This Friday a large contingent of some of the biggest names in New England brewing will converge on the Abromoson Center at University of Southern Maine’s Portland Campus for the New England Craft Brew Summit. The proliferation of consumer-facing beer festivals has been by turns a boon and a frustration for the industry over the last few years, but this is not a beer festival. Think of it more as a B2B industry conference. It’s a chance for the pros to come together and share ideas and methods, not to mention a beer or two.
The day begins at 9am with a “State of the Industry” update of sorts, followed by a keynote from Dick Cantwell, a true industry innovator and founder of Elysian Brewing Company. Cantwell’s road has been a winding one. He founded Elysian in 1995. In 2013 he literally wrote the book on starting a brewery (The Brewers Association's Guide to Starting Your Own Brewery). More recently Elysian sold to Anheuser Busch, a move that was very divisive within the brewing community, and which Cantwell himself vehemently opposed, only to have his stake overridden by his partners. Elysian was viewed as an originator and for some the sale seemed symptomatic of the way “Big Beer” money can influence smaller producers. Regardless of your stance, Cantwell’s talk is sure to be a compelling and instructive one.
From there the bulk of the day will be comprised of breakout sessions, but unlike your typical industry conference, these sessions have subjects like “Reducing/Controlling Dissolved Oxygen” and “Barrel Usage”. The sessions are split between a “Technical Track” and a “Business Track”. Brewers, quality control, and tasting room staff are likely to attend more of the technical sessions, while managers, business operations directors, and finance folks are probably more likely to be at the business-centric sessions.
Sadly, this writer’s 9-5 won’t allow him to attend, but there are a few sessions in particular that I anticipate will be especially fascinating, and would recommend given my knowledge of both the subject matter and the presenters. For starters, go see Jason Perkins’ talks on Good Manufacturing Practices (AM) and Barrell Usage (PM) . The Allagash brewmaster has an encyclopedic knowledge of all aspects of the brewing process, and he’s a dynamic and engaging presenter. I’ve been lucky enough to attend a few talks he’s given on barrel aging and fermenting with wild yeasts and bacteria, and the man knows his shit. There’s also an afternoon session titled “All About Yeast” featuring Joel Mahaffey from Foundation and Vasili Gletsos, the production manager at Hill Farmstead. These are two breweries which, it goes without saying, have a very good grasp on different strains and how they affect the brewing process.
On the business side of things, there are a number of highlights. There is a morning breakout session on Governmental Affairs with Heather Sanborn, Director of Business Operations & Owner at Rising Tide. Heather left a career as an attorney to found Rising Tide with her husband Nathan, and she has been instrumental in advocating for legislative changes that benefit the industry and make Maine a state where more breweries can thrive. There will also be a panel on Business Expansion and Market Growth featuring Kai Adams of Sebago and Dan Kleban of Maine Beer Company, two guys who know a lot about how to expand operations the right way.
The day promises to be equal parts fun and educational, and, as if you needed more incentive, the lunchtime keynote will be given by none other than Senator Angus King himself. So if you’ve ever wanted to slug suds with a federal lawmaker, here’s your chance.
New England Craft Brew Summit, Maine Brewers' Guild | Friday, April 1, from 8:00am to 6:00pm | University of Southern Maine, Portland. The New England Brew Summit will be a regional craft beer industry B2B conference and will have something for everyone involved in the craft beer industry. In addition to a world-class keynote speaker, Dick Cantwell, we will fill the day with breakout sessions categorized along two tracks: Technical Brewing, for brewers and production staff; and The Business of Beer, for owners, operators, and business managers. http://www.eventbrite.com/e/new-england-brew-summit-2016-new-englands-craft-beer-industry-conference-tickets-22186691993?aff=ebapi