Focus on Quality at Third Annual Indiana Craft Brewers Conference

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By Damon Scott

The third annual Indiana Craft Brewers Conference was held in Indianapolis, Ind. on March 24-26. The weekend included a full day of seminars, a trade show with industry suppliers and tours of local breweries.

The Brewers of Indiana Guild (BIG) put a clear emphasis on quality in all aspects of business with their programming. They also clearly take safety first literally! Matt Stinchfield, Brewers Association (BA) safety ambassador, kicked off Saturday by outlining how to use cultural practices, engineering controls, personal protective equipment and best practice to ensure that brewery employees go home safe every day. He also pointed brewers towards the many resources now available to implement a comprehensive safety plan.

I gave the lunchtime keynote, and discussed the implications of beer being defined as food in the eyes of the Food and Drug Administration (FDA). Recent rulings and regulations directly affect craft brewers. On top of managing their daily operations, craft brewers are navigating the requirements laid out in the Food Safety Modernization Act and new FDA menu labeling requirements. I took the opportunity to outline how resources developed by the BA technical committee can be used to implement Good Manufacturing Practices for Craft Brewers (GMPCBs). It was also a good chance to debut the new average nutrient information and calorie and carbohydrate calculators, developed to help brewers provide nutrient information to their retailer partners.

Brewers and suppliers from across Indiana, and beyond, provided excellent presentations on producing barrel-aged beers, the importance of draught-line cleaning, yeast handling and fermentation management, sensory panel implementation, wastewater management, and more!

On a personal note, my love for craft beer started in Indiana. I started homebrewing while finishing a chemistry degree at Hanover College, and was introduced to great beers from local breweries by a homebrewer and restauranteur in Madison, Ind. It is amazing to see how much the Indiana craft beer scene has grown in the last 10 years. Rob Caputo, executive director, and the rest of the BIG team put on a great conference and I hope to visit again soon!