First, the event. It is the brainchild of Jennifer Massolo, who took the chance that Miami bars and restaurants, and their customers, would attend and enjoy a showcase of craft spirits and beer, complemented by creative food and drink. They seemed to, even though there wasn't a mojito in sight.
One hates to say 'first annual,' but you have to put events like this on regularly for them to catch fire and become something the community looks forward to attending. Craft spirits and beer are connected to other trends, such as creative cocktail mixology, creative cuisine, and the locavore movement.
Being as they're all forms of personal expression, CRAFT was held in an exhibition space in Miami's Wynwood neighborhood, an up-and-coming arts district, not in the usual hotel ballroom or convention center.
Second, the question. Yesterday's event consisted of a tasting hall and several seminars, including two sessions about "What Is Craft?" I moderated both but the panelists were different for each round. Jennifer had the great idea of including not just craft producers but also distributors, beverage managers, and mixologists.
No one offered a pithy definition of 'craft.' It was more along the lines of "I know it when I see it." The panelists disagreed about whether or not craft has to involve originality or creativity, about the role of size ("Can a big distillery be craft?"), and about the best ways to educate consumers.
"Disagreed" might be too strong but both discussions were lively, all of the participants were engaged, and it's probably good that we had a time limit or we'd still be talking about it.
People like Kent Fleischmann (Dry Fly), Chip Tate (Balcones), Ralph Erenzo (Tuthilltown), Nicolas Palazzi (PM Spirits), and John Glazer (Compass Box) attend this sort of thing all the time all over the country, but I rarely do outside of Chicago and Kentucky. Miami has such a unique and exciting cultural mix and that played into it too.
One thing about which everyone agreed is that this movement is happening very fast, people (that is, consumers) seem to love it, and no one can predict what will happen next.