Sunday, May 1st: I knew from the very start that this trip was going to be amazing. About half the people on our flight from Portland to Minneapolis were brewers or industry people, all heading to the same place for the same reason: to attend the 2022 Craft Brewers Conference.
After flying into Minneapolis Sunday night, we met up with some of Sam’s good friends for a wonderful dinner and drinks. What a great way for Sam to return to Minneapolis, where he lived for several years and got his start in the craft brewing industry! Shout out to Adam and the great folks at The Butcher’s Tale in downtown Minneapolis, that was a killer meal that I will not soon forget! We checked into our hotel and got an early night in preparation for the busy days to come.
Monday, May 2nd: The CBC officially kicks off! Sam and I picked up our badges for the CBC and explored the Minneapolis Convention Center before heading to our first workshops. Sam attended an in-depth workshop on Draught Beer Quality (draught line cleaning and maintenance, proper pouring and serving, etc.) while I went to a workshop on Lab Procedures for the brewery (yeast cell counting, contamination testing, etc.). We met up after our workshops for a fun German beer and hop tasting, where we got to try a handful of german-style beers with newly bred German hops that are just hitting the US market. Afterwards, we went to the Welcome Reception and listened to a great musical performance by Ner-D, an awesome Minneapolis-based band, and got to try a lot of cool beers from around the country. It was wonderful to see brewers and industry folk from around the world coming together to share a beer and dance off some of the lingering stress of the pandemic.
Tuesday, May 3rd: We attended the official Welcome/State of the Industry Address, where we heard from several key members of the Brewers Association regarding the general trajectory of the craft beer industry, and some of the hurdles we are facing. We were also welcomed to Minneapolis by mayor Jacob Frey, who addressed the social unrest in Minneapolis following the murder of George Floyd, the effects of the pandemic, and the recent spike in inflation across the US. He expressed his thanks for our industry’s contributions to the city and our patronage to local breweries and restaurants, as well as how the CBC marked the beginning of a revitalization of the twin cities area. Following the Welcome Address, Sam and I got our first glimpse at the BrewExpo America Trade Show, a massive, sprawling exposition of vendors and industry-related businesses. It would take us hours to see everything there, so we took a quick stroll around before heading to our first seminars of the day.
Sam and I attended a short series of research presentations from university researchers around the country on a wide array of subjects before splitting up for two different seminars. I attended a very interesting seminar on Hop Creep, a phenomenon in the brew process that has only recently begun to be understood by brewers and that we at 7 Devils encounter occasionally. We will be experimenting with some suggested ways to avoid Hop Creep in the coming months. Sam attended a seminar on Company Culture - essentially how any brewery is more than just the beer it creates, but also the people it employs and the working environment it cultivates. He also attended a seminar on sustainable brewing and how to reduce your brewery’s carbon footprint, something we at 7 Devils have been working towards since we first opened. Sam learned some interesting tips and tricks that we will be employing in our brewery very soon. While Sam was learning about sustainable brewing, I went to a seminar on the effects of climate change on the supply chains in the beer industry, specifically barley/malt supply. Hearing from barley farmers, maltsters, and brewers all on the same panel was a very informative experience.
Wednesday, May 4th: The fourth was with us on Wednesday! We started our day at the conference by attending the Keynote Address from Natalie Cilurzo, president and co-owner of Russian River Brewing Company. Her stories of California wildfires and pandemic-related travel complications were a great example of the many unique challenges the world is throwing at us. She praised the flexibility and creativity that brewers around the world have shown in recent years to address the myriad of challenges we are all dealing with. She also emphasized the need for Purpose in the craft brewing world - in short, why do we make beer? Do we make beer just for fun? For money? Or is there a greater impact we can have on our communities and our world through our craft? And what is the value of that impact? Her words really resonated with us and reminded me of our Purpose at 7 Devils: to bring our community together, to enrich the lives of our neighbors, and to make some lasting memories with our friends over a pint of delicious beer.
After the keynote address, Sam and I spent some more time at the BrewExpo. There were literally thousands of vendors from all sides of the craft beer world. We saw a lot of really cool brewing equipment, learned more about the ingredients we use and where they come from, drank a lot of cool beers (have I mentioned that yet?) and made some great connections with retailers. Shout out to the people who were dressed up as Star Wars characters! After strolling the Expo for a few hours, Sam and I split up again to attend some seminars. I went to a fun seminar on Hop Breeding, and got to sniff some brand new, unreleased hop varieties while Sam got to learn about Czech Pilsners from the experts of pilsner-ing themselves (and got to try some legit Czech pilsners in the process!).
Lastly, I attended a seminar on genetically engineered yeast, a relatively new technology in the brewing world. Hearing different takes and opinions on genetically engineered organisms in general, as well as specifically brewer’s yeast, was very fun and dare I say entertaining. The debate around GMOs is far reaching and complex, and to hear different industry experts give their thoughts was enlightening. Meanwhile, Sam was learning about starch conversion in mashing, and how fermentable and un-fermentable sugars affect the brew process. We reconvened and had a beer before meeting up with Sam’s old friends for some amazing Peruvian food in St. Paul. We ended the day at a Japanese whiskey bar in downtown Minneapolis, where we had some incredible cocktails before wandering back to our hotel.
Thursday, May 5th: Our last day at the CBC! We packed our things early in the morning and dropped them off at the coat check before heading back to the BrewExpo one last time. It took three days, but we finally got to see everything the Expo had to offer. Sam and I split up again, and I attended a seminar on Pumps in the Brewery, which covered all the different types of pumps brewers use and what they are used for. Sam attended a seminar on Beer Distribution, and the many challenges facing breweries that distribute far and wide. This made us very grateful for our Master Distributor, Dana, and all the hard work he puts in to get our beer out to thirsty Oregonians!
For our last seminars of the CBC, Sam attended a seminar about electricity and electrical safety in the brewery. His biggest takeaway from that: if there’s an electrical problem, call your brewery’s maintenance guy! We have one of those, right? While he was trying to decipher complex electrical physics equations, I was learning about Malt Analysis and the standardized metrics used for the malt that we use. It was very helpful for understanding where certain numbers and percentages given to us by the maltsters come from and what they mean for brewing. Sam and I met up for a quick beer after our seminars before saying goodbye to the CBC, grabbing our luggage, and heading to the airport.
We also wanted to deeply thank Annie and Carmen for sending us on such an awesome and informative trip, as well as for taking care of the brewery for us while we were gone! You guys rock!
If you want to know more about our time at CBC, the things we learned, the beers we tried, the people we met, or anything else regarding our craft, we are always happy to chat and share our love for craft beer! Cheers! -Jonah