By Jerrie Whiteley
Forty people spent the day at Grayson College’s Viticulture and Enology Center Saturday learning the ins and outs of starting a craft brewing career. Later that evening, some of the conference attendees returned to Grayson College’s Black Box Theater for the presentation of Non-Commercial Wine and Beer Awards.
Andrew Snyder, director of Grayson College’s Viticulture & Enology Center, said the Craft Beverage conference, which is in its second year, puts those who are passionate about beer and wine at the table with local experts. Those groups were joined by people who just want to learn a little something about the burgeoning business.
Lars Dilling was one of the people who just wanted to learn a little something. He said he heard about the event from his daughter and his wife.
Speakers at the conference included Gabe Parker of Homestead Winery in Denison, Robert Likarish of Ironroot Republic Distillery in Denison and Jeremy Roberts of 903 Brewers in Sherman.
When he gathered with a breakout group early in the day, Roberts told them he wished there had been a conference like this when he started thinking about opening his own business.
Snyder said the hour and a half long talk on legal matters and permitting presented by Katy David and Melody Smith of Strasburger & Price LLP was worth the $60 price for the day to those who were just starting to plan for a future business in the craft beverage industry.
Mike Sorrells, of Sherman, who won the coveted top beer award this year and has been brewing for a while, certainly seemed to think so.
“Going through the legal section was an eye-opener about all there is out there that you have to pay attention to,” Sorrells said of his big take away from the conference.
He said he has been brewing beer as a hobby for almost 20 years.
“It would be nice sometime to be able to do it as a career,” Sorrells said.
Later in the afternoon, the group learned about the kinds of economic incentives that are available in Grayson County to those who set up such a business.
Snyder said the conference was focused on growing local alcohol production. In 2014, Tony Kaai, president of the Denison Development Alliance, told the Herald Democrat that the industry created $600 million in state sales tax, and an additional $180 million in local sales tax, each year.
Once again, the conference included the T.V. Munson Cup awards for non-commercial wines. This year the award went to Christine Finley for her 2013 Malbec.
“I have been growing Malbec for a good while,” Finley said when accepting her award, “so I guess it’s getting better.”
Synder said the wine competition just keeps getting better every year.
“We’ve been running this wine competition for a couple of decades now,” he said. “We always average 50 plus entries.”
He said this was the first year for the non-commercial beer competition and it only had 13 entries.
“But, I know it will grow next year,” he said.