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Craft beer Industry only – A Brew Expo recap

It doesn’t smell of beer when you enter the exhibitors’ hall of the Convention Centre in Portland, Oregon. It smells of hops.

The Brew Expo is not a minor beer festival, but a serious trade for craft brewers and the growing industry themed around the brewing craft. Krones is showcasing its capabilities immediately directly behind the “industry only” exhibitors who adorn the main entrance. The stand – and particularly the Varioline, which after the fair will be delivered to the 3 Floyds Brewery in Munster, Indiana, exerts an almost magical attraction on many brewers. “Even though we’re still too small, at some time we want one of those in our brewery,” says a bearded brewer – and probably the day on which his brewery buys a Varioline is not all that far away. Many craft breweries are growing very fast – as evidenced by the Brew Expo itself: it started off with a few stands in a room off the Craft Brewers Conference (CBC), and has evolved into a trade fair with 600 exhibitors. Around 11,000 visitors came to this year’s Brew Expo and CBC in Portland.

The visitors to the Brew Expo are a heterogeneous crowd with a small common denominator: casual clothing even in a business environment– and bushy beards. There’s no such thing though, as a stereotypical craft brewer. When I talked to the fair’s visitors, I encountered completely disparate faces and backgrounds. Three brewers from Korea, for example, came to gather information, because they will be starting up their own craft brewery (Goodman Brewery) in South Korea this September. Brewmaster Hyundoo Cho explains in these words: “The demand for craft beer in Korea is rising, because the main consideration is longer merely to drink vast quantities The principal focus now is enjoyment!”

Besides these newcomers, Jeremy Kosmicki from the Founders Brewery is already an old hand at the Brew Expo. “It’s so good to se that craft beer is the norm here – the people are all so genuinely passionate about it, and that’s and that’s really something to feel good about!“ Like many brewers, Kosmicki, too, arrived earlier, because in Portland with its 53 breweries hardly anyone is going to miss out on an opportunity to have a look round. Kosmicki has no fear that the craft brewing movement will be commercialised, since after all, it’s a good movement – the more people hear about it the better. “Here are so many genuine people – the movement cannot be commercialized!” Top of the agenda for most of the visitors to the Brew Expo is not excessive beer consumption, but rather networks, technology and information on the latest brewing supply, plus raw materials.

In a country that doesn’t have a Purity Law like Germany, the raw material exhibitors include not only hop yeast and malt stands from the USA, Czechia and Germany, but also stands selling fruit purées and honey. “We’ve been selling our honey commercially ever since 1979, and then three or four years go we noticed that more and more breweries are ringing up and asking for honey,” I learn from Josh Zeldner at Z Specialty Food. The demand for honey at the Brew Expo itself is also substantial. “Overall, the Orange Blossom and Wild Flowery varieties sell best, but the brewers are also interested in more offbeat types.” What the customers appreciate about the honey is that the products are natural and unadulterated just like the fruit from Oregon Specialty, who supply their purées to Abita, for example. “Organic is getting progressively more important,” reports Jeanette Koban from HVG. “ We get the most inquiries in this direction, and in regard to our specialty types!” This is also confirmed to me on the stand of Baywa, which this year is represented at the Brew Expo for the first time – hops like the Mandarina Bavaria are highly appreciated by the creative brewers.

Sustainability is a paramount consideration in the craft brewing scene, and here, too, creativity is much in demand: not only should the raw materials be as regionally sourced as possible or produced sustainably, the brew pubs also offer their customers beer directly from the barrel in take-away containers for parties or for drinking at home. And the six-pack, too, is undergoing a renaissance, as I’m told not only by the brewers, but also by the stands with glass bottles. So when I get back from my first tour of the fair, I’m not surprised to see people still clustered round the Varioline on the Krones stand. Dozens of eyes gaze in fascination at how six-pack after six-pack is packaged. “The Varioline is so compact, space-saving and efficient. It’s a perfect solution, and tailor-made for the craft breweries,” says Tim Raymond, Sales Manager at Krones Inc. Chris Boggess, Head Brewer at 3 Floyds, describes how ideally the Varioline meets the needs of the craft brewers: “We’ve been asked about our brewery very often, and some people were also a little bit envious,” he laughs before he hurries off towards the hop stands.

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