National Homebrewers Conference
I brew the beer I drink….that was the general vibe at the 2014 National Homebrewers Conference. I recently had the great opportunity to attend the 2014 National Hombrewers Conference (NHC) in Grand Rapids Michigan. If you know me, you know that I am a Michigander until the day I die and it only made sense that I made it back home to attend the conference. Not only was it an opportunity to head back to the High Five of America, it was also a chance to further my passion and knowledge of homebrewing. This was my first time attending NHC so I was unsure what to expect, but had only heard great things.
I arrived a little early to check-in and visit out some local breweries. The first stop was Founders Brewing, which is my old stomping grounds and the brewery that introduced me to craft beer. Cheers to Founders! I then had a chance to check out Grand Rapids Brewing Company, Perrin Brewing and Brewery Vivant. All of these places were fantastic. Brewery Vivant was one of my absolute favorites. Fantastic beer, knowledgeable servers and a great environment (brewery in an old chapel). If you find yourself in Grand Rapids, be sure to check out as many breweries as possible….as they have earned their title as Beer City, USA.
Despite some people thinking I was attending a vulgar beer festival for 4 days, the conference actually is about learning and sharing. Learning to make better beer, cider and mead and sharing both wonderful fermented beverages and knowledge. The conference lived up to the objectives set by the American Homebrewers Association.
The conference kicked off with some opening sessions and of course…beer! There were a number of homebrewed and commercial beers being passed around. I attended a number of informative sessions. A few that really stuck out was Barrel Aging and Sour Blending by New Holland Brewing, Water Chemistry by John Palmer, Experimental Brewing by my new friends Denny Conn and Drew Beechum and BJCP guideline updates by Gordon Strong. There were a number of other fantastic seminars that pushed me to improve my brewing.
The first night was Michigan Brewers night where attendees had an opportunity to try hundreds of different beers by native Michigan breweries. Some outstanding ones that I had a chance to sample was Kuhnhenn Brewing’s Double Rice IPA (DRIPA), a number of items from Bell’s Brewing, Short’s Brewing, Oddside Ale’s Citra Pale Ale and many more….too many to name. A great time was had by all, being able to talk, drink and study beer.
From there I made my way to The Brewing Network’s 9th Anniversary Party. Wow! They cleared out 5/3rd ballpark and allowed us to wonder around and drink some amazing beers. Additionally, I picked by Justin of The Brewing Network to play on his kickball team called….”Atleast we have a thyroid” as we battled “Too Soon” on the diamond. If you listen to the network, you will understand the inside joke of the team names. I have to say, if you have never played kickball while drinking….I highly encourage it. I proved that I still got it by catching a ball whipping through the air like Mr. Miyagi would a fly with chopsticks. Once again proving fat guys can be athletic too. All in all, the conference was off to an awesome start.
Sessions started promptly at 9am the next morning and lets say everyone had a lot of fun the night before….and you could see it. Saturday was filled with more fantastic seminars that included draft system design, brewery safety planning, the influence of mashing on sour beer production, and long live lagers. All giving lots of insight from vast amounts of experience. I think people were looking forward to that evening known as Club Night. This is where hombrew clubs from all over the country come, set up a booth (themed of course), dress in costume, serve anywhere from 3-20 different homebrewed beers and just have a great time. I have heard about Club Night and it lived up to the hype. It was awesome to talk to fellow homebrewers and try their tasty concoctions. I focused on sour beer during Club Night and all I can say is….boom! Homebrewers know how to make some amazing sours.
Additionally, the vendor expo was held throughout the conference where you could learn about new products and see them in person. I had a chance to talk directly with a number of companies that I buy from on a frequent basis. Additionally, there were a number of homebrew clubs and commercial breweries serving beer throughout. Let’s just say that your glass was never empty.
I could go on and on…but I would probably just make your head hurt with the amount of information and really thirsty because of the beer talk. So, I will end with this….if you have an opportunity to attend the National Homebrewers Conference…do it! Next year (2015) will be in San Diego, CA. So, if you are a homebrewer or just like to learn about beer, please do yourself a favor and become a member of the American Homebrewers Association and register for the National Homebrewers Conference. Cheers!