THOUGHT PIECE the carling team

Is It Worth Going To Brewery Exhibitions?

Visitors in the ingredients hall at drinktec, Munich in 2022

As the weather gets better and we stow our woolly jumpers away until next year, brewers should be considering their continuous professional development plans or else thinking about taking a break from the mash tun for a couple of days and perhaps learning something new. Where does the brewery equipment exhibition fit in to these plans; are they worth going to? We shall discuss some of the major expos to see what they offer and help you to decide.

Italy has already had its annual show this year. Beer&Food Attraction, the three day event in 14 halls at the Rimini Expo Centre took place in February along with BBTech Expo featuring beer and beverage technology plus Filling&Packaging. Note how the space bar does not take as much of a place in Italian syntax as it used to! Professional visitors were up by 20% including an inward mission of some 125 buyers from outside Italy organised by Ministry of Foreign Affairs. 2024 saw the introduction of the Innovation Award to reward exhibitors that particularly stood out in their various fields, from product innovation to packaging. Space was also given to the Start-Up Award given to three emerging innovative companies. The event was further enlivened by finding Italy’s beer of the year and of course Pizztra senza frontiere, the World Pizza Champion Games. Next outing is 16-18 February 2025.

Britain has had a patchy time since the Brewers Exhibition finished at Earls Court, tried one event at the National Exhibition Centre in Birmingham and then gave up altogether. There were shows around ‘International Brewing Conferences’ at Manchester in 2007 and 2010 but nothing was able to command the attention of exhibitors or visitors as the local industry increasingly became internationally based and everyone could readily hop off to Europe courtesy of Ryanair. It has been left to the smaller brewery sector to fill the void and the primary expo in the UK at the moment is SIBA’s Beer X due to be held in the Liverpool Exhibition Centre from 13-14 March.

Beer X at Liverpool in 2023

Last year there were 2002 visitors to Beer X and 655 exhibitor representatives at the show, 93% of the former said they would recommend attending to their colleagues while 94% of exhibitors said they would be back next time. A program of lectures, seminars and tastings support the exhibition along with a long regional beer bar and the SIBA industry awards. A Beer X app promises that 2024 will be largely paperless after a trial last year. Delegates could navigate the event, view the beer list, highlight seminars to attend or even message fellow delegates and exhibitors. Liverpool is a great beer destination and the local beer community has really embraced BeerX, with an ever-increasing number of fringe events, tap takeovers and after-parties taking place across the city.

Business Design Centre, the home of the Brewers Congress in September

While we are in the UK, the Brewers Congress organised by the new Brewers Journal is gaining in stature. The next event at London’s Business Design Centre on 23-24 September promises a two day extravaganza with over 50 exhibitors, 800 delegates to listen to over 30 speakers coupled, of course, with 100 beers to try culminating with the Brewers Choice Awards. We are told the tasting is unlimited so I wonder how they will police that.

Crowds assembling in Nuremberg, plenty of crowds inside too but space also for in depth discussions

Undoubtedly the largest European event is the combo of Nuremberg’s Brau Beviale which runs in three successive years followed by the big bash at Munich’s drinktec (capital letters now lacking in Germany) in the fourth. The program is getting back into its routine following the Covid with the next Brau on 26-28 November, which involves just three days rather than a lengthy (for exhibitors) five before. It also finishes the day before the famous Christmas market opens thus encouraging a bit of post-show tourism. Drinktec is still a gruelling five days from 15-19 September 2025. Oktoberfest begins the next day with the Lord Mayor of Munich tapping the first Oktoberfest keg and shouting ‘O’zapft is!’, then you can join 7.2 million visitors and help down 6.6 million litres of beer, probably some of it in huge steins barely half full at €14 a pop.

Brau has been running since 1979 and occupies nine halls and some 40,000m2 of exhibition stands. Although it boasts delegates from 138 countries some 85% of them come from Europe. Last time there were 968 exhibitors, 31,000 visitors with 85% of them reporting they made investment decisions and 41% visiting from outside Germany. The organisers go to some trouble to canvass attendees after the event and produce a lengthy report full of facts and figures including around 88% satisfaction amongst visitors but only 82% of exhibitors mainly grumbling they could not reach the target groups they wanted to. The show is mainly an exhibition of suppliers to the beverage industry with a number of seminars, forums and expert briefings attached and the European Beer Star beer competition running alongside.

Drinktec is held every four years in Munich and is Brau’s big brother. Much larger but with similar themes

Drinktec is much the same but bigger occupying 12 halls at Messe Munchen involving 132,000m2 of stands. It started in 1951 as Deutsche Brauerei Ausstellung, later morphing into Interbrau and taking its current title in 2005. The last show was in 2022 (a year later than planned) with 1002 exhibitors from 55 countries and 50,000 visitors from 171 countries. We are told, again from copious feedback, that 96% of exhibitors would recommend drinktec. 88% rated the trade fair from excellent to good. Three out of four exhibitors are already planning their attendance in 2025, impressed by the quality of the international visitors.

Both Messe Munchen and Nurnbergmesse organise shows around the world with brewery equipment exhibitions in Brazil, China and India.

Across the Atlantic, the Master Brewers of the Americas and the American Society of Brewery Chemists have their annual conferences. They join together every four years for a World Brewing Congress and 2024 is that year at Minneapolis from 17-20 September. These events attract a supporting exhibition by suppliers but by far the largest event in the States is the Craft Brewers Conference and Brew Expo America.

The CBC rotates around US cities with convention centres large enough to hold the event – which is probably most of them. It has recently been in Denver, San Antonio, San Diego, Minneapolis and Nashville; the next show is in Las Vegas from 21-24 April. Organised by the US Brewers Association there is a lecture and seminar programme for 12,000 visitors, over 600 exhibition stands, the BA makes its annual awards and every other year hosts the World Beer Cup award ceremony. That was last year with 10,200 entries from 2375 breweries in 51 countries involving 280 judges.

Brew Expo at the annual Craft Brewers Conference in the USA is another big show

The big boys Krones-Steinecker, GEA, Ziemann-Holvrieka will be at the larger shows and the smaller ones too if they offer solutions for the smaller brewer. Krones has an entire hall at drinktec; heaven knows what that costs them in area fees alone before, decorating, logistics, hospitality and manning. A 3x3m simple stand at Beer X in Liverpool costs £2100. At Munich you have a minimum size of 20m2 at a basic €255/m2, add a marketing fee of €1400 and another €136 for waste disposal, that comes to €6636. Calculate back to the 9m2 at Liverpool you would pay £2530; not bad with the chance to see 48,000 more people but you have to cart all your kit and people to Munich! I am sure our supplier friends are doing these sums all the time!

So we have suppliers who want to supply and brewers who want to enhance their operations economically and sustainably.

The Krones staff celebrate the end of a successful drinktec 2022

Exhibiting at a brewing exhibition can be worthwhile but you need to be clear about your objectives. It provides an opportunity to showcase your products, connect with potential customers, network with industry professionals and stay updated on industry trends. Consider factors like your target audience, budget, and overall marketing strategy to determine if it aligns with your business goals.

Attending a brewing exhibition as a visitor or potential buyer can be beneficial for networking, learning about industry trends, discovering new products and gaining insights into the brewing industry. It is an opportunity to connect with suppliers and other professionals in the field, which can lead to potential collaborations, business opportunities or perhaps even a new job. Additionally, seminars, workshops, and tasting sessions often provide valuable knowledge and inspiration for brewing enthusiasts and professionals alike.

So to sum up brewing exhibitions serve several purposes:

Networking: They provide a platform for brewers, suppliers and enthusiasts to connect, exchange ideas, and build relationships.

Showcasing products: Exhibitors can display their brewing equipment, ingredients, and finished products to a targeted audience, potentially attracting new customers.

Education: Seminars, workshops and tasting sessions offer opportunities for learning about brewing techniques, industry trends and innovations.

Market Insights: Attendees can gain insights into consumer preferences, market trends and emerging technologies, helping them stay competitive in the industry.

Promotion: Exhibitions serve as a marketing platform for companies to promote their brands, products, and services to a focused audience of brewing professionals.

There is only so much of this which could be carried out on on-line.

Overall, brewing exhibitions contribute to the growth, innovation, and collaboration within the brewing industry. So the answer is yes they are worth going to. There will be inevitable cost restrictions particularly in the light of today’s constraints on expenditure, Covid and Ukraine have made sure that there are fewer visitors to expos with last year’s drinktec being 26,000 down on the previous event in 2017 but beer consumption is bouncing back and sooner or later the brewers will need to start buying new kit so hang on in there.