In March of 1887, a group of forward-thinking master brewers first convened in Chicago to form what would become the Master Brewers Association of the Americas (MBAA). Those master brewers convened again the following year, this time in New York City. Thus, the history, heritage, and tradition of our annual MBAA convention were born. A third convention was held in my home district city of Cincinnati. A fourth was held in Philadelphia, a fifth in St. Louis…and on it went, year after year, as those master brewers continued to convene, wisely rotating among America’s great brewing cities.
MBAA’s annual conventions served primarily as forums to discuss and deal with the pressures of politics and the influences of history. The national economy, two world wars, grain restrictions, recessions, the Depression, presidential assassinations, “local option” laws, outright national Prohibition, labor issues, and the ever-present “lesser concerns” were all topics of discussion. And yet, year after year, those master brewers continued to convene.
Now, fast forward to the present day. I just returned home from the World Brewing Congress (WBC), held at the Oregon Convention Center in Portland, Oregon. I was quite the “newbie,” but so very thrilled to be there 125 “convening” years later. The Portland Hilton was full…totally sold out; quite the omen of success! The Saturday before the WBC, we presented our Beer Steward Certification Program to a vibrant, engaged group of 42 attendees, each of whom was quite serious about their beer education. I was thrilled to be part of one of the “kick-off” events.
I also attended the annual Board of Governors (BOG) meeting in Portland. I took my assigned seat in Room C123, where we all sat somewhat “Camelot” style, facing one another in a big rectangle-ish arrangement. As I settled in and watched other BOG members file in and make their way to their seats, I couldn’t help but feel the decades of dedication, the ongoing spirit, the sheer passion exuded by those hundreds of brewers who sat here before me. Some of those original names hovered over me: Frish, Guenther, Gerst…I smiled remembering that the original constitution had actually stipulated that all meetings were to be held in German! It was not until 1901, as the 12th annual convention in Boston dealt once again with one of those “lesser concerns,” that it was decided that future meetings could be conducted in either German or English.
Overwhelming gratification was expressed for our president, Mike Sutton, whose steady hand had guided MBAA throughout the entire year.
The BOG then recognized Jerry Hilton with a Distinguished Life Service Award. Wow! How wonderful to witness Jerry’s award first hand. I am, after all, his replacement for the heritage chair. A name like Hilton, I thought, fit right up there with Frish, Guenther, and Gerst.
I vaguely heard the roll call begin, after which, we shared a moment of silence for Members in Memoriam. Then we were guided right into the Reports of Officers, the Reports of Committees, Finances, Bylaws, the Strategic Plan, etc. And on it went, similar in fashion, adhering, I’m certain, to a century-and-a-quarter tradition.
I was simultaneously humbled, yet “bucket-list” proud to play a very small part in the MBAA activities in Portland, Oregon. Our annual MBAA convention is yet another example of a 125-year-old tradition involving brewers past and brewers present, stemming straight from that original 1887 Chicago meeting.