The Inaugural Grower and Brewer Conference was held in Lincoln, Ne. January 4-5 at the University of Nebraska, Lincoln Innovation Campus. The Nebraska Craft Brewers Guild teamed up with the Nebraska Hop Growers Association to connect brewers, hop growers and farmers considering investing in hop production.
The agenda included an introductory and an advanced hop growing track, and a track focused on brewing. The hop track included speakers from across the country, including growers and researchers from Nebraska, Michigan, Idaho, Wisconsin and Colorado. Speakers provided critical information on the unique challenges facing growers outside of the Pacific Northwest, where the vast majority of U.S. hops are grown. Challenges include: different soil composition, unique disease and pest pressure and the impact of prominent local crops. Despite potential hurdles, interest in local production was high—nearly half of the 180 attendees were there to learn more about hops!
I kicked off the conference with a state-of-the-industry presentation focusing on increased consumer interest in locally grown ingredients. Nebraska is very representative of the U.S. industry as a whole—small brewers are digging deep in their local communities by constantly innovating and improving. The Brewers Association was also well represented by Safety Ambassador Matt Stinchfield, owner of Ploughshare Brewing Co. in Lincoln. Matt highlighted safety resources available to the craft brewer and focused on ways brewers can avoid incidents and accidents in the workplace. Speakers in the brewing track focused on beer quality, with presentations on yeast management and fermentation microbiology, as well as business focused talks on government relations and financing and investment options. Perhaps the most impactful outcome of the event was the networking between brewers and farmers, with local craft beers in hand.
The guild held an open-house board meeting and discussed their goals and objectives with attendees. This format allowed for many questions from attendees and made clear the direction of the guild to brewers and farmers alike. Everyone involved in this inaugural conference should be proud of the success in 2017 and I look forward to seeing the growth of craft beer and hop production in Nebraska in the future!