I have to admit that I arrived at the Craft Brewers Conference this year with a storm of different thoughts and emotions swirling around my head that was as big as the one blowing around San Francisco that day.
Part of it might have been the fact that I didn’t have anything to eat — our plane was detained for a few hours because of a “ground stop” at SFO, thanks to the aforementioned storm, and the first thing I did when I hit the streets of San Francisco was run over to Tcho Chocolates to judge a chocolate beer competition instead of grabbing something more, um, substantial.
But there was a lot more going on than just low blood sugar jitters. It had been several years since I had been fortunate enough to attend the CBC, and a lot has happened in the craft beer world since the last time I was there. I wasn’t sure what to expect. What if our cool little beer community had … changed?
Well, I am happy to report that after extensive research, the beer just continues to get better. I needed to make sure of that. And I did. The seminars are more informational than ever. The questions were more thoughtful than ever. And the passion, thankfully, is still there. Maybe even bigger than ever before, too.
I also was pleased to be greeted with open arms (and big hugs and kisses) by everybody I ran into. It was like having a reunion for the big, raucous, loveably dysfunctional family this only child of only children has never had but always dreamed of being a part of. And I soaked in every minute of it. Thanks to everybody who indulged me on that part.But the thing I was most anxious about was that I got to share first glimpses of my first book, Craft Beers of the Pacific Northwest, of which I possessed one advance copy for the event. Since it was the only copy, I had everybody I ran into (I think, but I was doing extensive “research,” see above) sign that copy to me. Kind of like our yearbooks at the end of school before we graduated. Except instead of a yearbook, this was my beerbook. Thankfully, most folks loved the idea and dove in with the proper amount of silliness and enthusiasm.
But they also thumbed through the book, and seemed to enjoy it, which made me feel a lot better. It’s pretty nerve-wracking, presenting your first book to experts in the field, trust me on that one.
All that was great. But it was during one of those times that I felt like I had my perfect Craft Brewers Conference Moment — a time when everything I love about our community was wrapped up in a single interaction. I was standing in the seminar room where people were spilling in to hear the next seminar. And I was showing a Washington brewer the book. As he was thumbing through it, like many others, he checked to make sure his brewery was in there. (It was.) But in the process, before he even found his own brewery, he went past another Washington brewery; one that some could consider a competitor. But this brewer looked up, pointed to this other brewery’s photo and said, “Oh, SWEET! I love these guys! I am so glad they are in your book!”
To me, my friends, that is what our craft beer community is all about. And that’s what you will find at each and every Craft Brewers Conference — a brotherly (and sisterly) love, mutual respect and even excitement, admiration and enthusiasm for the other guys.
It’s heart. It’s soul. And it’s what separates craft brewers from the giant industrial dudes.
Thank you, craft brewers, for renewing my faith in this amazing community.
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