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San Diego Craft Beer Con a celebration of beer industry and an exchange of ideas

The annual San Diego Craft Beer Conference on Tuesday at MiraCosta College's San Elijo campus was both a celebration of the local craft beer industry and an exchange of ideas.

San Diego is the self-appointed Capital of Craft, as the San Diego Brewers Guild, the organizer of the event, puts it. There are more than 150 independent craft breweries in the county.

That comes with a highly knowledgeable beer-drinking customer base, said Gene Fielden, the beer buyer and manager of Bottlecraft beer shop in North Park. He's also a panelist at the Craft Beer Con.


Because San Diego beer drinkers have an expansive palate, brewers here are moving away from national distribution and staying local.

“Local makes a huge difference," Fielden said. "People are very attached, often emotionally and sentimentally, to their local brewer, to their local brewery. It is very exciting to know the person by name who brews your beer.”

Insights like that are what the conference is about — the exchange of ideas where brewers bring back what they learn to their own breweries and apply it there.

Brewers Guild vice president Jake Nunes said the conference is an opportunity for the people in the industry to share resources and network. The series of educational seminars is especially important for smaller brewers because they often don’t have the resources to train their staff.

“The beer industry is very unique in that way that we're a very collaborative industry and we're trying to help each other to succeed," Nunes said. "And events like this are a testament to that mindset.”


He said the local brewing industry is a billion-dollar industry and has a bigger economic impact than the San Diego Padres, SeaWorld and the San Diego Zoo. The local beer and beer adjacent companies provide more than 6,000 jobs for the region.

That’s why local educational institutions, such as Mesa College, San Diego State and MiraCosta, each have their own brewing program.

MiraCosta College's Brewtech Program is the only program in the state certified by the Master Brewers Association of the Americas.

“Traditionally, there has been no real official track to get into the industry," said Michael Stevenson, an instructor in the program. "Usually, it's you're a home brewer and then you kind of go beg a brewery to go work for free. As we've matured — we're 20, 30 years into the craft beer scene — these companies want to have just more trained employees ready to go.”

The institutional support shows how much the local beer scene has matured. When the Brewers Guild was formed in 1997, there were only 15 breweries in the area.

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