James B. Beam Institute Bourbon Industry Conference

The very last “normal” thing I did in 2020 was to attend the inaugural Beam Institute Industry Conference. It is, by far, the most informative bourbon event I’ve ever attended. And there was no bourbon present. An all-star lineup of industry veterans presented short lectures on their particular areas of expertise. Topics ranged from oak conservation to warehouse management and there was a lot of science.

Gary Spedding of Brewing and Distilling Analytical Services is of particular fascination to me. Although I must admit I only comprehend, at best, 25% of what he talks about, his talk on acrolein kept me busy googling through the first weeks of quarantine. Looking forward to his session this year.

The conference is going virtual this year and will span March 10-12. The line up is equally impressive and I, for one, am looking forward to getting my geek on. Schedule your days around the agenda and make sure to have plenty of room in your notebook! Below is the official press release including a list of speakers.

Annual James B. Beam Institute Bourbon Industry Conference going virtual for 2021

Bourbon was born in Kentucky. An $8.6-billion industry in the Bluegrass State, it boasts more than 21,000 jobs, accounting for a third of all distilling jobs in the United States. The James B. Beam Institute for Kentucky Spirits at the University of Kentucky is committed to offering industry professionals and enthusiasts innovative research and educational opportunities. The institute will offer its second annual Bourbon Industry Conference virtually March 10-12.

The Beam Institute is a collaboration between the UK colleges of Agriculture, Food and Environment; Arts and Sciences; Business and Economics; and Engineering. Its vision is to educate the next generation of distillers through a curriculum that develops skills for undergraduates, graduate students and professionals to succeed in the distilled spirits industry.

“Our inaugural conference was a great success, and we didn’t want COVID-19 to interrupt our momentum,” said Seth DeBolt, Beam Institute director and UK horticulture professor. “We’ve put a lot of planning into offering an equally successful virtual conference this year to provide information and resources industry professionals can use in their jobs.”

The conference will once again address key topics those in the industry regularly encounter. UK and industry representatives will lead sessions focused on Beam Institute success stories, spent grain, tariffs, fermentation, threats to the industry boom, quality control and technical services management, bourbon and environmental law, financial benchmarking in distilleries, bourbon terroir, oak sustainability, flavor and chemistry, diversity, equity and inclusion in the bourbon industry, sensory evaluation and more. Partners and vendors will offer interactive displays and opportunities for networking. Attendees will also earn a certificate of continuing education for participation.

Confirmed speakers include:

  • Eric Gregory – Kentucky Distillers’ Association
  • Kevin Brent Smith – Jack Daniels Distillery
  • Brent Elliott – Four Roses Bourbon
  • Jane Bowie – Maker’s Mark
  • Rob Arnold – TX Whiskey
  • Chris Swonger – Distilled Spirits Council of the United States
  • Andrew Weihebrink – Independent Stave Company
  • Stephanie Lawrence – Beam Suntory
  • Tess Aldredge – Beam Suntory
  • Louis Mcintyre – CoBank
  • Kurt Rosentater – Iowa State University
  • Bill Gorton – Stites & Harbison PLLC
  • Pat Heist – Ferm Solutions
  • Billy Van Pelt – American Farmland Trust
  • UK and Beam Institute representatives
    • Seth DeBolt – director, James B. Beam Institute for Kentucky Spirits
    • Brad Berron – Chemical Engineering
    • Steven Schafrik, Mining Engineering
    • Lindell Ormsbee – Kentucky Water Resources Institute
    • Steven Evans – Kentucky Water Resources Institute
    • Rachel Schendel – College of Agriculture, Food and Environment
    • Surendranath Suman – College of Agriculture, Food and Environment
    • Kathleen Trask Montgomery – Patterson School of Diplomacy and International Commerce
  • Diversity, Equity and Inclusion Panel:
    • Gathan Borden – VisitLEX
    • Chelsea Nichols – Michter’s Distillery
    • Hanna Lowen – New Riff Distilling
    • Andrea Meriwether – BarFare Concepts

Each day will begin at 9 a.m. EST. March 10 and 11 will end with a virtual happy hour at 4:30 p.m.

Early bird registration is $50 through March 1. Regular registration is $75 and ends March 8. UK faculty and staff may register for $25, and student registration is $15. Organizers are accepting vendors through March 8. Vendors will receive two free conference registrations, a company profile in the virtual exhibitor center and their company name will appear on all conference materials. To register as a participant or vendor, visit the Eventbrite page at www.eventbrite.com/e/james-b-beam-institute-industry-conference-2021-registration-129323043705?aff=ebdssbeac. All registrants will receive physical conference materials in the mail.

Partners at the time of this release include Kentucky Distillers’ Association, Agilent, American Farmland Trust, Averitt Express, Beam Suntory, Bruker, Foss, Great Western Malting, H&A Barrel Management, Independent Stave Company, JCS Process and Control Systems and Malteurop Malting Company.

For more information, visit the Beam Institute website at http://beaminstitute.ca.uky.edu.  

UK and Jim Beam-parent Beam Suntory are dedicated to the responsible consumption of alcohol and together will develop and expand successful alcohol awareness programs, including programming already funded by Beam Suntory.