The first of many – Welcome to the California Beer Summit! Pt.1

First article of a multi-part series! Please see my upcoming Pt.2 for a continuation of the series. 

The California Craft Beer Summit was the first inaugural conference dedicated to promoting the rise and culture of craft beer. Bringing together enthusiasts, homebrewers, professional brewers, retailers, wholesalers, allied trade members; multiple tiers of the industry were present in a never before seen event. Yes, this was an epic marriage in the making between consumer & industry and currently one-of-its-kind hosted by the California Craft Beer Association (CCBA)*.

Welcome to a vibrant industry of colorful consumers, a 2-day convention where 150+ breweries of a California origin attended and showed their support, and a meeting of great industry mavens underneath the State’s treasured capitol, known as the farm-to-table center of the nation, Sacramento!

California breweries are responsible for 1 out of 5 craft beers produced in the United States.
— CCBA Executive Director, Tom McCormick

Naturally, California is the birthplace of the craft brewing revolution; one that has grown deep roots in a relatively short time. Looking back at the first craft breweries, Anchor Brewing (San Francisco) and New Albion Brewing (Sonoma), their mark on the Golden State has blossomed into a plethora of leading breweries. Not to mention, California breweries are responsible for “1 out of 5 craft beers produced in the United States”, says CCBA Executive Director, Tom McCormick. Odds are you’re drinking a California produced beer right now.

We began on a high note at the Brewer Press Conference with leading brewers addressing the exceptional growth of our craft beer industry. The number came down to a whopping 24% growth rate over 2014, giving us a total of 519 breweries operating in California. And it’s growing at a rate of “1 new brewery every week”, says Natalie Cilurzo of Russian River Brewing. 

My hope is California beer will be just as iconic as California technology and California movie stars”, confirms David Walker of Firestone Walker Brewing. Yes, we wholeheartedly with you David. Here at home, we’re known for so many things: wine, surf, Yosemite, etc…and it’s time to add another option – craft beer!

However, with great power also comes great responsibility! The craft beer industry is more accurately a subset of a larger entity of super giants (inBev, Miller Coors, Heineken, etc) that create what most Americans choose to drink nowadays (unfortunately), known as the “light lager” or “yellow fizzy drink” by some. We’ve all had it and but it’s easy to forget the elephant in the room. Nonetheless, the clash between craft and, frankly, “non-craft” has many choosing sides and generally ends in bad taste and name-calling. I’ve written a recent piece on the acquisition of Bend, Oregon’s 10 Barrel Brewing by InBev and how similar situations escalated just as quickly. Dark themes like consumer snoby-ness, criticism, and the fear of lesser quality products were important topics addressed by many of the speakers. I will be writing more on this within the next few articles as well.

Needless to say, this event will become ever more important as a forum to address budding issues between those inside and outside the industry. My hope is that we continue to foster a sense of unity in the craft beer culture as more and more players arrive, especially within our California borders.

PS. I plan to cover more event details and my experiences on pt.2.

1. The CCBA is a non-profit trade association who protects the political and legal interests of the California craft beer industry. Formed in 1989, it’s the oldest state craft brewer association in the country. More first for us, Californians. 

Justin Tung

San Francisco, CA,

Justin Tung is a San Francisco resident, amateur homebrewer, and big beer lover. Often traveling for work grew a natural habit - an obsession - with exploring new regions and beers. The best way to understand a locality? Hang with a local and buy them a beer, hear their stories and the rest is history. This is the golden age of beer revolution and innovation. Fortune rewards the brave.