WASHINGTON, D.C.—There was something special about last night’s opening reception of the national Craft Brewers Conference.
It wasn’t just that beers of Virginia and elsewhere in the D.C. region were showcased for thousands of brewers from around the country. It was also: How great is it to be doing this in possibly the coolest museum on the planet?
“This is awesome,” said Mary Wolf, president of Wild Wolf Brewing Co. in Nelson County, as people stood in line at the Smithsonian National Air and Space Museum for samples of beer brewed by her son, Danny.
“He grew up in Northern Virginia, and his favorite of all the buildings is the Air and Space Museum,” Mary Wolf said. “So for him to be serving his beers here—he’s on cloud nine.”
Virginia brewers in general were beaming. Beers from Legend Brewing Co., Richmond’s veteran craft brewery, were being poured just inside one of the main entrances. Head brewer John Wampler was fully appreciative of the opportunity.
“This is in our own back yard,” he said as a California woman sampled Legend’s Hopfest Ale. Nearby, beers from other area breweries—Richmond’s Hardywood Park, Alexandria’s Port City, D.C.’s DC Brau, Charlottesville’s Champion and Starr Hill, for example—flowed into commemorative glasses as crowds swirled among sleek jets, towering rockets, tiny capsules, beefy prop planes and other aircraft.
The national Brewers Association, the not-for-profit trade group representing small and independent craft brewers, could hardly have picked a more apt venue, in terms of metaphor. Craft brewing is soaring. During 2012, the sector grew 15 percent in volume and 17 percent in dollars, according to a preliminary analysis by the association. The total beer market dollar share stood at 10.2 percent, with retail dollar value estimated at $10.2 billion.
The conference continues this week with trade exhibits, seminars and roundtable discussions. But last night was a special moment to shine for many.
“It’s a great showcase,” said Hunter Smith, head brewer of Champion Brewing Co. “Who wouldn’t want take the opportunity to be a part of this?”