What do Illinois, Indiana, Iowa, Michigan, Minnesota, Missouri, Nebraska, North Dakota, Ohio, South Dakota, and Wisconsin have in common? They’re all invited to participate in the first annual Midwest Craft Brewers Conference, to be held August 6–7 at the University of Wisconsin–Stout.
Beer and America’s breadbasket have long gone hand in hand. Some of the most recognizable beer brands in the world, Miller and Budweiser, have their roots here. And today, the region is buzzing with innovative breweries making top-of-the-line craft beer.
It’s this combination of history and trendsetting that inspired Anna McCabe to suggest the creation of the Midwest Craft Brewers Conference. McCabe is the professional education program manager at UW–Stout. Last fall, when she and other faculty members were brainstorming new programs to add to their offerings, she thought, “Why not beer?”
With that, the idea for the conference was born. Planning ensued and at the end of April 705 postcards were mailed to breweries large and small in the aforementioned 11 states. McCabe even tracked down homebrewers selling beer out of their garages, inviting them to participate alongside more established breweries in the one-and-a-half-day conference.
The conference will include two keynote speakers—Tony Magee, founder of Lagunitas Brewing Company and Clark Lewey, CEO and co-founder of Toppling Goliath Brewing, in Decorah, Iowa—as well as a variety of breakout sessions and exhibitors. McCabe says three sessions are offered for every time slot, allowing brewers to tailor their experience. Different session “tracks” include food and beer, sustainability (hops sourcing, water and energy use), the business of brewing (brand identity, distribution, loans, legalities), and fermentation science.
A lot still has to be solidified for this year’s inaugural conference, but McCabe already has big ideas for the future. “I want it to be a staple for Midwest brewers,” she says. “I envision it growing and including even more keynote speakers and exhibitors who are trailblazers in the world of craft beer. Eventually, I see it as being a destination for brewers outside the Midwest, too.”
For now, though, the focus is on regional brewers and what’s happening here at home. Socials at Lucette Brewing Company and Real Deal Brewing (of Raw Deal Restaurant) will take place both days of the conference. Regional brewery tours will be offered. Think of it as a few small ways to show off the big things happening with craft beer in the Midwest.
Midwest Craft Brewers Conference
August 6–7, 2015
University of Wisconsin–Stout, 712 Broadway St S, Menomonie, WI