Tuesday, April 22, 2014

The Duluth Experience Craft Beer Roundtable - Crafting the North Shore Craft Beer Scene

Last week, I attended the second event of the Craft Beer Roundtable hosted by The Duluth Experience. The Craft Beer Roundtable focuses on the vibrant craft brewing scene in Northeastern Minnesota and the surrounding area.

While the last event focused on the people who owned the breweries, this event featured the brewmasters from each of their respective breweries:

The event kicked off with a bit of a Q & A about what was the draw that brought these individuals to the area. Amongst the responses were the long history of brewing that the area is known for, the open-minded, receptive audience, location and most importantly: The water.

Perhaps one question that I thought is important to those who wish to become brewers themselves was what can one do to get into brewing. The big answers were to educate oneself, do homebrew yourself or even just volunteering at a local brewery by getting your foot in the door and getting to know the brewers as well. One thing that did stick out for me as a question pitched by Canal Park Brewmaster Jeremy King: Do you even want to brew? It may seem like a silly question to ask but a lot of people don't know that being brewmaster is actually very hard work.

Another question which was asked was regarding upcoming trends. Amongst the trends discussed were the growing demand for barrel-aged beers and the potential market for companies that provide barrels to breweries. Another one that was agreed upon are the rise in Sessionable Ales, Sour/Wild Ales, and collaboration ales.  A couple of interesting ideas provided by Fitger's Brewmaster Dave Hoops included Hybrid Beers (American/Belgian Styles) and what the brewers are drinking in general.

When it came to talking about the challenges about being a small brewery, marketing seemed to be the primary one as well as brand recognition. Some other challenges included navigating Minnesota State liquor & distribution laws as well as the lack of market access for certain breweries.

This led to the next topic regarding social media and the general consensus was that it's not only good for small business and helps keep people updated but it's also free in many instances. During that topic, Dave Hoops even brought up how their marketing department utilizes text messaging to keep people updated.

As the forum started to wrap up, the topic of females in the craft brewing industry was brought up. It was agreed that women should have a bigger role in the craft brewing industry; After all, they do make up about 30% of overall craft beer sales. A point was even brought up that women used to play a crucial role in brewing; For example from the early days of Sumerian culture all the way up until the end of the 18th Century. I personally have to agree and I've pointed out before that I think women are painfully underrepresented in the craft brewing industry.

Like the first event, I found this one to be extremely informative and I noticed a much higher turnout this time around than the previous event. Not to mention too that there was considerably more media attention at this event compared to the last one. I also had the opportunity to have a pint with Ed & Liz Gleason of Carmody's afterwards, who helped give my fiancé her first ever craft beer; Thanks guys!

If you weren't able to make it before, now is the time to do so as there are still 2 events left in the Craft Beer Roundtable event:

May 18th: “Riding the Wave of Beer” – Craft Beer Related Business
Moderated by: James Sanders – The Duluth Experience

• Marissa Sauer – Northlandbeer.com
• Paul Riordan – Brule River Hill Top Hops
• Brad Nelson – Star Creative
• Carolyn Jones – CMT Farm
• Paul Helstrom – The Duluth Experience

June 22nd: “Women of the North Shore Craft Beer Scene” – A Candid Discussion on the State of Women in Brewing
Moderated by: Elissa Hansen – Barley’s Angels Duluth/Superior Chapter

• Allyson Rolph – Thirsty Pagan Brewing
• Jamie MacFarlane – Castle Danger Brewing
• Liz Gleason – Carmody Irish Pub & Brewery
• Laura Mullen – Bent Paddle Brewing Co.
• Melissa Rainville – Fitger’s Brewhouse

All the events will be held at Teatro Zuccone in the Zeitgeist Arts Building at 222 East Superior Street in Duluth, Minnesota. Tickets for each event are only $5 and all proceeds from the event will be donated to a local charity. For more information about the North Shore Craft Beer Roundtable call (218) 464-6337 or visit The Duluth Experience website at: www.theduluthexperience.com/special-events/craft-beer-roundtable/

I hope to see you all there.


- Nick

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