Conference brings brightest minds in beer brewing to St. Petersburg

If you’re a big beer drinker, you know the craft beer industry has exploded in the last 10 years.

Craft breweries have gained popularity nationwide and the Bay Area has embraced the trend, becoming a destination city for beer tourism.

This year, St. Petersburg is home to the Beer Marketing and Tourism Conference, where some of the best and brightest from the brewing world exchange ideas and learn what's new in all things ale.

"I think we are major players, we are major distributors," said Janette Carter with Visit Tampa Bay, which promotes tourism in the area. "I think it gives us exposure throughout the region."

Brian Schanck with Green Bench Brewing Company says it’s no coincidence that the Tampa area is hosting this year’s event. He says it means this market is a major player.

"It’s booming here," Schanck said. "They are going to come here, see our facilities and all the other facilities in town."

The latest numbers from the Brewers Association, which represents small and independent breweries, says the craft beer industry has grown into a $27.6 billion industry.