USA: Craft Brewers Conference 2021 concludes with 7,000 attendees

More than two years after the last event, about 7,000 brewing industry professionals convened in Denver for the 38th annual Craft Brewers Conference & BrewExpo America (CBC) presented by the Brewers Association (BA).The premier conference and trade show for the craft brewing industry had been canceled in 2020 (, 13.3.2020). In 2021, it was originally scheduled to take place in San Diego on March 29-April 1, 2021 but had been rescheduled due to the ongoing pandemic.

Attendees from all 50 U.S. states as well as international guests, brought nearly USD 17 million in direct spending to the local economy over the three day event.

With health and wellness policies in place, CBC attendees were excited for the return of in-person events and to be with their peers at one of the first major gatherings of the beer community since early 2020.

Highlights and themes from the brewing industry’s largest annual event:

Overcoming and Awakening: In his opening remarks, Bob Pease, president and CEO of the Brewers Association recognized the many hurdles that breweries and brewery professionals faced over the course of the last 18 months of the pandemic. During that time, the association made several achievements at the state and federal level, while also offering an abundance of timely, technical resources.

Pease called for an awakening as the industry navigates issues of racism, sexism, discrimination, and harassment. At CBC, THRIVE seminars and workshops empowered attendees to build safe, inclusive, and equitable cultures, where everyone who makes, sells, and enjoys craft beer can thrive.

The creation of the BRU (Brewing Respect and Unity) Coalition was also announced at CBC, as the Brewers Association joins forces with the American Society of Brewing Chemists (ASBC), Cicerone Certification Program, Master Brewers Association of the Americas (MBAA), and the Pink Boots Society (PBS), to drive industry-wide adoption of evidence-based best practices for preventing discrimination, harassment, and violence within the brewing industry.

Educational Opportunities: Whether it was learning about brewery operations and beer styles, or the importance of safety and sustainability, CBC attendees participated in 50 seminars organized into eight educational tracks presented by 123 speakers over the course of three days. Nearly 600 exhibitors took part in the BrewExpo America tradeshow.

Industry Award Winners: Three industry leaders were recognized for inspiring, defending, and innovating within the craft brewing industry at the annual awards ceremony on September 11:

F.X. Matt Defense of the Industry Award: Pamela Brulotte, owner of Icicle Brewing Co. & Müchen Haus (Leavenworth, Wash.)

Russell Schehrer Award for Innovation in Brewing: Steven Pauwels, brewmaster at Boulevard Brewing Co. (Kansas City, Mo.)

Brewers Association Recognition Award: John Mallett, vice president of operations at Bell’s Brewery, Inc. (Galesburg, Mich.)

Spicy Inspiration: Keynote speaker Richard Montañez, a former PepsiCo executive recognized as the creator of the Flamin’ Hot Cheetos line of products, shared his journey via livestream on how a simple revelation (“Something that’s always been right in front of you, but has revealed itself to you.”) sparked his idea for a spicy snack, which eventually launched his career and took him from janitor to executive. Montañez drew parallels between his revelation to a craft beer industry example provided by Garrett Mararro, (Maui Brewing), who has shared how he was struck by the revelation to put coconut into beer.

Celebrating Excellent Beer: Taking place during CBC for the first time since 1985 was the 2021 Great American Beer Festival® (GABF) awards ceremony. The best beers in 97 beer categories covering 175 different beer styles (including all subcategories) were awarded gold, silver, and bronze medals during the 35th edition of the world’s largest professional brewing competition. (, 19.9.2020). GABF returns for its 40th anniversary October 6-8, 2022, at the Colorado Convention Center in Denver.

The 2022 edition of CBC, which includes the biennial World Beer Cup® competition, will be held in Minneapolis, Minnesota, from May 2-5. Early registration opens December 7, 2021.

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