Craft Brewers Conference Symposium Beer: Beggars and Thieves

By Andy Sparhawk

The craft brewing community’s largest gathering is right around the corner. The Craft Brewers Conference and Brew Expo America® will be held in our nation’s capital, March 26-29. Each year, craft brewers in the host city collaborate on a special symposium beer. This year’s beer, named Beggars and Thieves, has recently received label approval.

This year, brewers participating in the brew decide to buck trends of ever growing strength and bitterness levels and create session beer for attendees. Maryland’s The Brewer’s Art; Washington DC’s DC Brau Brewing Company and Virginia’s Devils Backbone Brewing Company collaborated to brew what was described in “Brewed on the mild side” in the Washington Post as being, “…a rye Pilsener clocking in at a non-punishing 5 percent alcohol by volume. It’s quite a step down in potency from last year’s symposium beer, a 10 percent West Coast hop bomb dubbed a ‘San Diego pale ale’.”

I have been lucky enough to attend CBC since 2008, and can say that each year the conference and symposium beer gets bigger and better as the region’s host brewers continually up the level of hospitality.

Past Symposium Beers

2012 | San Diego, California

San Diego Pale Ale - collaboration by the San Diego Brewers Guild brewed at Karl Strauss Brewing Company.

2011 | San Francisco, California

A four pack of amazing beers brewed by area brewers:

  • Symposium Sour Brown: collaboration between Russian River and Sierra Nevada, aged in Cabernet Sauvignon barrels.
  • Symposium IPA:  collaboration between Drake’s, Triple Rock and Firehouse.
  • Symposium Oyster Stout: collaboration between Iron Springs, Marin Brewing and Magnolia. Brewed with meat, liquor, and shells of over 1,000 local Sweetwater oysters
  • Symposium New Albion Porter: collaboration between Napa Smith and Black Diamond. Resurrection of the recipe from New Albion, America’s first craft brewery.

2010 | Chicago, Illinois

Heartwood Symposium Ale – a bourbon barrel-aged stout by the Illinois Brewers Guild. I still have this one in my cellar!

2009 | Boston, Massachusetts

Audacity of Hops – a Belgian-style IPA brewed by a rock star group of east New England brewers. I believe a version of this beer is still being brewed by Cambridge Brewing Company.

2008 | San Diego, California

Symposium Beer – a San Diego IPA brewed by the San Diego Brewers at Green Flash Brewing Company.

While the Craft Brewers Conference is an industry only event, certain craft beer-centric establishments usually receive a keg or two of the symposium beer during the week, so keep your eyes peeled if you’re in Washington D.C. at the end of March and want to try it.


Andy SparhawkAndy Sparhawk, the Brewers Association’s Craft Beer Program Coordinator, is a Certified Cicerone® and BJCP Beer Judge. He lives in Arvada, Colorado where he is a homebrewer and avid craft beer enthusiast. On occasion, Andy is inspired to write on his experiences with craft beer, and if they are not too ridiculous, you might see the results here on CraftBeer.com.

Andy Sparhawk, the Brewers Association's craft beer program coordinator, is a Certified Cicerone® and BJCP Beer Judge. He lives in Arvada, Colorado where he is a homebrewer and avid craft beer enthusiast. On occasion, Andy is inspired to write on his experiences with craft beer, and if they are not too ridiculous, you might see the results here on CraftBeer.com.

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