Drinking It In at The Convention

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ORLANDO, Fla. (AdAge.com) -- The National Beer Wholesalers Association's Annual Convention is not like other corporate get-togethers where weary, rumpled travelers roam from workshop to workshop to listen to panels of self-proclaimed experts sip Evian and expound on their topics of expertise.

At the NBWA, the experts drink beer while expounding, which occasionally makes the discussion livelier. "We're up to 3% or 4% of the market," said Boston Beer Founder Jim Koch, downplaying craft beer's explosive growth-while sipping a Fat Tire. Here are some other observances:

Distributors are a well-to-do lot. Consider: The program included three separate workshops on inheritance ("Passing Your Business to the Next Generation"). But nothing quite so well summed up the paradox than Miller Brewing Co.'s serving "Wisconsin Bratwurst en Croute."

Beer distributors are rightly worried about regulatory challenges that threaten their lucrative perches as middlemen. To help them understand their political plight, pollster Chris Wilson explained that most people didn't know who beer distributors are.

Heineken CEO Andy Thomas displayed Ad Age clips proclaiming "The Death of Beer" (May 2, 2005) and "Beer Is Back" (July 25, 2006). "Beer never left," he said. Quick explanation for our flip-flop, which this humble correspondent was forced to offer, oh, 523 times: Former Ad Age reporter James B. Arndorfer wrote "The Death of Beer" based on years of declining market share. Yours truly wrote "Beer Is Back" based mostly on Gallup polling data showing Americans again preferred beer to wine. Had I been more ambitious I could have cited another piece of evidence for beer's pulse: Today Mr. Arndorfer works for Miller Brewing Co.
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