Sacramento is set to host a new beer convention in September that is expected to attract thousands of people, bring millions of dollars to the city and continue the momentum of its “America’s Farm-to-Fork Capital” marketing campaign.
The California Craft Beer Summit will include seminars, demonstrations, hands-on learning opportunities and a beer industry jobs fair, along with scores of tasting events, culminating in the California Craft Brewers Showcase that is expected to feature beers from as many as 200 breweries from throughout the state.
Scheduled for Sept. 11-12 at the Sacramento Convention Center, the summit is still in the planning stages. Pricing, a detailed list of events and attendees, and timing for ticket sales have yet to be finalized. The event will coincide with the third annual Farm-to-Fork Festival, running Sept. 10-27.
“My vision is that this will be a premier beer event in the country,” said Tom McCormick, executive director of the California Craft Brewers Association, which is a co-sponsor of the convention. “It will certainly compare to GABF (Great American Beer Festival in Denver) and Oregon Brewers Festival (in Portland) and draw people from across the country.”
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McCormick said many of the major personalities in California craft brewing industry, including Ken Grossman of Sierra Nevada, David Walker of Firestone Walker and Greg Koch of Stone Brewing, have already committed to attend.
He noted that the event will start out relatively small, with plans to attract about 3,000 people the first year. Organizers expect significant growth in subsequent years.
While beer-tasting festivals are widely popular – including several local ones throughout the year (Sacramento Beer Week, for example, starts Feb. 27) – the California Craft Beer Summit will include far more than beer, music and socializing.
“The summit will bring together retailers, wholesalers, brewery owners, beer enthusiasts and home brewers for an educational, hands-on experience where they will be able to see, touch, smell and taste beer,” according to a press statement that accompanied McCormick’s announcement Monday.
McCormick, who has been sketching out his vision for the summit for the past two years, added: “I’m certain it’s a one-of-a-kind event that has never been done in the beer industry before. The idea is to be able to use all of your senses to experience craft beer.”
He said the California Craft Brewers Association selected Sacramento for several reasons, including the city’s relative affordability, its recent explosion of new breweries, and how craft beer fits with the evolving farm-to-fork marketing campaign that continues to augment Sacramento’s reputation as an epicenter for food and agriculture.
The California Craft Beer Summit is scheduled to arrive before a slate of public events for the third Farm-to-Fork Festival and will serve as a kind of kickoff for several high-profile happenings, including the Legends of Wine event, the free outdoor festival and the prestigious – and pricy – gala dinner on the Tower Bridge.
“It’s a big deal for us, and it’s something we have wanted to do for a couple of years now,” said Mike Testa, chief operating officer of the Sacramento Visitors & Convention Bureau. He noted that Sacramento had bid on this year’s Craft Brewers Conference, losing out to Portland in part, he says, because there wasn’t a hotel large enough to house all of the attendees under one roof.
“We started thinking, ‘What if we have our own conference?’” Testa said. “The idea is to build this thing and hopefully, down the road, make it the most sought out event in the country. If we are America’s farm-to-fork capital, it can’t just be about special events. We have to be the authority and the leader on all things that relate to food.”
With UC Davis pursuing plans to build a World Food Center in Sacramento, events such as the beer summit – as well as the recent Unified Wine and Grape Symposium – can be viewed as helping to further establish Sacramento as a hub for food research and policy.
Testa said it was too soon to cite specific numbers about the beer summit’s economic impact, but he said “it will ultimately bring in millions, without question.” Typically, those numbers include revenue for hotels, restaurants, gas, souvenirs and related convention and tourism income.
Glynn Phillips, owner of Rubicon Brewing, which opened in 1987 and is Sacramento’s oldest operating brewery, said the beer summit will mean big things for the city, which was once a major brewery town and grower of hops for beer before Prohibition devastated the beer industry.
“It is about time that Sacramento really started owning the change in the beer business that we have been going through,” Phillips said Monday. “It’s exciting for me to see something that will not only benefit the breweries of Sacramento but all retail establishments. The whole region is going to benefit from this.
“This event is a long time coming,” he added. “I’m just glad it’s going to be in Sacramento.”
The California Craft Brewers Association has created a special website for the two-day event, www.californiacraftbeer.com/2015-craft-beer-summit/.
The summit will include “tap talks,” in which “beer masters will host interactive sessions to discuss beer styles, brewery origins and brewing processes; “master demos” that involve brewers and chefs discussing the keys to food and beer pairings; new releases of special beers from top breweries in the state; seminars hosted by craft beer professionals that explore elements of the brewing business; and “farm-to-glass” exhibits that detail the brewing process, according to the California Craft Brewers Association.
Editor’s note: This report was changed at 7 a.m. Tuesday to correct the California Craft Brewers Association website address.
Call The Bee’s Blair Anthony Robertson, (916) 321-1099. Follow him on Twitter @Blarob.