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5 Questions with the Brewers Association Ahead of Next Week’s Craft Brewers Conference

5 Questions with the Brewers Association Ahead of Next Week’s Craft Brewers Conference
Jennie Olson

Each year, thousands of industry members gather for one of beer’s biggest and most anticipated events: The Craft Brewers Conference (CBC). This year, the conference will be held in Las Vegas, Nevada from April 21-24. A one-of-a-kind-can’t-miss event, CBC gives attendees the opportunity to learn from industry leaders in 60+ seminars, engage with suppliers providing new products and services to help grow successful businesses, and of course — cheer on their peers at the electric World Beer Cup award ceremony. We caught up with the Brewers Association ahead of this year’s event to highlight a bit of what’s to come – and to provide a few tips to attendees to get the most out of their CBC experience.

PorchDrinking: What are some of the hot topics in the industry right now that will be addressed in the upcoming seminars?

Brewers Association: Running a profitable and sustainable business, managing shrinking margins, producing and serving quality beers, identifying and finding opportunities in crowded markets, direct-to-consumer shipping, navigating regulatory changes and consumer trends (e.g. demand for low-ABV and non-alcoholic options), and strategies for marketing and brand differentiation in a competitive market are just some of the hot topics we’ll be addressing at CBC. A couple of can’t-miss presentations are:

Foundations of Pasteurization for Regular and Non-Alcohol Beers, led by Dr. Alex Speers. With the growing popularity of low-hopped and non-alcohol beers, we’ve seen increasing concerns about the survival of spoilers and pathogenic bacteria. Dr. Speers will discuss the basics of how brewing microbes die when heated and provide the latest information on the effect of pasteurization on beers, including those with reduced alcohol and hop levels.

Our chief economist, Bart Watson, will be talking about Finding Growth in a Crowded Market at the general session on Day 2 (Tuesday, April 23).

Beer margins are shrinking, and operating costs keep going up. It’s getting tough out there. On Monday, April 22, Kary Shumay will present “How to Drive Profitability in an Era of Compressed Margins.” 

And, for those who can spend extra time in Las Vegas ahead of the conference, there are a few seats left for Audra Gaiziunas’ Brewery Strategic Financial Planning and Leadership Bootcamp. This add-on, pre-conference, hands-on workshop will equip brewery owners, managers, and operational staff with the financial tools to accelerate their business. 

Our government affairs team will be providing critical updates on state and federal legislation so be sure to drop into any one of their five presentations.

Photo © Brewers Association

PD: Can you talk a little bit about the addition of the “Thrive” seminar track and how that’s been received the last few years?

BA: In recent years, the inclusion of THRIVE at CBC has provided people-leaders with a streamlined method for accessing relevant content, facilitating easier navigation, and broadening the scope and depth of topics addressed by speakers and attendees at the conference. We’ve seen an impressive range of HR, DEI, and wellness topics presented during the THRIVE pre-con and in the general seminar track, and the THRIVE ecosystem/member experience continues to evolve and grow. In addition to the pre-conference workshop, and seminar track, THRIVE also offers multiple networking opportunities, like HR Connect and THRIVE Live!, and the evolution of the wellness offerings at the conference. 

PD: Any particular seminar you’re excited for that you’d like to spotlight here? 

BA: We’re beyond excited about many things at CBC but here are a few unique talks that one will be hard-pressed to find anywhere else:   

Our keynote on day one is Fawn Weaver, CEO and founder of Uncle Nearest Premium Whiskey, a company she built from the ground up in just four years that is now one of the country’s most successful independent whiskey brands and valued at over $1 billion. Fawn has successfully and continuously conquered challenges and broken through barriers — showing us how brilliant entrepreneurs thrive during uncertainty. Moderated by Crowns & Hops CEO Beny Ashburn, we hope this discussion will inspire craft brewers to think beyond the next beer style, learn from Fawn’s story, identify new opportunities for growth, and reinvigorate how they can lead successfully into the future.  

Two can’t-miss seminars are industry trend spotter and market advisor Brandy Rand’s talk, What’s Influencing How We Drink Today and in the Future. Brandy will review the influence of larger consumer trends shaping how we drink and help you better understand and plan for the consumer of the future. The second is Christopher Shepard’s Ways to Weigh Alcohol Research, Policy, and Perceptions which provides a fast-paced review of the often weighty topics of alcohol science and policy with the lighter and brighter feelings many have for drinking. 

Photo © Brewers Association

PD: For those attending the conference this year, what’s your biggest advice for planning your festival schedule?

BA: First, grab your smartphone and download the free Craft Brewers Conference app! This is a great way to organize your conference experience at your fingertips! 

For those new to the conference this year, be strategic in your planning to ensure you make the most of your time at the conference while also allowing for some flexibility to adapt to unexpected opportunities or last-minute changes. One way to do that is (using the app to) prioritize seminars and events that align with your specific interests, goals, and areas for professional development. Our seminars are organized by eight areas critical to running a successful business: Business and Leadership, Export Development, Government Affairs and Legal, Production and Operations, Quality and Ingredients, Sales and Marketing, Taprooms and Brewpubs, and THRIVE. 

Take advantage of the diverse range of offerings, but also allow time for networking, exploring the BrewExpo floor, and engaging in informal discussions with fellow attendees.  

Most of all, HAVE FUN! Whether this is your first time to Las Vegas, or if you are a return visitor, there’s so much to take in during your voyage to the “Entertainment Capital of the World,” from iconic landmarks like the Fountains of Bellagio and Welcome to Fabulous Las Vegas Sign to exciting experiences such as the new Sphere or watching some thrilling athletic action at Allegiant Stadium. In addition to checking the Weeks Events page on the CBC website for nighttime brewing industry events, or perusing the Las Vegas craft beer scene, check out for listings of all the entertainment in town.

Photo © Brewers Association

PD: We have the feeling we’ll be itching to go back to CBC once it’s over. Any hints as to where next year’s event will be? 

BA: The 2025 Craft Brewers Conference and BrewExpo America will be held at the Indiana Convention Center in Indianapolis from Monday, April 28, to Thursday, May 1.

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