Subscribe to our craft beer newsletter:

BrewBround Session Notes




In  #TBT fashion, we are spending this Thursday reviewing insights gained, trends examined and craft beer celebrated at last week’s Brewbound Session in Chicago. The guest list was impressive and the beer tasted delicious while the presentations and discussions delved into the development of craft beer, the current state of affairs and upcoming trends within the industry.


The much debated and feared issue of the craft beer bubble popped up throughout the day in various ways. The possibility of oversaturation is a common worry and breweries discussed ways to continue growth, maintain a steady level of success or break into such a fast-paced market as a new brewery. Growing the market share, overall, for beer was a popular strategy that many agreed with, including Andy Goeler from Anheuser-Busch, who referenced the increased popularity of table wines and whiskey potentially cutting into beer market share and the need to focus on increasing beer’s share overall. Baking a larger pie rather than scrapping over the slices showed the renowned communal attitude of the beer community at large.


The sheer momentum of the IPA category also came into play. With over 900 different IPAs on the market the question is what makes an IPA stand out at this point? Many breweries are sorting through that question individually, whether through recreating classics, experimenting with hop variants or abandoning the IPA train entirely in search of the next niche to be filled in beer. Whoever is able to find and fill the niche first can be sure to grab hold of a unique spot in beer, leading to increased sales.


In more than one panel discussion presenters grappled with the power of local, and now the rise of hyperlocal, breweries. Both a blessing and a challenge, the move towards local patronage has sprung new discussions for both breweries working towards regional distribution and breweries that are bunkering down in their supportive communities. The numerous breweries establishing themselves in neighborhoods, both in Beer City USA and throughout the country, was seen as a blessing by some, notably Alan Newman. The founder of Magic Hat and now of Traveler Beer praised local brew spots for their ability to introduce many to the beer scene by their accessibility as a local watering hole. This local beer experience can create excitement that induces the consumer to continue their beer journey and explore other beers.



Another strategy to cut through any market saturation is the power of the story. For a brand to be viable it requires a face, place and story in order to connect with their drinkers. In a world brimming with diverse and delicious beer options the “why” behind the brew can become just as important as the “what” of the brew. Breweries are now storytellers and are using marketing, specifically digital media platforms, to share that story directly with their fans while also honing in on their unique “it” factor that makes a truly successful brewery sticky, leading to loyal beer enthusiasts.


Mike Kaiser, founder of Good Beer Hunting, awed the audience with his presentation on building beer brands through storytelling. The need for a brewery to shape their story for themselves, rather than being steered by the perceived wants of the consumer, highlighted the need for a brewery to go beyond listing off their likes (bikes, water, bluegrass) and delve into their culture as a company. Dale Katechis, founder of Oskar Blues Brewery, underscored the importance of culture and its requirement to become from an organic source, primarily individual already committed to the company.


The value and high esteem held for brewery employees was clear throughout the presentations. Submissions for new brewery recipes, radical marketing ploys and the intangible “it” factor of each brewery came from the individuals who spent their days committed to creating the beer From marketing managers and brewers to founders of world-class breweries, all acknowledged the need to focus within on their company culture and the potential held by individuals working with them for continued success.


The single strain of thought prevalent throughout the day of conversation and presentations boiled down to the beer commumity’s determination to remain a place of artful creation, collaboration and cultivation. Brewbound Chicago Session showed that beer has no plans to divert from this method for growth. For Brewbound's own recap of the Chicago conference they've created a video highlighting the day. 




Brewing to be Beer Smart



Unsurprisingly, the team here at West Side Beer Distributing is a little into celebrating beer during American Craft Beer Week. Along with the raising of pints in salute of a delicious brew we also place an emphasis on learning even more about the product we sell.


Selling highlights the power of the combined forces of knowledge and passion, both of which we promote here at West Side Beer. One way in which we focus on the knowledge and passion that drives us all is through our beer school program. We integrate active learning processes, reading materials, internationally recognized testing, competitions and unique professional learning opportunities into our multilevel beer school in order to constantly encourage growth among our employees.


Part of becoming “beer smart” includes hands-on learning experiences. We, luckily, are able to work closely with our brewery partners to hold one-day brewing internships for our sales team at actual breweries. There, our team joins up with expert brewer to learn first-hand the meticulous and strenuous process of brewing.


There is no better way to learn about dry hopping than actually sorting fresh hops, taking a ride up to the top of a fermenter and dumping the buds into the brew yourself. Similarly, one of the best ways to explore the process of aging beer is by tapping into stored kegs and trying different years to taste the nuances that appear at times goes on. Of course, brewing isn’t all about sitting around drinking beer. Nothing is more important to a brewery than cleanliness and our sales team learns that through assisting in the constant cleaning.


The experience of a brewery internship instills a new appreciation for the work that goes into each bottle, can or keg that our sales team is responsible for selling. These internships morph what was once an intangible concept into the physical memory of brewing that beer, which can then be accessed whenever our team is out on the streets promoting the product.


Our company beer school program goes beyond brewing internships. Beer school is a component of how we integrate our core values, such as continuous improvement into our everyday structure. This structure and continuous learning is how we like to succeed with beer. 


Our Company Homebrew Competition



Here at West Side Beer Distributing, we like to get schooled. Beer education plays a huge role as part of our company’s and individual growth, which is why we encourage our sales team to work their way through our beer school, which is designed to provide them with expert knowledge on the making, selling and enjoyment of beer.


One aspect of beer school is learning firsthand how much effort, time, expertise and cleaning goes into making a tasty beer. To highlight this, all employees are encouraged to participate in our annual company-wide homebrew competition. This past week our in-house Certified Cicerones, executive team and guest beer experts came together to judge this year’s batch of homebrews from West Side Beer employees. Submissions ranged from Wheat IPAs to Imperial Stouts and from barely drinkable liquids to exceptional and clean brews.



Key highlights from the judging included the obvious growth of some regular homebrewers, whom have submitted their brews on an annual basis. Tasting the difference and noticing their increased knowledge and skill for beer making proved the educational impact our annual homebrew competition. In addition, everyone clearly enjoyed the homebrew experience, which was evident in the inventive names and unique labels on display. Several brews were presented with wax tips, special six pack cases and memorable names. The biggest takeaway? We are lucky to have some pretty fantastic home brewers working with us and at the end of the day learning (especially about beer) sure is fun.


You must be 21 or older to enter. Are you old enough?
Sorry, you must be 21 or older to enter.

Featured Beer

Austin Eastciders Original

Austin Eastciders Original


Subscribe to our craft beer newsletter: