2018 Craft Brewers Conference: 14,000 Beer People in One Place

That’s right. 14,000 beer people. In one place.

Two years ago, the Craft Brewers Conference was an incredibly daunting event, despite it being on our home turf in Philadelphia.  At CBC Philly, Billy and I were new to this commitment that we were going to build Triple Bottom. We felt like we had everything to learn, and nothing to offer. We looked around us at teams coming into town from some of our favorite breweries, and felt a serious case of imposter syndrome.

Returning to CBC two years later, we realized how much has changed.

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First of all, imposter syndrome has gotten a bit more comfortable, out of necessity. Every day, we are doing something we’ve never done before — whether it’s signing a lease, meeting with City Council, or talking through building plans with the folks at Philly’s Licensing and Inspections department. With all this newness, we’ve had to learn to live with the “am I doing this right?” question every day.

But imposter syndrome has also decreased somewhat because of how much we’ve learned and done over the last two years. This year’s CBC helped me see that in a big way. A lot of the lessons I took away from CBC this year resonated much more deeply because we’ve now got a foundation of knowledge and experiences we can relate them to. I could commiserate with other early stage breweries about finding a location, share ideas about HR policies, and actually add value to conversations I didn’t feel I could contribute to before. I walked through the expo, which is an insanely huge assembly of vendors, with a sense of purpose: we need a boiler, we need our floors finished, we need glassware. (Obviously, having Kyle to tell me who I should talk to about said boiler and floors helped greatly).

 Nashville is no Philly in the street art department, but we still found some gems.

Nashville is no Philly in the street art department, but we still found some gems.

We’re not the only ones who have progressed over the last two years, though. This year’s CBC debuted its first ever leadership track, which included a lot of seminars about building an inclusive industry and leading a socially responsible business. The Brewers Association’s first diversity ambassador, Dr. J, led a brilliant conversation about how we as an industry can be more self aware of who we welcome and who we (perhaps unintentionally) don’t. It felt like there were more women participating (though I haven’t found any stats on attendance to verify that, just a general feeling of not being quite so alone). These are all issues that we have been committed to addressing since day 1 of Triple Bottom, and it was so energizing to hear such familiar conversations finally having a broader reach.

In a sea of 14,000 beer people, I was worried I’d feel lost and overwhelmed. Instead, I felt bolstered, connected, and inspired. If I sat down by myself for lunch, barely any time would pass before someone sat beside me and wanted to learn what I was up to, and how they could help. There is a tremendous generosity of spirit throughout the craft brewing industry. It’s one of the main reasons we chose to start a brewery, and it was pretty amazing to see that generosity rise to the surface, even in such a huge crowd. So thank you, CBC. This just keeps getting better. Can’t wait for the next one.     – Tess

 Paul Saginaw, co-founder of Zingerman's in Ann Arbor, gives the keynote on building an inclusive business deeply rooted in its community.

Paul Saginaw, co-founder of Zingerman's in Ann Arbor, gives the keynote on building an inclusive business deeply rooted in its community.

Tess HartComment