CBC 2015 – A Packed House! A Long Wait for West Coast Return

Tradeshow panaroma

A record 11,500 attendees packed the 32nd annual Brewers Association Craft Brewers Conference in Portland, Oregon for another hugely successful gathering of the craft brewing tribe. The attendance was a 22% jump over last year’s conference in Denver and a record 1700 breweries were represented. The tradeshow floor also brought in a record 600 exhibitors and was generally busy most of the time.

Although it is no longer a surprise to break registration numbers from previous years, and no longer an unusual sight to see vendors and attendees from around the world, it is still a shock to longtime industry veterans to witness such an enormous industry crowd gathered in one place at one time for craft beer. It was not that many years ago that just a few thousand attended the conference in the confines of a single hotel property. The event has now begun to outgrow even some of the mid-sized convention centers. The Portland Convention Center did not have adequate space to host either the Opening Reception or the keynote address. Long winding lines of brewers and allied trade members made their way over to the nearby Veterans Memorial Coliseum, former home of the Portland Trail Blazers and where the likes of Elvis, the Beatles and of course the Grateful Dead played. It was an odd feeling to be sitting in a sports arena to hear the opening remarks and keynote, but BA Director Paul Gatza reminded the crowd of the historical significance by standing on the stage exactly where Jerry Garcia stood the moment Mt. Saint Helens had its second eruption.

During the opening remarks, BA staff gave the usual rundown on the statistics from last year. Although most of these 2014 numbers have already been published, they were still inspirational to hear. Craft beer was up in 2014, 18% by volume and 22% in dollars for a total market share of 11%. The beer industry as a whole being up only 0.5%, showing that yet again craft beer is the beer industry leader. With 615 new openings last year, the year-end total was 3413 craft breweries nationally. Only 46 craft breweries closed last year.

Three members of the brewing community were recognized and awarded for their dedication and service during the opening session, including California’s own Steve Dresler of Sierra Nevada Brewing Co. who received the Russell Schehrer Award for Innovation in Brewing.

Where next? It will be a long wait until the CBC returns to the West Coast. The 2016 CBC will be held in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, from May 3-6th and then moving on to Washington, DC in 2017. The conference will likely be in a Southern state in 2018 and a Mid-West state in 2019 before returning to the West for 2020. By then it will certainly have outgrown most conventions centers leaving San Francisco, San Diego or Los Vegas as the likely candidates.