CCBA San Diego Conference Recap


BY: Mike Sardina, Societe Brewing Co, via the West Coaster SD

Sitting in a room with 400 other people, Tom McCormick, the Executive Director of the California Craft Brewers Association (the “CCBA”), is up on stage at the CCBA’s Spring Conference. Tom has arguably been one of the most vocal and ardent supporters of California beer for the last decade or so, and when he is speaking, this group of people listens. “I need to correct a statement I made earlier,” Tom says. “California brewers don’t just some great beer in this country, they brew the best f#ck!ng beer in the United States.” Based on the reaction of the Conference attendees—most of them representatives from brewery members of the CCBA—they clearly agreed.

Beer is big in California, but of course, we here in San Diego already know that. We’ve got 107 operational brew houses in the county. Across all of California, there are now over 550 independent, craft breweries, and projections have it at 600 total by the end of the year. The CCBA Conference, a bi-annual event that is held once each spring in Southern California and once each fall in Northern California, is the opportunity for the brewing community to get together to learn about the industry, to catch-up with old friends, to network with new friends, and enjoy some great beer.

The two-day Conference held last week featured about a dozen educational workshops that covered important topics, including a legislative update on policy issues facing breweries in California, as well as a practical workshop on ABC (California Department of Alcoholic Beverage Control) issues surrounding festivals and events and social media use. The drought, and concerns about water, was a major topic covered at the Conference. There was a panel for start-up breweries and breweries in planning, a workshop on brewhouse safety, and a workshop that covered the basics of distribution laws in California. There was a technical workshop on barrel-aged beers too—Tomme Arthur (The Lost Abbey/Port Brewing Company/The Hop Concept) and Patrick Rue (The Bruery) shared technical insight and provided a guided tasting of beers like “Grey Monday” and “Red Poppy.” At 9:30 a.m.

The Conference highlights came on Tuesday afternoon, when Lori Ajax, the Chief Deputy Director of the California ABC engaged in an open discussion about what the regulatory agency can do better in order to help promote the brewing industry in California. With an economic impact of $6.5 billion in 2014, beer is clearly important to our state. It is an encouraging sign to see more overall recognition of this fact—at the governmental level and at the consumer level, alike.

The Conference concluded with a keynote presentation that was all about San Diego beer. Gina Marsaglia (Pizza Port Brewing Company), Lee Doxtader (Callahan’s Pub), and Chris Cramer (Karl Strauss Brewing Company), with a combined 74 years of brewing experience in San Diego, sat on a panel with Vinnie Cilurzo to discuss the then-and-now of San Diego beer. Karl Strauss began operations in 1989, and Callahan’s and Pizza Port were quick to follow. These three pioneers of San Diego beer discussed the significant changes they have witnessed—in the licensing and permitting behind running a brewery, the sourcing of equipment and ingredients, the educational level of consumers, and the types of beer that people like to drink. “Back then, people thought that dark beer came from the bottom of the keg, and that light beer was at the top,” Lee Doxtader joked. “They thought the beer was darker because it was down there at the bottom.” Go out in San Diego—to any brewery Tasting Room, beer bar, or finer restaurant—you’ll find a thriving and vibrant brewing community, with awesome local examples of both dark and light beers. Poured out of separate kegs. We’ve come a long way.

The California Craft Brewers Association is hosting the first California Craft Beer Summit this fall in Sacramento, on September 11 – 12, 2015.
Every single craft brewer in California is invited to participate. The event will be the first of its kind, an interactive and experiential event that focuses on all things California Beer.
The event will include a trade show, educational seminars, beer and food pairings, and of course, a beer festival.
For more information, visit: