Brewers from across New England gathered at the University of Southern Maine for the second annual New England Craft Brew Summit, hosted by the Maine Brewers’ Guild, on March 31, 2017.
This year’s theme focused on sustaining craft beer’s record setting growth across the Northeast and beyond. Bart Watson Ph.D., chief economist for the Brewers Association, and Katie Marisic, federal affairs manager for the Brewers Association, delivered the keynote on the economic growth of the industry, and how public policy can support or hinder expansion.
“The craft brewing community has seen impressive growth in the past few years, directly creating jobs at their breweries and impacting the agricultural, retail and manufacturing industries. Brewery owners and employees are also passionate and politically active,” said Katie Marisic, federal affairs manager of the Brewers Association. “Legislators at the state and federal level should be reaching out and listening to their small and independent brewers. If yours aren’t, it’s time to make them listen.”
Representative Chellie Pingree, a legislator known for listening to and supporting the craft beer industry, delivered the Happy Hour toast, remarking on the ability of the craft beer industry to revitalize both urban and rural communities and bring life to Maine’s economy.
“It’s been very exciting to watch the phenomenal growth in Maine’s brewing industry over the last 10 years. The significant economic benefits of this growth extend beyond the breweries themselves — to the downtowns and industrial areas they’ve helped reinvigorate, to the Maine businesses that provide them services and ingredients and to our state’s reputation as a destination,” said Congresswoman Chellie Pingree. “We can widen that impact even further by producing and incorporating more Maine ingredients, which is why I’m pushing in Congress for policies to help grow that capacity.”
Keynote speaker Bart Watson Ph.D., spoke about where the craft beer industry should focus their efforts if they hope to keep pace in the future. Exploring new markets, appealing to customers who don’t traditionally identify as beer drinkers and pushing the envelope with creative brews were just a few of the ways Watson encouraged brewers to stand out.
“Although the market is becoming more competitive all across the country, the potential for growth still exists for breweries that are able to innovate and differentiate,” said Watson. “Given the strong brands that brewers have built across New England, the region remains well positioned to capitalize on future growth opportunities.”
Presented by Bernstein Shur, the full-day conference featured talks and panel discussions on a wide range of topics currently impacting the craft brew industry, including distribution, tourism and eco-brewing. New for 2017, brewers sent beer samples to the University of Southern Maine QC2 lab prior to the event and reviewed the results of the analyses with lab staff during the conference.
“While most people think of beer as a single product — this year’s summit demonstrated the enormous variety of business models, beer styles and growth strategies that brewers are developing within this dynamic industry,” said Sean Sullivan, executive director of the Maine Brewers’ Guild. “Beer consumers and those who support the craft beer industry have a lot to look forward to.”