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Overcoming The Odds: Top 10 Takeaways From 2023 Craft Brewers Conference

Read the top ways breweries are combating and overcoming industry challenges and other helpful tips and technologies that the industry is leveraging to address the evolving demands of consumers.

May 17, 2023

From visiting Brew Talks to hosting our own seminar at Craft Brewers Conference, we’re here to share the top takeaways our team gathered about the industry from our time at CBC 2023.

It was immediately evident in conversations we had with brewers that there are high costs, lots of competition, and rapidly changing consumer preferences, disrupting any consistency or flow that breweries have had in recent years. 

With more than 11,000+ attendees, 100+ vendors, dozens of seminars and plenty of face-to-face conversations with producers at the Encompass Technologies booth, there’s no way we can pull together every insight and best practice for you, but below you’ll find a handful of our top takeaways.

Top Ten Takeaways From CBC 2023

1. The craft beer industry is transforming into the craft beverage industry. There’s no shortage of beyond beer sessions covering wide-ranging topics like legal requirements, equipment needs, production software processes and financials that impact how producers can make and market products beyond beer.

Breweries should get used to slow to no growth in beer category, but 0 percent growth does not mean 0 percent change.

Bart Watson

Chief Economist, Brewers Association

2. If you’re looking for an outside sales rep CRM, you’re not the only one. As we were working through the Pilot Program for our CRM for beverage producers, it became clear that the most impactful part of the solution is the ability to communicate commitments to distributors. That solution, Objectives, is available today and will remain our focus. A full CRM for producers is still a goal of ours, but we’re prioritizing Objectives so producers can get immediate value.

3. It’s essential to have strong, useful relationships with your tech providers. In talking with breweries about what technology and software they use to function and grow, it’s beyond clear that the most consistent complaint (and the most consistent notes of gratitude) were about the partners who invest in support teams who proactively communicate with their brewery customers. Brewers deserve support teams who pay close attention when tickets are submitted. But you also deserve proactive outreach that includes check-ins, pro tips, videos, and other useful information on leveraging your technology of choice to not just optimize, but advance business.

4. Both breweries and distributors are looking for ways to improve communications across the three tiers. Selling product is one thing, but ensuring all parties are aligned with which product, when it needs to get to its destination, as well as why it didn’t, is critical. Perhaps it’s the improved communications that will combat many of the questions and concerns shared in this Craft Brewing Business article: Key question from CBC 2023: How can craft breweries keep crushing the odds? 

5. Now is the time to invest and grow your business. As noted in Chris McClellan's takeaways:

Now's the time to look at your business and make it better. Tighten up your brand. Tighten up your operation. Make your products even better. Make your brand messaging even more focused. Invest in the technology needed to compete. Do it now. Now's the time! Invest!

Chris McClellan

Co-founder, Resin CRM

6. It’s important to know the legal implications when you expand into new territories. When it comes to expanding distribution across states or opening additional taprooms or production facilities, local laws are what frustrate breweries who have gone through the expansion.

Local laws can set you back if you’re not aware of what you’re going into.

Jeff Heck

Co-founder and CEO, Monday Night Brewing

7. When you give them an exciting reason or event, customers will show up more frequently. Breweries with taprooms need to make sure they always have something going on and is additive to the mission: bingo, silent disco, etc. as well as collaborations with local producers. In short, just having a taproom and slinging beers isn’t enough.

8. Consolidating the number of systems you use will win over trying to unite existing systems. Breweries are improving and sharing spreadsheets with one another to help manage taprooms, sales, and production calendars but most of the breweries we talked to think it’s cool but it doesn’t work for them, doesn’t sync with their other tech, and doesn’t make it easy for others to easily pick it up if, say, the production manager goes on vacation. The efforts are valiant but the breweries that have growth mindsets are focused on consolidating the number of systems they have rather than working to piece them all together.

9. Massive amounts of innovation are still happening with brewing ingredients. New styles, using superfruits, and making beers taste like cocktails (without making them an RTD cocktail), are making it even more critical for breweries to manage their inventory appropriately. The clarity in what you have on hand can lead to more in-depth and improved product exploration.

10. Beverage producers will always need to taste the product. The amount of tech, QA/QC, and mobile apps telling you that you hit your numbers perfectly will never replace the fact that beverages need to be QAd by the people making them. And, of course, it’s the best part of the job!

Overall, the Craft Brewers Conference served as a platform for collaboration and knowledge exchange among so many in the industry - not just brewers. Attendees were encouraged to share their experiences, best practices, and challenges, fostering a spirit of camaraderie within the industry and this year’s event felt like it had the best energy to date; not naive to the challenges, but actually embracing how breweries can overcome them together.

Want to learn more about working together as an industry to solve complex challenges? Join us at BevAge: the maker-to-market conference for the modern beverage industry.

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