Craft Brewers Conference

GOLDEN MOMENT: John Parks, left, accepts a gold World Beer Cup award on behalf of Asheville Brewing Co. from Brewers Association President Charlie Papazian. Photo courtesy of Brewers Association

On the world stage, Asheville brewers share the spotlight

Over 7,000 brewing industry professionals gathered in Denver April 8-11 for the 2014 Craft Brewers Conference and World Beer Cup, sometimes referred to as the Olympics of Beer. The week was packed with seminars, events, tastings and an awards ceremony that placed some of North Carolina’s breweries among the best in the world. 

North Carolina brewers shine at the World Beer Cup

For many, the highlight of the week was the World Beer Cup. Nearly 5,000 beers from breweries around the world were judged over the course of the week. North Carolina brewers won a total of eight awards, up from four when the competition was last held two years ago. Asheville brewers were among the state’s award winners, with Asheville Brewing Co. picking up a gold medal in the brown porter category with its Ninja Porter, and Wicked Weed Brewing bringing home the bronze medal in the imperial red ale category with its Tyrant Double Red.

In the competition’s most hotly contested category, American-style India Pale Ale, Charlotte’s NoDa Brewing Company edged out 223 other entries to take the gold with Hop, Drop ‘n Roll IPA. Other winners from North Carolina included:

  •  White Street Kölsch-Style Ale, White Street Brewing Co. — Gold, German-Style Kölsch
  • MeyerBock, Outer Banks Brewing Station — Gold, German-style Heller Bock/Maibock
  • Irish Walker, Olde Hickory Brewing Company — Silver, Old Ale or Strong Ale
  • Once You Go, Lynwood Brewing Concern — Silver, American-style Black Ale
  • Endless River, Mother Earth Brewing — Bronze Medal, German-Style Kölsch

State of the Industry

The Craft Brewers Conference officially kicked off with a state-of-the-industry report from the Brewers Association. The report’s detailed statistics point to a rapidly growing craft beer industry.

Over 400 breweries opened in the U.S. in 2013, bringing the total count to more than 2,700. North Carolina was the fifth-fastest growing state in the U.S., with 21 new breweries opening in 2013 and a growth rate of just over 30 percent. 

“North Carolina ranks 10th nationally in total number of breweries, and we’re one of the fastest-growing states,” said Margo Knight Metzger, director of the N.C. Brewers Guild. “When you look at craft beer growth around the country, North Carolina stands out as the one to watch on the East Coast.”

Michael Pollan addresses the world’s brewers

The conference keynote address was delivered by Michael Pollan, author of The Omnivore’s Dilemma and Cooked: A Natural History of Transformation. You may wonder what a food writer was doing giving the keynote address at a beer conference, but as Pollan will tell you, “Beer is food.” A homebrewer himself, Pollan acknowledged that the brewing and food industries are “comrades in the burgeoning food movement.”

Drawing from his most recent book, Cooked, Pollan placed beer “at the pinnacle of the human art of transformation.” He pointed out that it’s made through a combination of processes: hops and barley are grown from the earth, malt is air-dried in a kiln, it’s all mixed with water, then microbes magically ferment the various ingredients into beer. It’s what he calls a “cross-species love affair.”

But perhaps the most fascinating thing about beer, Pollan said, is its impact on human civilization. One could argue that beer is responsible for civilization itself, compelling humans to settle down and develop agriculture. 

According to Pollan, the craft beer, local food and sustainability movements are inseparable. Visiting the farmers market or the local brewery is about more than just sustenance: It’s about community. And just as consumers support their local farmers at the market, Pollan urged brewers to support their best local raw materials producers, especially those in the latest frontier of the agricultural revolution: grain.

Riverbend represents craft malt

As if cued by Pollan, Asheville’s local malt house was featured in a spotlight seminar at the conference. Brent Manning, co-founder of Riverbend Malt House, presented the Craft Malt Sensory Workshop along with four other representatives from the newly formed Craft Maltsters Guild. Some 500 brewers were given the opportunity to compare five beers made with five different craft malts.

“Our presentation at CBC was an exciting way to introduce craft malt to brewers from around the world, and the response was overwhelmingly positive,” Manning says. “I think the exposure will really benefit our industry and help build connections to local agriculture.”

Between the increasing quality and quantity of craft beer being made in our state, the companies in our area that are driving positive change and the strong community that supports our local beer economy, North Carolina sure has something worth celebrating.

David Ackley is a writer and marketing consultant with a passion for promoting the craft beer industry.


About David Ackley
David Ackley is a writer and marketing consultant with a focus on the craft beer industry.

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