2013 Great American Beer Dialogue

Topic: Generate awareness and initiate problem-solving methods


When: 10am-1pm, Wednesday, October 9th, 2013
Where: Prost Brewing, Strange Brewing, & St. Pub & Brewery


Welcome to the first ever Great American  Brewers Dialogue!

A chance to sit down with fellow brewers and collectively take on issues affecting the brewing industry, facilitated by OvalOptions.  Two main purposes motivate this dialogue: to generate awareness of common, unique and potential issues within the brewing industry, and to initiate problem solving methods to address these (and possibly other) issues. At the absolute least, it will be a big Social among breweries.

This is an exciting time in the craft brewing industry. With over 2,400 breweries now in the U.S., consumers are reaping the rewards of choice and variety of great beer. Brewers are turning their passions into professions and in most cases cannot keep up with demand. How sweet it is.

Yet, a brewery is a business, and business matters can taint the rosy image of brewing. Many challenges face breweries and addressing them can be an overwhelming task. Fortunately, brewers are quick to help each other in whatever way they can. 

The Great American Brewers Dialogue enhances this assistance. With the guidance of professional facilitators, this group discussion can touch on many issues, including, but not limited to:

  • Expansion
  • Business Partner Relations
  • Market Saturation
  • Supply/Distribution
  • Customer Relations
  • Employee Responsibilities
  • Zoning codes
  • Trademark/Branding
  • and more

Why have a brewers only Dialogue?

High tide lifts all boats, as the saying goes. By pooling creative and enthusiastic minds we can evaluate the progress of the brewing industry quicker and more efficiently to help create and apply adjustments more effectively.  Sometimes, great ideas need stoking, encouragement or additional detail. Even outlandish ideas can serve as the springboard of breakthrough thinking.  At the very least, this dialogue will allow brewers to offer and receive support from one another.

This event is specifically for those who work in a brewery: owners, brewers, managers, and staff.  This is to keep what is discussed in these dialogues confidential; no “outsiders” are invited (suppliers, distributors, restaurateurs, retailers, etc).

So what is a Dialogue?
A dialogue is more than a discussion. Not to get too philosophical or historical, but it is a conversation that has its participants inform, and to be continually informed by, other participants. Dialogue allows for criticism, praise, knowledge exchange, idea formation, problem solving and ideally Progress. It is open communication in effort to learn.

How is it going to work?
Participants will gather at one of the locations. Facilitators will present an overview of the process and what is expected, which is fairly loose.  The idea is to have the participants formulate the topics of discussion and the facilitators will guide them throughout.  While an end goal or solution is not a priority, it can be set by the group. Of chief importance, though, is the process.

Why are facilitators needed?
With all of these factors at play, dialogue is not easy. It requires patience, understanding, willingness to be wrong and criticized, creative thinking and information storage (note taking). People can become defensive when their ideas or processes are criticized, and tend to retreat from discussion. A facilitator keeps the criticism under control and localized on an issue or situation, and away from the person. Sometimes a river of bad ideas produces one great idea, and many groups do not have the time, skill or patience to see through to this formulation. Facilitators have the skills necessary to dig deeper into symptoms to reveal root problems for the group to address.

A facilitator acts as the “head” of the discussion without presenting an overarching authoritative presence. Many times with group meetings, the leader (boss, supervisor, etc) evokes an unseen/heard presence that keeps others at bay. In a facilitated dialogue, there is no leader, just a guide.

Why during GABF?
Simple: There are A LOT of brewing industry folks in town that week. Brewers are busy, and getting them together is extremely difficult. GABF and Craft Brewers Conference draw the most, so it is convenient for all involved to have it during GABF week.

Right now there are 3 locations in the Denver area:

Prost Brewing
Strange Brewing
Vine St. Pub (Mountain Sun Brewing)

Why these locations?
First, they were the first ones to respond to OvalOptions’ request. Second, their venues are conducive to group dialogue–open bench seating, occupancy and space. Third, they have great beer. And last but not least, they understand the value of in-person communication.

Ok, I’m in. How much is it?
It’s FREE! All you would pay for is any beer and food you may want. OvalOptions is doing this to provide assistance to a growing industry, and Jason is a beer geek. Plus, our facilitators love doing stuff like this.

We need to keep track of the number of participants, who they represent (to decrease on duplicate registrations), and which location they would like to participate (we’ll try to keep everyone’s first option intact).  IF one spot fills up, we’ll transfer participants to other venues, keeping with a first come, first served approach.

Is anybody keeping track of information that is discussed?

Yes. OvalOptions (solely) aims to gather information to use in research into the industry, compilate reports and release pertinent information/results back to the industry only. No information will be released to those outside the primary brewing industry.  Since we cannot foresee which matters will be discussed, and what information may be discovered, it is difficult to produce an accurate example. However, basic statistical information is easier to imagine: hypothetically, say, 80% of all participants indicated they have concerns with market saturation. Or, 10% thought expansion is a bad idea. We may use such information to adjust and enhance our services to the industry, such as trainings, coaching, seminars and organizational conflict management systems.