The inaugural California Craft Beer Summit in 2015 had a hefty impact, not only drawing attention to the prowess of the statewide brewing industry but for placing a spotlight on our burgeoning local beer scene.
The second annual summit, running Sept. 8-10 and again staged at the Sacramento Convention Center, promises to be a bigger, more focused, more dynamic event.
If you want to know about beer, taste beer, gain new insights about brewing, and mingle eye-to-eye with the greats of the industry, the summit is the place to be. For details and ticket information, the website has it all: californiacraftbeer.com.
It’s a far cry from a year ago when organizers encountered all kinds of pre-event jitters. Ticket sales lagged. Would people understand what this was all about? Was it too different from the standard beer festival or industry gathering?
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Over a cup of coffee (hey, it was still morning), I recently met with Tom McCormick, executive director of the California Craft Brewers Association, to get the summit lowdown. I asked about fear of the unknown a year ago.
“Everything was done for the first time,” McCormick said. “There was nothing we could cut and paste. Probably the most painful part was not knowing what to expect in terms of ticket sales, and how many tickets we sold at the very end days before the event. It was one of the most painful periods in my entire career.”
The summit, after all, was his idea. He had long-imagined a special kind of craft beer gathering in which folks inside the industry and scores of beer consumers could engage in a hands-on beer experience that would combine education, tasting, socializing and more.
It turns out, sales went well, with 4,000 folks attending one or both days. People simply waited until the days before the summit to plunk down the cash. The response from brewery owners and consumers was very positive. Ticket prices for this year range from $59 for educational sessions to $119 for a full day pass. Full summit prices are $239 and $289 for VIP access.
“For the craft beer consumer, enthusiast and the home brewer, they were just so tickled to be walking around with all the brewers in the same room,” McCormick said. “It’s unique. They loved walking around, seeing what the industry sees when they go to a trade show.”
With year two, some adjustments have been made. The more consumer-oriented, educational seminars will be concentrated on one day (Saturday, Sept. 10) and will be arranged by categories, or tracks, so there will be little overlap, say, for a home brewer looking to attend several home brewing presentations. The food at the Sacramento Convention Center will be upgraded, with an emphasis on small-bites and beer pairing.
At the beer festival on Saturday afternoon at the Capitol Mall, live music will be replaced by a DJ, and the volume will be toned down to encourage talking (rather than shouting) about the beer. There will be plenty to discuss. The 165 participating breweries (up from 150) will be arranged by region, and tastings are unlimited with the $60 entry fee.
“When you get to the beer festival and say, ‘I want to try some San Diego beers,’ you’ll be able to know exactly where that is,” McCormick said.
With Summit 2.0 fast approaching, McCormick is ready to call it “the premier craft brewing event in the state.”
As for Sacramento’s ever-growing beer credentials?
“I’ve been reluctant to say this until now, but right now I think Sacramento is being talked about more than any other region in the state,” he said.
Device celebrates third anniversary
I remember going to Device Brewing the first week it was open. Owner Ken Anthony and wife, Melissa, were working, along with a family friend. There were three customers. But the beer told me plenty: This place was going to be very good.
Now Device, considered by many to be in the upper echelon of Sacramento-area breweries, is readying for a third anniversary bash from noon to 9 p.m. on Saturday, Aug. 27. There will be live music, four food trucks, two bounce houses for the kids, an outdoor shade structure and all kinds of beer, including the launch of a new French saison and an imperial stout aged for nine months in bourbon barrels.
I recently connected with Ken Anthony to discuss how he went from an engineer who designed bridges to brewer working without a net. And I learned something new: before bridges and brewing, Anthony, who grew up in Salinas, played rhythm guitar and sang lead vocals in punk rock bands, including Another Day Off, which played many Sacramento shows in the early 2000s. By the way, the pilsner I had during our chat was incredible – great aroma, wonderful hop character with a pleasing dry finish.
Anthony has won plenty of awards, and his tasting room, off Power Inn Road, is packed with regulars most days. It’s a great new life, but it comes at a cost. For one, he battles insomnia. He routinely wakes at 2 a.m. and can’t get back to sleep for hours.
“I’m thinking about strategies – what’s the right next move,” he said of those trying times in the wee hours. “I don’t like that feeling very much. I would rather go home and be able to shut it down.”
All those sleepless nights sound brutal, but Anthony definitely has Device on the right track. He settles for nothing less than excellence and it shows.
Note: We are launching a new video series called “Tasting Flight” in which brewers tell us about four of their beers. Anthony is up first. The video can be found at www.sacbee.com attached to this column.