Kayla Stinnett was one of six scholarship recipients at the 2023 Craft Malt Conference. Our scholarship committee was impressed with the way she’s paved her own path working in the craft brewing industry facilitating marketing for Cahaba Brewing, and as a contractor doing more marketing and event planning for other entities. Kayla is in the process of launching her own craft brewery, too. It was an honor to have her at this year’s conference, and we’re humbled by her reflections on her experience. 

“In March of 2023, I and dozens of other stakeholders in the craft malt industry descended upon Portland, Maine, to connect, learn, and drink a little craft beer. I have to be honest— I didn’t know what to expect. As a novice to craft malt and a new entrant into the craft beer industry, I was just as excited as I was nervous. But despite my mix of emotions, I was hopeful about the experience of my first (official) conference in the world of craft beer.

And spoiler alert: I wasn’t disappointed! 

This year’s Craft Malt Conference occurred from March 16 to 18 in Portland, Maine. The Craft Maltsters Guild marked the 6th annual conference with the theme “Celebrating 10 Years” and showcased expertly led seminars and various events, including pre-conference tours, social hours, and more.

During the conference, I attended multiple seminars, tours, and events. But my experience goes beyond the meatiness of the educational component and plays into the social element of this conference as well. It’s true that I learned much about the “farm to table” movement that surrounds craft malt, marketing tactics, and more; but I also made valuable connections within the industry. I forged friendships, learned the true value of craft malt, and had the opportunity to commune with like-minded individuals. 

And now I’m not just interested in craft malt, but also excited about it!

My key takeaway from the Craft Malt Conference is that craft malt has a place in craft beer, even here in the Southeast where I call home. I was equipped with the tools I needed to pitch the crop to local farmers and the knowledge to convey craft malt’s value to customers expertly. While chatting with different attendees, I forged friendships and was given valuable advice. And last (but certainly, not least), I benefited from the city of Portland. During pre-conference tours and breaks throughout the day, I experienced a craft beer scene that would aid in developing ideas for my eventual brewpub. 

I hope that this experience will lead to further development of the craft beer community here in Birmingham, Alabama, with my brewpub in planning, Stargazer Brewing Company, leading the way. The craft beer industry is young here in Alabama, so there’s room for growth. And it’s my goal to facilitate partnerships with farmers, malt houses, brewers, and distillers to keep that industry growing in the right direction.” 

Kayla Stinnett