Just spent a week (Saturday to Saturday)  in San Diego with the Martin House Management team (Me, Cody and Anna) and of course, our favorite “real housewife of MHB,” my wife Jenny. The first part of the trip was a true vacation, with visits to the beach, to La Jolla, Balboa Park, and plenty of time to laze around and enjoy the atmosphere in Southern California. Of course, we had to mix in a good dose of product research the beer scene in San Diego is without a doubt one of the best in the nation… Brew Pubs were all over the place- we made a visit to Karl Strauss in La Jolla and Pizza Port in OB- and any restaurant we ate at had a large selection of local brews as well as some exotics. Even the convenience stores had a huge selection of craft brews. It was almost like glimpsing the future of what DFW could look like- very exciting and tasty. Good motivation.

Wednesday things transitioned into the actual conference with an organized tour of three local breweries. We started at Ballast Point whose tasting room experience was exceptional. Open taps, healthy pours, knowledgeable and friendly bartenders happy to talk about the product, then a tour from the head brewer of the premise. Very cool, and the WBC Gold Medal winning IPA was memorable. Also memorable was the Indra Kunindra for its curry flavor- verrry strong curry flavor.

Next was Stone Brewing Co which was a very slick place- from the fancy restaurant to the manicured gardens, the place was really well presented. It seemed like they really had their stuff together for getting people thru the tour. It was a well-oiled machine, and the food was great.

The final stop was Lightning Brewing, a little place in a business park that the bus driver had a hard time finding. It was pretty much a Mom and Pop, but the beer was good, and the guys that made it were on the floor and proud and excited to be handing it out. A tour wasn’t required, because as we were standing on the floor we could see everything at once. We got home, played some Frisbee on the beach, and went to bed.

The conference itself started on Thursday and lasted through Saturday night. Essentially, there were 3 major activities available to the attendees:

  • The Expo, where vendors, associations, etc set up booths and chatted up anyone walking through the show. It was a bit like speed dating- Over the course of two days, we met a huge variety of people selling services and products. It was nice to actually see people and talk to them- much better than visiting websites and emailing for quotes.
  • Break-out sessions, where attendees got to participate in panels, educational seminars, and share experiences. Cody attended mostly technical brewing sessions while I sat in on more general sessions on the overall market and selling/buying/marketing considerations.
  • Networking. There was plenty of downtime when we were not at the Expo or sitting in a session. The BA was great about providing plenty of sample beer and time to hang out among our peers. I was happy to meet some local guys from DFW as well as some not so local people. We got some great coaching and good ideas.

Probably my biggest takeaway from the event was a cautious excitement about the growth of craft. There are 2000 (give or take) breweries in the US as of today, with 1000 officially in planning. I think that veterans in the industry are worried about a whole slew of people coming in and diluting the quality, camaraderie, and overall specialness of craft brewing. I can see why they would feel protective of their unique community.

As a result, I came away with a even stronger desire to launch the brewery right. Meaning keeping quality of product as job number 1, as well as participating with existing brewers in developing the local craft scene. Cody has been talking and getting really involved with the DEBC guys (I’ll let him talk about that), and we plan on keeping tight with the other great brewers we have already met and will be meeting. A point that was made several times was “a rising tide floats all  ships” meaning if the overall market for craft beer expands, everyone wins- especially the consumer that loves beer.

Check out this video summary and the gallery below for a visual tour of San Diego and CBC:

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