The Thirsty Beagle: Dispatches from the road: Wes Alexander recaps the Craft Brewers Conference

Tuesday, May 10, 2016

Dispatches from the road: Wes Alexander recaps the Craft Brewers Conference

Every year, about this time of year, a delegation of Oklahoma brewers and craft beer industry members make their way to the national Craft Brewers Conference. This year was no different.

And once again, also in somewhat of an annual tradition, Marshall Brewing Co.'s director of sales and marketing Wes Alexander offered to serve as Oklahoma's in-the-field correspondent.

Alexander has penned a pair of posts from his visit to this year's conference in Philadelphia.

Here's Part 1:

Each year that Marshall Brewing has been in business, nearly eight now, we have attended the Craft Brewers Conference. This traveling conference offers seminars and a trade show, BrewExpo America, with 800 vendors offering everything from brewhouses to plastic cups. 

This year the Craft Brewers Conference was held in Philadelphia, the City of Brotherly Love, May 3rd through May 6th, with more than 13,000 in attendance.

The last several years we have been left in awe at the growth in the sheer number of attendees at the conference. Our first year was Boston, 2009. Announced attendance at that conference was in the range of 3,500. Floor space for BrewExpo America was in the thousands of square feet and is now tens of thousand square feet with 235 more exhibitors than 2015. Kudos to the Brewers Association for organizing the ever-important industry event.

We arrived in Philly mid-day Sunday at the invitation of our industry friend, a fellow brewery owner, Tom Clark. Tom is an industry veteran who supplied us with our current bottling equipment and spent a good amount of time with us in Tulsa installing and calibrating the system. A few years ago, Tom moved to Berwick to take the reigns at brewpub in Berwick, Pa.

Berwick is a picturesque two-hour drive north of Philadelphia, in an area we later heard described as “Pennsyltucky,” or Kentucky right in the middle of Pennsylvania. Indeed the imagery was reminiscent of the Blue Ridge Mountains replete with heavy fog.

Berwick Brewing is set on the banks of the Susquehanna River and is housed in a building that had been a historic production bakery. The Berwick Brewing event was a fine example of the hospitality that is renowned amongst craft brewers, complete with a wide variety of beer from local brewers, food lovingly prepared by Tom’s staff, and a warm, dry place to sleep. 

Upon entering the event Eric Marshall was immediately pulled on stage for a photo op with local brewers that appeared the next day in the local Berwick newspaper. If you are ever in the area, say hello to our great friends at Berwick Brewing and plan on a few pints of Hondo or Smoke Session and some delicious pizza.

Monday we relocated to Eric’s old stomping ground of Downington, Pa. Ten years ago as Eric returned from brewing school and apprenticeships in Germany, he landed a job with Victory Brewing Company in Downingtown. For over a year Eric gained valuable information working for Victory and making lasting friendships. Victory was hosting an industry event Monday celebrating their 20-year anniversary and offering tours of their recently opened brewing facility in Parkesburg. 

Victory knows how to throw a party. Live music, a roasted pig, booths offering traditional German dishes, beer, more beer, and an extensive look at their beautiful brewery and details of their processes. Of particular note was a brewery only release of Brett Pilsner and the Shweinshaxe, a pork knuckle braised tender then fried to crisp the skin. I could not stop talking about the Schweinshaxe being the best singular dish I had eaten to date in 2016.

Tuesday we visited Victory’s original facility in Downingtown for lunch and a brewery tour before heading to Philadelphia to prepare for the conference. Pottsville, home of Yuengling, America’s oldest brewery, ended up on the scenic route to Philly. A tour of the their brewery, which is literally built into the side of a mountain with lager caves, was inspiring and educational. Yuengling drips with regional pride and history and offers a glimpse into brewery life as far back as 1876.

Stay tuned to for more information from the Craft Brewers Conference to include a recap of the State of the Union.

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