A Reflection on the Craft Brewer Conference 2019

By Sam Corbeil

After weeks of decompression and a slow return to normalcy, I’ve finally been able to fully digest all the information, all the introductions and all the insanity that was the Craft Brewers Conference 2019.

When I first landed back in Toronto, my nerves were jangled, my body was exhausted, and my mind was a pulpy mess of memories I couldn’t quite sort out. I knew I was in Denver for four days, but those four days of blistering intensity all seemed to gel into this one single disjointed mass. Rest was needed.

This was my 8th CBC in 9 years and it began like any other, with an almost overwhelming feeling of excitement and anticipation.  For weeks leading up to the event, I’d been crawling through the conference website and app marking off all the technical conferences I wanted to attend and all the vendor booths I wanted to see.  I accepted all the email invitations I got to industry parties and texted back and forth with friends asking if I was going. Then lastly, I google mapped the hell outta downtown Denver and drew a mental picture of all the breweries, distilleries, beer bars and pizza places I could possibly get to in four days. Pretty much par for the course. And like so many other years I promised myself I’d do everything on my list. I’d manage my time properly, get the proper amount of sleep and come home refreshed and full of new found knowledge.  And for the 8th time in 9 years I failed.

Yes of course I went to a few technical discussions, and yes, they were insightful and helpful.  I gained new knowledge from industry experts I otherwise wouldn’t have been able to access. But I didn’t get to as many as I first hoped. This tends to happen.

And yes, I did walk the trade show floor for many hours, stopping in to learn about new products at as many booths as I could.  And yes, there were many that I’m very excited about and hope to use in the very near future. The trade show is a massive, awe inspiring spectacle that I look forward to each year. But I didn’t spend as much time as I’d hoped. This tends to happen.

And yes, I did spend a few hours (actually many hours) each day following that mental picture I’d drawn of all the breweries and beer bars I wanted to visit in downtown Denver. Denver is a wonderful city, that’s navigable, with many breweries and bars within close walking distance. But I didn’t get to as many as I wanted. Again, this tends to happen.

But it isn’t all bad, ‘cause another thing that tends to happen at the CBC is, I got to meet people. And yes, I did meet as many as I could.

When I was finally able to sort through my rambling, scrambled memories of my four days at the CBC, the one thing that stood out to me, the one thing that stood above everything else, was just how many wonderful people I’d met.  And looking back over the past nine years, this has been a reoccurring theme. I always leave the CBC buoyed by the human connections I’ve made. Yes, the trade show and technical conferences are wonderful resources that everyone should experience. And yes, exploring a new city each year is a fantastic way to open your mind and gain experience. But it’s the friends I’ve made at these conferences that make me want to come back year after year.  Even though I’m almost certain it’s meeting these people that’s causing me to fail on all my plans. But I’m okay with that.  Because it’s the friendships that endure, long after the memories have faded.

These two weeks of sober reflection have allowed me to realize the importance of the CBC, at least for me. After a long winter, which in the beer business can be somewhat brutal, I’m in desperate need of inspiration. A pick me up before the sudden onslaught and craziness of the summer months is needed, and the CBC is that shot in the arm.  Coming to the CBC every spring and meeting all these wonderful people, inspires me. It reminds me why I got into this business in the first place. Brewing can be hard, it can be thankless, but coming away from the CBC always leaves my heart swollen with excitement and pride. Excitement for the months to come and what possibilities the future holds. And pride from all the great brewers, co-workers and industry folks I get to call friends.

So, I look forward to next year, when sometime in early March I start scrolling through the CBC app again and that overwhelming feeling of excitement and anticipation takes hold. When I start google mapping a new city and make a million new plans that I promise myself I’m going to do. And for the 9th time in 10 years, I look forward to failing to do them.