2010 National Homebrewers Conference Wrap-Up

June 23rd, 2010 · No Comments · Beer Travels, Events

Guest post from Mark Emiley, Washington Homebrewers Association Executive Chair.

The 2010 NHC is in the books, and as always, it was a great event.  This year’s conference featured about 1300 guests with close to 600 kegs of homebrew (and countless bottles).  The pre-conference events kicked off with a pub crawl, baseball game, and the monster Brewing Network anniversary party held at Northern Brewer.

The opening toast beer this year was crafted at the Surly AHA Rally held several months back (largest one in history).  The keynote address was given by Mark Stutrud of Summit brewing who delivered a motivational speech and highlighted the need to keep true to our brewing passions and ideals.  Seminars kicked off with topics ranging from pairing food with beer to “stone brewing.”  Washington’s Mark Tanner lead a talk on crafting award winning extract beers and I participated on a tasting panel of Tripels to see the influence different sugars had on the beers.

Apart from the great seminar topics (you will be able to download the presentations soon at http://www.ahaconference.org/speakerspresentation.html), the hospitality suite was a great place to mingle with your fellow conference attendees, sample some homebrew supplied by local clubs, and meet homebrewing vendors from around the country.  Blichmann engineering showcased some new products including their new hop stopping device for use in the kettle that can hold back up to 95% of pellet hops.  White Labs kicked off their new homebrew targeted enzyme line with samples of Clarity Ferm (rumored to also help reduce proteins that affect people with Celiac’s disease).  Northern Brewer and MoreBeer showed up with a healthy selection of great products.

The Pro-Brewer’s night this year had at least 40 breweries from the Midwest but also as far away as California.  There was a healthy supply of lagers present at the event which seemed indicative of the effort to wean the local populace off of macros with gateway beers.   White Winter Meadery showed up with a nice array of flavored meads.  Most of the “exotic” beers came from out of the region.

Club Night featured about 35-40 clubs this year.  Table displays ranged from a simple line of bottles in a bucket of ice to a make-shift fishing shack with faucets coming through the wall to a walk-in English pub.  The clubs brought a great array of foods, (lots of barbecue), for attendees to snack on (including one club that brought dozens of sliders from White Castle).  The Milwaukee Beer Barons brought a bowling alley themed bar complete with Wii bowling (and a series of decocted, single-infused, and melanodin malted bocks similar to the WAHA experiment last year).  Our friends from Good Libations down in Baker City Oregon brought out perhaps the simplest “booth” of a mild served through a hand pump with a keg in a bucket of ice.  You could find Berliner Weisses with woodruff syrup, smoked beers aplenty, lots of barrel aged brews, and again, a fairly strong presence of lagers.  The most interesting serving technique was probably a Randall filled with fruit (also seen at last year’s conference).  Still have to give WAHA’s espresso machine coffee and hop infusion technique from last year as one of the most pioneering.

If anything stuck out in particular with the conference it was a very strong presence of meads.  Many clubs had at least one mead available and a bunch had several flowing.  There was an incredibly well-balanced raspberry chipotle mead from the St. Paul Homebrew Club that showcased the fruit with a subtle background smokiness and warmth.  The Midwest has been home to many meadmakers of the year and the conference seemed to have at least two or three seminars on mead making each day.

Saturday culminated with the NHC Awards Ceremony/Banquet featuring dinner prepared by Sean Paxton (the “Homebrew Chef”) paired with Rogue beers.  They used 84 gallons in the preparation of the meal and again, Sean did a great job of creating a well-balanced pairing of flavors.

Tim Hayner, Tom Schmidlin, and I all judged in the second round of the National Homebrewers Competition.  This year Washington brought home two of the 84 total medals.  Dan O’Leary from the Impaling Alers took second place with an American Wheat.  Mark Tanner took second with a Weizenbock (he was especially proud as it was an extract brew).   We were hoping for a few more placements but with over 6200 entries, it is extremely tough competition.

With the Minneapolis conference closing-up, we were given a look at next year’s location, San Diego.  They had a great video showcasing San Diego’s homebrewing and craft beer scene.  This should be a fantastic conference destination and well within reach for many Washington homebrewers.  We strongly encourage every homebrewer to make the trek down to San Diego to be a part of this event.  With a location like San Diego, there is plenty for the family to do in the local area so the trip can be enjoyable for everyone.

The WAHA is looking ahead to when we get our chance to host the conference.  Seattle will be the farthest North conference ever held (and obviously one of the furthest West) but given the strong brewing heritage and reputation, we think that tons of homebrewers will make the trek out.  Our location will have easy access by public transportation, tons of great restaurants to choose from, and literally hundreds of taps serving Washington beers within blocks around the hotel.  We’ll be looking for lots of help from Washington homebrewers and most importantly LOTS OF HOMEBREW.  Clubs should start thinking now about long range beers to brew for the conference and of interesting booth ideas to showcase their club’s unique personality.  To get involved, feel free to contact a WAHA chair with ideas today.


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