Few of the would-be beer makers who've opened breweries in Colorado over the past decade had any professional brewing experience. Fewer still had owned another business. They are teachers, engineers, graphic designers, even archaeologists. Some understand how to fix and build things but have no clue about how to order supplies. Others can manage people and money but don't care a bit about publicizing themselves. A few know their way around a chemistry lab, but they can't tell you the names of their local elected officials.
With all of that in mind, the Colorado Brewers Guild is hosting the first Colorado Craft Brewers Summit, a conference and trade show on Monday, November 13, at Metro State University. The goal is to get brewers to learn from each other, as well as from experts in fields with which they may not have much familiarity.
“A lot of our members are smaller, and there is a need for education on a variety of topics,” says Guild director Andres Gil Zaldana, who was hired last March to heal and lead the nonprofit organization, which had fractured into two separate groups the previous summer. “The summit is something that a lot of our Colorado brewers have been wanting for a long time.” As a result, it was one of the first things Gil Zaldana worked on after he was hired.
"The Craft Brewers Summit is important in a couple ways," adds Brian O'Connell, the founder of Renegade Brewing and a Guild boardmember. "First, it is to further development of the role of the Guild. When we restructured the Guild last year, we were very focused on making the new iteration of it bigger and better. The Summit is one facet of a bigger and better CBG. Also, with 300-plus breweries in the state, it is important that we all focus on pushing our industry forward not just in a legislative sense, but in every aspect of our businesses. This is an opportunity for us all to come together to share knowledge and to forge new ideas."
The summit will focus on three tracks: sales and marketing, government affairs and technical issues. Seminars will cover public relations, social media, civics, lobbying, water use and conservation, OSHA inspections, liquor enforcement regulations, yeast propagation and distribution. There will also be a small trade show with fifty vendors that sell everything from packaging materials to beer ingredients, and from accounting to insurance services.
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“We are trying to really appeal to every different facet of what a brewery might be interested in, from the owner, brewer or member of the sales team — anyone in the brewery,” Gil Zaldana says.
Guild spokesman Steve Kurowski points out that most national conferences and trade shows are too expensive for smaller breweries to attend, which is why a couple of other state brewers' guilds, notably California’s, have started smaller events of their own.
While the first Colorado summit has primarily attracted breweries in the Denver area, Gil Zaldana says there has also been interest from breweries in Durango, Fort Collins and Grand Junction, among other towns.
The event is only open to Guild members — about 60 percent of the breweries in the state — as a way to make membership more valuable and attract new members. The Guild hopes to expand it next year if it is successful.