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Brooklyn Brewery's brewmaster Garrett Oliver issuing a call to action for brewers to hold fast to the ideals of craft beer at the 2019 California Craft Beer Summit, Long Beach. Photo by Bill Vanderburgh
ColumnsCraft Beer in North County

Thousands gather for California Craft Beer Summit

The California Craft Brewers Association (CCBA) celebrated its 30th anniversary during their its annual California Craft Beer Summit, held this year at the Long Beach Convention & Entertainment Center, Sept. 12 through Sept. 14. Over 6,500 brewers, industry members and beer lovers attended the event, which included a trade show, educational sessions, meetings and a beer festival.

This year also marked the CCBA’s inaugural Craft Brewers Cup. One hundred and ninety independent California craft brewers submitted a total of 1,266 beers into competition, and awards were given in 58 style categories.

The “Best in Show” award went to San Marcos’s Rip Current Brewing for their Breakline Bock, which was entered in the Traditional German-Style Bock category.

Resident Brewing (downtown San Diego) and North Park Brewing (of North Park, of course) took gold and silver, respectively, in the New England Style Hazy IPA category, one of the most competitive categories in the competition. AleSmith Brewing (Miramar) and Societe Brewing (Kearny Mesa) took gold (for San Diego Pale Ale .394) and bronze (for The Publican), respectively, in another highly competitive category, American Pale Ale.

In total, 22 San Diego County Breweries won 37 of the 170 awards given. That’s about 22% of the medals going to San Diego. The full list of winners is available here. San Diego Breweries won two-thirds or more of the medals in eight style categories.

The Californian Craft Brewers Association was formed in 1989 as a trade organization to promote the interests of California’s small, independent brewers to the California legislature. It is the oldest state-level trade organization for independent brewers. Over the years, CCBA’s lobbying efforts have helped create the legal and economic conditions that have allowed craft brewing to thrive in California. Tom McCormick, executive director of the CCBA, says that, “Craft breweries are locally-owned businesses which benefit their community with jobs, charitable giving, economic growth and provide a place for the neighborhood. Our role at the CCBA is to protect and grow the craft brewing and small business community which has become so important to California’s cities and local communities.”

Today, there are over one thousand small, independent breweries in California. The state with the next largest number of breweries is Colorado, with under 500 breweries. According to the CCBA, 95% of Californians live within 10 miles of a craft brewery. California’s craft breweries contribute well over $8 billion to the state’s economy. (San Diego County contributes over $1.1 billion of that: see this previous column.)

Before you start worrying that the craft beer market in California is oversaturated, according to data from the national Brewers Association, California has only about three breweries per 100,000 of population over the age of 21, which makes California the 28th-ranked state in terms of brewery density; 15 states produce a greater volume of beer per capita.

Bart Watson, economist for the national Brewers Association, was a featured speaker at the CA Craft Beer Summit. He noted that the craft beer segment has never been stronger, but that competition has never been more fierce, either. The U.S. is on track to have over 10,000 breweries, about 1,200 of those in California. However, brewery numbers by themselves don’t tell the whole story: The smallest 75% of US breweries are responsible for just 0.6% of annual national beer production by volume.

One of the legends of craft beer, Garrett Oliver, brewmaster and partner at Brooklyn Brewery, was another speaker at the Craft Beer Summit. His “Tap Talk” was a call to action for brewers to rededicate themselves to the ideals of the craft beer movement: using real, wholesome ingredients, to make authentic, “true” beer. Oliver drew parallels between the craft beer movement and the Slow Food movement, with which he has also been closely involved. He challenged brewers who are putting donuts and commercial breakfast cereals in their wort while making “hype” beers. “If wax and artificial colorings in donuts don’t upset you in beer — what would upset you?” He added, “When you look in the mirror. Are you the brewer you showed up to be?”