Tag Archives: Craft Brewers Conference

Brewers Association, wary of decline in quality, urges homebrewers-turned-pro to boost quality control

Audience at the 2014 Craft Brewers Conference in Denver

Audience at the 2014 Craft Brewers Conference in Denver
(Brewers Association photo)

By Alan J. Wax

The Brewers Association (BA) says its concerned about declining quality of craft beer.

Paul Gatza, director of the Brewers Association

Paul Gatza

Speaking on April 9 in Denver at the annual Craft Brewers Conference, BA director Paul Gatza said that while the number of breweries, beer production, revenues and exports have climbed, quality has fallen. The Boulder, Colo.-based BA sponsors the conference, which this year attracted about 9,000 attendees.

“It’s a big issue,” Gatza told a media teleconference from the gathering. “We hate to see this segment being brought down with people having bad experiences in their glass when they’re trying craft beer. They’re maybe less likely to try something new in the future if they are having a bad experience from the last brewery they tried.”

Earlier, speaking to the brewers, he told about  visiting a beer fest and sampling a number of poor quality offerings, Gatza told new craft brewers: “Don’t f*ck it up.”   

Gatza said some new professional brewers, among them former home brewers, are not putting out beer quality that reflects well on the whole industry.”

BA_logo-185“A lot of people start in this industry as homebrewers who are told by their friends that they’re making good beer and you should go pro,” Gatza said. “A lot of them do and they try to do it on a shoestring. Try to do it on a small level and get bigger. They get their licenses. They make their first commercial beer and their friends say this is so great. But in truth what people who really know about beer are finding [is] that a lot of these newer brewers are not putting out quality that reflects well on the whole craft community. There are some off flavors at times.

He urged the newcomers need to step back and spend more time on the science of beer making and urged them to use outside labs to measure bacteria counts and other benchmarks.

Not all the blame, he said, falls on the brewers and noted that some fault belongs to retailers who fail to clean their draft lines or don’t clean their glassware property.

Bart Watson

Bart Watson

Brewers Association economist Bart Watson, meanwhile told the conference that the industry’s growth streak continues. The stats are available in an online Power Point presentation.

Craft brewing volume grew 18 percent, to 15.6 million barrels in 2013, up by 2.3 million, even as the overall U.S. beer market declined 2 percent.

Craft beer’s market share, meanwhile, grew to 7.8 percent last year and is predicted to grow further. In dollars, craft beer garnered a 14.3 percent share, $14.3 billion out of a total $100 billion in sales.

The U.S. had 2,768 breweries at the end of 2013, with 1,744 in the planning stages. By the end of last month, the number of operating breweries had grown to 2,866. Of those, 99 percent are craft breweries.

Robert Pease

Robert Pease

BA Chief Operating Officer Robert Pease said U.S. craft brewers exported 282,526 barrels last year, up 49 percent from 2012. The top foreign markets were Canada, Sweden, the United Kingdom, Australia and Japan.

“The word is out that the best beer in the world is being made by American craft brewers,” Pease said.

Gatza said the BA has what he called an “aspirational” goal for the craft brewing industry to hit 20 percent market share by the end of the decade. But it’s not a slam-dunk, he admitted.


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Craft brewing industry defender award goes to Empire’s David Katleski

David Katletski at the award presentation.

David Katletski at the award presentation.

David Katleski, owner of Syracuse’s Empire Brewing Co. and the president of the New York State Brewers Association, received the Brewers Association’s F.X. Matt Defender of the Industry award the annual Craft Brewers Conference in Washington, D.C.

The award, presented March 27 by Dick Cantwell, president of Elysian Brewing in Seattle, Wash., is named for the late F.X. Matt of Utica’s F.X. Matt Brewing Co., producer of Saranac beer.

Named in honor of F.X. Matt, the late president and chairman of the Utica-based maker of Saranc beers,  F.X. Matt Brewing Co. – a champion of small brewers until his death in 2001 – the award is given annually by the Brewers Association, a Boulder, Colo.-based industry group, to someone in the beer industry who has championed small brewers.

Katleski founded Empire as a brewpub in Syracuse in 1994 and in 2010 also began producing beer in Brooklyn.

He also founded and is president of the New York State Brewers Association, a trade group representing about 100 craft brewers in the state. Last year, Katleski figure prominently in winning several brewer-friendly New York state laws, including a measure that gives tax breaks to brewers using ingredients grown in the state, another that protects small brewers in their contracts with distributors and a roll-back of some tax increases brought about by a court decision.

Katleski also represented the New York brewing industry at Gov. Andrew Cuomo’s Wine, Beer and Spirits Summit in October, where he voiced brewers’ concerns directly to the governor

“This star of brewing shows what it takes to survive and flourish in a crowded field,” Cantwell told the audience of about 6,000 brewers and allied industry people at the presentation. He cited the excellent quality of Empire’s beers, its use of locally produced ingredients in the brewpub’s food and its use of renewable energy.



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Beer scribes re-constitute North American Beer Writers Guild

Meeting for the first time on March 29 at Craft Brewers Conference 13 in Washington, D.C., the reconstituted North American Guild of Beer Writers elected a board of directors.

Elected co-chairs were Don Russell, Joe Sixpack columnist for the Philadelphia Daily News and executive director of Philly Beer Week, and Jay Brooks, of Cotati, Calif., columnist, author and editor of the Brookston Beer Bulletin.

Steve Hamburg, of the Chicago Beer Society was elected treasurer, while Ken Weaver, of Petaluma Calif., author and freelance writer, was elected secretary.

John Holl, of Jersey City, N.J., editor of All About Beer magazine and BeerBriefing.com, was elected awards competition chair.

Alan J. Wax, of Dix Hills, N.Y., freelance writer and editor of Corkscapsandtaps.com was elected membership chair.

Ben Keene, of Brooklyn, N.Y., a freelance writer and editor of  the Where and Back blog, was elected social media chair.

Lucy Saunders, of Milwaukee, Wis., author and writer, was elected a director.

Stan Hieronymus, of Corrales, N.M., author, editor at RealBeer.com and editor of Appellationbeer.com, was elected a director at large along, Heather Vandenengel, of Boston, Mass., author of the Honest Pint on DigBoston.com.

The group is organizing a writing competition and planning future gatherings to coincide with the Brewers Association Savor eventnin New York City in June and Great Taste of the Midwest in Madison, Wis., in August.

The organization offers three levels of membership: full-membership for writers, industry membership for those employed in the brewing or allied trades and associate membership for those interested in supporting the group. More information is available at the NAGBW website.

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Brewers Association Scherer Award Given to New Belgium’s Bouckaert

New Belgian brewmaster Peter Bouckaert wins Scherer Award.

New Belgium’s Peter Bouckaert wins Scherer Award.

The Brewers Association, the trade group representing America’s independent brewers, gave its 2013 Russell Scherer Award for Innovation in Brewing to Peter Bouckaert, brewmaster at New Belgium Brewing Co., Fort Collins, Co.

The award, presented March 27 at the BA’s annual Craft Brewers Conference in Washington, D.C. was first given in 1997 to honor Russell Scherer, who died in 1996 at 38 years old. A creative force in brewing in the nineties, Schehrer was a founding partner and original head brewer at Colorado’s first brewpub, Wynkoop Brewing Co. He was also one of the first brewers to produce mead, doppel alt, cream stout and chili beer.

Dick Cantwell, head brewer and co-owner of Elysian Brewing in Seattle, in presenting the award noted that Bouchaert has been experimenting with fermentation techniques and unusual ingredients, and cited New Belgian’s La Foliie sour beer.

Bouckaert joined New Belgium in 1996 after 10 years at Belgium’s Rodenbach Brewery, known for its sour beers . He studied brewing at Hogeschool Gent.

“Who am I to stand here? I have an amazing bunch of co-workers,” Bouckaert said in accepting the award. Bouckaert, a native of Belgium, said the United States “is the most inventive country in beer.”

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