Leading Meeting Professionals

Professional Convention Management Association

February 15 2016

Why Your Meeting Needs To Jump Onboard The Microbrew Bandwagon

David McMillin



Members of the meetings industry constantly monitor the trends shaping attendees’ lives outside the conference environment to determine how to adapt the on-site experience. How is the surge in smartphone usage impacting the way attendees learn? What do the increasing number of wearables on their wrists mean for the need to offer more on-site wellness activities? How will the philosophy behind sharing services like Airbnb and Uber shape their travel decisions?

There’s another trend that every meeting planner should consider, and it impacts a crucial piece of the conference experience: the bar menu. Remember when the beer market was dominated by standard macro-American offerings? Those days are fading in the rearview. According to the Brewers Association, there were just over 1,800 breweries in the United States in 2010. By the end of 2014, that number soared to nearly 3,500, and there’s no sign of the craft beer craze slowing. As more beer-drinkers seek adventurous flavors on their own time, it’s time for meeting planners to jump onboard the microbrew bandwagon.

Going Micro Can Make Your Meeting More Millennial-Friendly.

Every organization is aiming to nurture a new generation of attendees, and meeting planners realize that many Millennials have different preferences for learning styles and networking opportunities. They also have different preferences at the bar. Research from Mintel shows that the 25-to-34-year-old age bracket is “the sweet spot for craft beer consumers.” Why? Because this segment of attendees isn’t looking to drink what their parents used to like; they’re looking for what’s new. In fact, research from Barkley shows that nearly two-thirds of Millennials consider themselves adventurous. “The addition of craft beers taps into the Millennial desire for adventure,” Jeff Fromm at Millennial Marketing wrote in an analysis of Millennials and microbrews.

MORE: Explore One Of Travel + Leisure’s Best Beer Cities In America

Every Age Bracket Wants To Discover More Of The Destination.

Microbrews aren’t just for Millennials, though. While every attendee is motivated by the chance to earn education credits and meet new potential business partners, registering for a conference isn’t solely grounded in professional benefits. Phase 1 of The Decision to Attend Study revealed that attendees are looking to immerse themselves in a host destination: 76 percent of respondents indicated that they like to get “out and about” during their time at a conference. They want stories to share with friends when they return home, and they want to use their business travel to explore the unique qualities of new places. Of course, due to packed conference schedules, that exploration is often limited. With a selection of beers from local breweries, meeting planners can bring the destination to attendees to ensure they sample more of the community’s craft beer landscape.

F&B Go Hand-In-Hand.

From making more health-conscious dietary decisions to exploring new global flavor profiles, attendees are bringing a new level of sophistication to meals. As meeting planners work to embrace new food trends, the right beer pairings can turn a typical reception menu into an extraordinary culinary evening. “A number of craft beers include suggested food pairings on their packaging or in their product descriptions,” Beth Bloom, Food and Drink Analyst at Mintel, says. “Providing food pairing suggestions strengthens perceptions that craft beers are meant to be appreciated and savored.”

MORE: 3 Tips To Manage Your F&B Costs In 2016

Ready to start exploring craft beer options for your next conference? Be sure to consult the catering team at your venue. From light wheat beers to chocolate porters aged in bourbon barrels to sour ales, the craft beer landscape is huge, and you’ll want to make sure your menu includes offerings that appeal to the majority of attendees. Blonde ales and American pale ales are a safe place to start.

This educational article was brought to you by the Louisville Convention & Visitors Bureau. After recently appearing on Travel + Leisure’s “America’s 20 Best Beer Cities” list and receiving the honor of being one of the “Best Foodie Small Towns in America”, more attendees are enjoying the chance to eat, drink and be merry in Louisville. For more information on what makes the city such an ideal place for conferences, click here. And, of course, in addition to a great selection of locally-made beer in Louisville, you and your attendees can learn the ins and outs of bourbonism.

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