, and CCBA Executive Director Tom McCormick. The panel was moderated by Russian River’s Vinnie Cilurzo. Each of these craft beer pioneers talked about getting their start in the 80s and how much the craft beer world has changed over the decades. The varied approaches to funding and equipment sourcing at a time when craft beer didn’t really exist were fascinating.
The huge audience was rapt as Grossman handed out bottles of Pale Ale to the panel and Martin recalled opening up Triple Rock Brewing without enough money left for a change drawer, and nearly blowing the brewery up with an overly exuberant fermentation.
Another craft beer luminary, Garret Oliver, made his way from Brooklyn to talk about the industrialization of food production and what it means to be a craft brewer. At one point he pulled a Kraft Single out of his back pocket declaring “This is not cheese. This is not food.” He pointed out that brewers adding wacky adjuncts like donuts should consider what they’re actually putting in their beer.
Moksa Brewing’s Derek Gallanosa session was titled “Small Brewery Marketing: Making a Large Impacet with a Tiny Staff.” Dude has a degree in marketing and sold out their “Moksa Memberhood” before they even opened their doors or served a beer, so he knows what he’s talking about.
Derek stepped through Moksa’s processes of label design, social media management, and event promotion. The marketing plan he laid out was so thoughtful and well done it left people wondering how he also has time to brew beer.
Dr. Janel Jackson-Beckham is the Diversity Ambassador for the Brewer’s Association and a professor of Communication Studies at Randolph College. She laid out a plan for auditing the cultural climate of an organization. This included interviews and anonymous surveys, and how to analyze the collected data. Dr. J pointed out the business need for an inclusive culture as craft beer continues to expand and look for new markets.
Sierra Nevada is currently undergoing possibly the biggest transition of its nearly forty years of existence. Founder Ken Grossman has begun to step back from the day-to-day operations. Meanwhile he and his family maintain ownership and two of his three children work at the brewery. Ken’s daughter Sierra and newly appointed CEO Jeff White chatted about the interactions among the brewery’s changing leadership.
Russian River’s Natalie and Vinnie Cilurzo discussed the planning, design, and construction of their new Windsor brewery. They went through considerable effort to build the brewery to their high standards and ensure that it could be expanded in the future. They faced challenges including fluctuating currency affecting the cost of German-made brewing equipment, personnel and material shortages due to the Tubbs fire, and many more unexpected issues.
It’s clear that the Cilurzo’s drive to brew increasingly high quality beer and provide a great experience for visitors has created something special in Windsor.
Lance Shaner is the co-founder of Omega Yeast Labs and has a Ph.D. in microbiology and molecular genetics. Omega Labs has three versions of the increasingly popular Kveik yeast, traditionally used in Norwegian farmhouse brewing. Their experimentation with these yeasts has found that under typical fermentation conditions Kveik behaves similarly to typical ale yeasts, although more resistant to high alcohol. Where things get really interesting is at high temperatures, around 100° F. Kveik ferments very quickly at this temperature with no change in the resulting flavor profile. The potential for these yeasts are enormous as brewers look to maximize their brewing schedule.
The California Craft Beer Summit had an abundance of great information, resources, and beer. The sessions described above were only a fraction of those available. It was also full of great people. It was exciting to meet the brewers, vendors, media, and other staff that make up California craft beer. Everyone was super friendly and engaged. The whole thing was exceptionally well organized by the CCBA and I hope to make it to future events!