Free Our Beer and The Bar Towel are hitting the road tomorrow evening to travel down to the Craft Brewers Conference in Chicago. The conference, organized by the US-based Brewers Association, is one of the largest of its kind, attracting over 2,600 industry professionals according to the web site. It has been sold out for some time now.
Why are we going down to the conference? For one, it looks like a crazy city-wide beer extravaganza, with multiple beer related events happening both at the conference and at local bars and breweries.
But the main reason is to gather knowledge about the craft beer industry in the United States to continue to help the Free Our Beer project provide consumers in Ontario with how our system does not serve the best interests of beer lovers here.
Looking at some of the special events, a number of bars are bringing in special beers that they will tap throughout the week to commemorate the occasion. For example, the Hopleaf will have different draughts from craft breweries in California, New York, Maine, Michigan and Colorado, with possibly others. The Local Option will have about five different draught brands from Cantillion, six from Dieu du Ciel and sixteen from Mikkeller along with some US brands. Many other pubs, restaurants and beer stores are holding various tastings, tappings and meet-and-greets with breweries and beers.
This is fantastic to look forward to, but as Free Our Beer we must note that this kind of thing could never realistically happen here. The number of international beers and out-of-state beers that are coming into Illinois to be a part of the conference is staggering. With our system in Ontario, this kind of flow of beers into the province for an event would never occur. There’s just too many hurdles and roadblocks.
Here’s another big one. Stone Brewing recently announced a distribution deal to enter the Illinois market, and to celebrate they organized a week of events, including multiple draughts and bottles available at different spots around the region. Talk about entering the market in a big way. In comparison, Garrison is also entering the Ontario market with a single beer coming as a one-time release at the LCBO in September. Hopefully there will be more brands to come, but that will not be until 2011.
Keep an eye on Free Our Beer for more from the Craft Brewers Conference in the coming days. You can also follow Bar Towel on Twitter to stay connected to what’s happening at the conference.