My First CBC

Posted on 04.23.08 9:12PM under Brewery In Planning, Events, Hops, IPA

CBC Header 2008
Last week I flew out to San Diego, leaving behind my expanding family, month old son, two year old son, four year old daughter, and brave brave wife for about six days. All for beer.

If you read any beer news outlets, you know that last week was the Craft Brewer’s Conference. This is the trade show for the craft brewing industry. I won’t get into the definition of a craft brewer, but let’s just say that it pretty much includes breweries the size of Sam Adams and Sierra Nevada down to your local brewpub. It’s the breweries that make the great beer that we all love.

I attended this event as a brewery in planning. That’s right. A brewery in planning. Sometime in the next few years, you’ll wake up one day and find Brainard Brewing beer on the shelf at your favorite spot to buy great beer.

I’ve been to a few trade shows with my previous job. This was always in Austin, Texas in the middle of August. I always wondered why they couldn’t just have the show in February if it must be in Austin… But the beer guys do it right. It was in San Diego in the middle of April. There’s a beautiful spring-summer environment there this time of year. Not too hot, not too cool, and definitely not too dry yet. The CBC rotates venues from year to year. I think it was actually in Austin last year, and will be in Boston next year.

As with most trade shows, there are three main components: the exhibit hall, educational seminars, and parties. The exhibit hall was large but manageable – I got to see every vendor I wanted to. The seminars were interesting enough – especially cool was Ron Jefferies (Jolly Pumpkin), Alan Newman (Magic Hat), Sam Calagione (Dogfish Head), and Jim Koch (Sam Adams) no more than ten yards away from me telling me about their strategies to differentiate their brands in the marketplace. But as you might imagine, the beer trade show emphasizes the party part a bit more than some others might. I had about ten thousand different beers to choose from at any given time. Given my propensity to seek out beer I’ve never had, I was pretty satisfied with the options. I didn’t even get a chance to try every one I never had before. I guess I’ll have to go to the CBC next year, too.

San Diego area breweries, and the West Coast in general, were overrepresented in the options, given that not only was the show in SD, but the region is huge for great beer. I learned something I never really knew about before, over here tucked away in snowy New England. San Diego beer is absurdly hoppy. I mean I thought that Avery was hoppy. But he’s got nothing on some of these guys. It seems that C-hops are the main feature, and dry hopping is king. I am a big fan of huge bold IPA, but by the end of the week, I was actually starting to say things like, “aren’t there any beers here that aren’t IPA?”

Of course, then I was met with a dozen Belgians. I whimpered as I sought a small Brown ale for solace.

Not that it wasn’t awesome to have intense hop flavor at every turn. It’s just a lot for a SoCal rookie to handle all at once.

There was one particular beer that I want to point out that surprised me a lot. You expect an IPA to have a lot of hop character to it. After a day of blistering San Diego IPA, you expect a lot more hops from every IPA you drink. But I’ve always thought that an “Extra Pale Ale” was more like a Kolsch. That’s a lightly hopped, delicate subtle beer. Even like a light Pilsner. Something made for the BudMillerCoors crowd. This was after at first I thought it was more like an exaggerated version of a Pale Ale. I remember the first time I tried an Extra Pale Ale I was disappointed to find out that it was an Extra Pale Ale, and not an EXTRA Pale Ale. I thought that Extra Pale Ale was supposed to be bigger and bolder than even India Pale Ale. Generally this is not the case.

But remember, I was in San Diego.

Alesmith is a cool brewery that I got to take a tour of on the first day I was out there. They are in the process of doubling their capacity, so we didn’t get to see any stainless steel, but we had already seen three other breweries, so our intelligent Q&A topics were pretty much spent anyway. We were really head first to the tasting bar by this point. Not wanting to overdo it for starting out the virtual flight of beers I was planning at Alesmith, I chose “X” as the first taste. This is their Extra Pale Ale. It had the most hoppy character I have ever had in an Extra Pale Ale, that’s for sure. If you’d have told me it was an IPA, I would have believed you. In fairness, this was after a day of sampling about ten different beers at three different breweries (Ballast Point, Lightning, and Rock Bottom La Jolla), so my tasting facilities may not have been at their peak. I have a bottle heading home for me as we speak. I’ll definitely confirm my initial impressions on a fresh palette when that arrives here in the next week or so.

I had meant to try Pliny the Younger, but I couldn’t handle Triple IPA night. I did get to try Moylan’s Hopsicle, and it was intense. I missed Cuvee de Tomme. I also missed Damnation (or something like that) from Russian River. But I did get to try a strange beer from New Belgium that had wormwood and other herbs in it. Very interesting. I also had my first Fat Tire ever last week (meh.) Ballast Point made some great beers. There were just so many great beers.

So in conclusion: The CBC was fun. I drank a lot, but not too much (if you don’t count the opening night at Stone). I am opening a brewery in a year or two.

Read Comments

  1. Posted by The Dude on 04.24.08 9:48 PM

    … you’ll wake up one day and find Brainard Brewing beer on the shelf at your favorite spot to buy great beer.

    Hey! I had a Brainard Brew not too long ago. You brew it and I’ll buy it.

    8^)

  2. Posted by Boak on 04.29.08 3:38 PM

    Wow, exciting stuff… first hops, then a brewery?

  3. Posted by Keith Brainard on 04.30.08 7:47 PM

    Hey Dude. I just had the last Christmas Presence the other day. I’ll have to preview some more beers to you!

    Boak, I figure I just want to be well rounded in all things beer and brewing. I’d grow and malt barley if it seemed feasible right now!

    Thanks for your comments