Thursday, July 23, 2015

2015 Beer Bloggers Conference in Asheville NC

July 18-20, 2015 | Asheville NC | Zephyr Adventures just wrapped up its 2015 Beer Bloggers Conference in the comforting Appalachian hills of western North Carolina and home to Beer City USA. If you haven't been, Asheville is certainly a beer-loving destination that likely impressed most of the sold-out beer blogging conference. Self included. With 22 breweries in the city, 42 in western North Carolina, and 250 independent restaurants (via

Of the many highlights was the opportunity to meet and converse with leaders in the craft beer industry. I met the head brewer for Oskar Blues NC, Ken Grossman and son of Sierra Nevada Brewing, New Belgium's CEO Kim Jordan, and Dick Cantwell, formerly of Elysian Brewing Co. Mr. Cantwell told me, "it was a very tough year," as we chatted about the buyout. And then we joked about the fact that Budweiser had just presented at the conference, and he said, "You mean they fussed over their own beer!?" 

Perhaps even more enriching was the time spent with old and new friends who get as excited for good beer as I do. Special shouts out go to Alan McCormick of Growler Fills, Megan Cleworth of Craft Central Beer, Nate and Ty of Brewrasa (go buy their backpack right now), Julia Herz from the Brewers Association (I will rematch you in table tennis any time and place!), Meghan Storey of, Oliver Gray from Literature and Libation, and Bryan Roth of This is Why I'm Drunk
BrewRasa, left, author center, Julia Herzes, right
There were many great takeaways from the conference, for which you can find the agenda here, but from my notes I leave you this synopsis. 

Why do people choose craft beer? The top two reasons are flavor and freshness, with 47% choosing it for the alcohol. And what about those date codes on the bottles and packaging? Just over 1/3 of beer drinkers rely on those codes to determine their purchase.

Are we there yet? Last year over 600 breweries opened and only 46 closed. Currently, 1.5 breweries open every day in the U.S. (Note: The Missoula Brewing Company just opened this week in Montana, as did White Dog Brewing in Bozeman!) The next time someone asks if we have enough breweries in town, I'll respond, "Do we have enough restaurants?" As long as each brewery is differentiating itself and striving to make a word-class product, there's plenty of room in the pool.

You talking about jobs? The brewing industry alone is responsible for 115,000 jobs in the U.S.

The first side trip during the conference was to the Oskar Blues Brewing facility in Brevard, NC. This facility opened in 2012, mashes in every 2 1/2 hours, and can can 300 beers a minute.

Next we toured the "Disney World" of craft beer, Sierra Nevada's new NC brewery, a state-of-the-art craft brewery that prides itself on its sustainability practices as much as its great beer. We were the first in the US to try Sierra Nevada's Oktoberfest collaboration Brauhaus Riegele and its brewmaster from Augsburg, Germany.

The rest of the conference was filled with information that will ultimately make this blog better, along with the many of the other 1,000 citizen beer blogs in the U.S.

But there was also beer, and plenty of it. I had some great ones, and some bad ones. I'd like to call out a couple of my favorites, a beet beer from Innovation Brewing (yes, the one being sued by Bell's Brewing), and everything from Burial Brewing Co. (interestingly, one of their owners is a lawyer representing Innovation Brewing in the lawsuit).

I also tried many great beers during the Night of Many Bottles, an enormous bottle share where the 150 bloggers brought their hometown favorites. I brought a couple Crowler from Kettlehouse Brewing Co. (thanks Zeb and Ryan), as well as Bitter Root Brewing, Lewis and Clark, and The Front.
Next year the conference will take place in Tampa, Florida (near Cigar City Brewing). Please contact me if you'd like your Montana beer brought down and shared.

In closing, I am giving a "heads up" to my readers that I plan to broaden the reach of this blog, tackle things that stretch beyond Montana on occasion, give even more space to the great things Montana beer is doing, and go "off topic" on some things a bit more personal. I hope you stick with me for it all!


  1. Cheryl was calling it "Beersney World." Jaw-droppingly amazing, that's for sure. Glad to hear you're planning to branch out, too.

    1. That's a great term for it! As we all do at this point, I've got lots of ideas! ;-)

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