With approximately 139 breweries, wineries, distilleries, and cideries currently calling the Hudson Valley home, our craft beverage industry over the past decade has been impressive and promising. That progress was demonstrated by the more than 550 craft-business owners and enthusiasts present at this week’s fourth annual Hudson Valley Beer, Wine, Spirits & Cider Summit, organized by the Hudson Valley Economic Development Corp (HVEDC).
The gathering, which took place at The Culinary Institute of America (CIA) in Hyde Park, functions primarily as an educational forum and networking hub for burgeoning craft-beverage professionals. The industry’s key players hosted forums and roundtable discussions, like Breakthru Beverage Group’s founder and co-chairman Charles Merinoff, who expressed the importance of developing a brand’s story in order to cultivate a loyal customer base.
“You might think you are late, that there are too many people,” Merinoff said, adding, “But there is so much room for growth. I wouldn’t worry about clutter if you have a story to tell.”
The Bar Food Challenge’s competitors holding Kevin Markey’s winner’s check.
Merinoff continued to discuss major trends developing across the industry, including wellness, buying and hiring locally, and social media, which he urges can be harnessed by a business to turn their following into brand “evangelists.”
Following the summit’s Thirst & Vine tasting session, which featured more than a dozen craft beverage samplers, the CIA put three of their students to the test with the first-annual Hudson Valley Bar Food Challenge. Their mission was to design a small plate to accompany a locally produced beer, wine, cider, or sprit. Student chef Kevin Markey stole the show with his oven- roasted crispy Brussel sprouts with a lemon and garlic aioli, taking home a $1,000 scholarship.
It was also announced that the Summit was honored with a International Economic Development Council Bronze award in the category of Entrepreneurship for Excellence in Economic Development, ensuring both the event and industry it celebrates should flourish for years to come.