The first-ever conference on Sonoma County’s booming trade in artisan beer, cider, and spirits is shaping up to be a high-powered affair, with a great lineup of speakers and panelists and, of course, a lineup of local beverages to taste.
Registration, however, closes Nov. 5, so if you want to attend, get on it now. The event, sponsored by the county Economic Development Board, will be 1-6 p.m. on Nov. 12 at the Hyatt Vineyard Creek Hotel in Santa Rosa. Tickets are $50. To register online, go here, or else call (707) 565-6411 or email Hanna.Berglund@sonoma-county.org.
Keynote speaker will be the ever-colorful Tony Magee, founder of Lagunitas. Also expected to speak are Assembly member Wesley Chesbro (D-beer), who has been out front on legislative issues related to the craft brew industry; Tom McCormick, executive director of the California Craft Brewers Association, which represents the more than 300 small breweries in the state; and Michael Traverso, Hospitality Manager of the Williams Selyem Winery. Playing MC for the day will be the knowledgeable and entertaining Kevin McGee, a beverage-industry consultant and the brewer behind Healdsburg Beer Company.
There will be three panels through the day:
- “Branding Sonoma County” will be moderated by Paul Yeomans, Team Leader of the Sonoma County Commercial Banking Group at Argent Bank. Panelists will be Ken Weaver, author of the great “Northern California Craft Beer Guide;” Tim Zahner, Chief Marketing Officer of Sonoma County Tourism; Ron Lindenbusch, marketing chief at Lagunitas; and Jay Brooks, the man behind the Brookston Beer Bulletin.
- “Liquid Assets” will be moderated by beverage-industry attorney Eugene Pak of the firm of Wendel Rosen Black and Dean. Panelsts will be Brian Mulvaney of the beverage group at Bank of America Merrill Lynch; Ken Dansie of the Bay Area accounting firm of Burr Pilger Mayer; Richard Norgrove, the elder founder and CEO of Bear Republic Brewing; and Fred Groth, founder and head distiller at HelloCello and Prohibition Spirits in Sonoma.
- “Brewing Solutions” will be moderated by Don Winkle of the law firm of Spaulding, McCullough & Tansil. Panelists will be Perry DeLuca, head of the Wine, Food & Beverage group at Wells Fargo in Santa Rosa; Derek Groff, a valuation specialist at Frank, Rimerman + Co.; David Cordtz of Sonoma Beverage Consultants and Sonoma Cider; Natalie Cilurzo, cofounder of Russian River Brewing; and Timo Marshall, cofounder of Spirit Works Distillery.
But that’s the serious stuff. The fun part will be the lineup of tasting booths. Scheduled to pour samples are: Bear Republic Brewing Co.; 101 North Brewing; Russian River Brewing Co.; Lagunitas Brewing Co.; Carneros Brewing Co.; St. Florian’s Brewery; Healdsburg Beer Co.; Petaluma Hills Brewing; Third Street Aleworks; Old Redwood Brewing; Spirit Works Distillery; HelloCello & Prohibition Spirits; Sonoma Cider; Devoto Orchards Cider; and HenHouse Brewing.
These tasty goodies are, however, serious and growing business for the county. The EDB found, in a study earlier this year, that the craft beer industry alone generated $123 million in local economic activity in 2012, and that is likely to increase substantially, with new breweries opening and several existing ones, particularly Lagunitas, expanding substantially. The cider and spirits markets are smaller, but seem to be growing at an astonishing pace.
- Sean Scully