Show Preview: 8 Must-See Craft Brewers Conference Seminars

Photo © Brewers Association

More than 13,000 beer industry professionals will converge on Nashville, Tennessee, for the 2018 Craft Brewers Conference from April 30 to May 3.

The four-day event officially kicks off Monday evening with a welcome reception at Fifth Avenue of the Arts. The rest of the week will be packed with networking, brand launches and social gatherings at Music City Center, including Brewbound’s first Brew Talks event of 2018 presented by Dogfish Head Craft Brewery. Expect thought-provoking and engaging discussions with industry stakeholders May 1 at Nashville Underground and, of course, beers and more networking.

But the week is more than just parties and networking as there will be more than 70 seminars on 12 different educational tracks. Brewbound has selected eight can’t-miss talks to keep you engaged during the week.


Raising Capital

WHO: Karl Strauss co-founder and CEO Chris Cramer, Three Weavers founder Lynne Weaver, Stradling Yocca Carlson & Rauth partner Kyle Leingang, Live Oak Bank senior loan officer Randall Behrens

WHY GO: Growth requires money in this capital-intensive industry, and Cramer has built a chain of brewpubs throughout California by leveraging different kinds of investors.


General Session II – State of the Industry

WHO: Magnolia Brewing’s Dick Cantwell, New Glarus founder Deb Carey, Brewers Association director Paul Gatza, chief economist Bart Watson and founder and past president Charlie Papazian

WHY GO: The BA’s Watson and Gatza will a high-level view of the state of the industry and discuss headwinds facing small and independent brewers. Carey will give the keynote speech, and she’ll likely share how her Wisconsin craft brewery has grown into a 200,000-barrel brewery with distribution in a single state. Finally, Papazian, who will retire next year, will talk with Cantwell, who returned to active brewing last year as part of the ownership group that bought Magnolia out of bankruptcy.

Growing into the Headwinds

WHO: Bell’s CEO Laura Bell, Russian River co-owner Natalie Cilurzo, Karl Strauss co-founder Chris Cramer, Brooklyn Brewery CEO Eric Ottaway, Firestone Walker co-founder David Walker, Beer Marketer’s Insights’ Benj Steinman

WHY GO: As the number of craft brewers grows beyond 6,000, challenges for craft brewers increase. Leaders from five of top craft breweries will share strategies on continuing to grow in a more mature craft brewing industry.

Tax Reform: What Brewers Should Know

WHO: Andersen Tax managing partner Bill Amon and McDermott Will & Emery partner Patrick McCurry

WHY GO: The Craft Beverage Modernization and Tax Reform Act is now law, but how will the changes to the tax code and excise tax affect small brewers? Amon and McCurry will explain how brewers benefit.


Navigating Hop Contracts in a Changing Market

WHO: Hopunion-YCH VP North American Sales Ryan Hopkins, CLS Farms owners Eric Desmarais and Three Weavers founder Lynne Weaver and brewmaster Alexandra Nowell

WHY GO: This panel will cover how to use the spot market for hops as well as strategies to avoid over and under contracting for hops, a pertinent topic for smaller brewers after a hop broker filed for bankruptcy last year and cited many brewers’ inability to honor the contracts they signed among the reasons for the filing.

Cannabis and Craft Beer: Risks and Opportunities

WHO: Pepper Hamilton partner Alva Mather

WHY GO: Thirty states and Washington, D.C., have legalized marijuana either for recreational or medical use. Mather will discuss the current legal landscape at the state and federal level and hit on the risks and opportunities for craft brewers, including CBD-infused beer.

Defense and Promotion of Tasting Rooms

WHO: Freetail Brewing Co. founder Scott Metzger, California Craft Brewers Association executive director Tom McCormick and BA chief economist Bart Watson

WHY GO: In 2016, 9.5 percent of all craft beer transactions were made in brewery taprooms, which have become an essential source of cash flow for small brewers, who can make four to five times as much per ½ barrel than by going through the three-tier system. They’ve also become points for contention for some retailers and wholesalers. Watson, McCormick and Metzger will share how to navigate those potentially tricky relationships.

What’s on Tap: A Look Into On Premise

WHO:: Nielsen CGA senior vice president Scott Elliott

WHY GO: Elliot will offer insight into the latest on-premise trends as sales in the channel have become more challenging as competition for taphandles has increased and retailers have rotated placements.