Another HomebrewCon is in the basket! I’m the last one to recap so some of this will be redundant, but I’ll shoot for the personal spin. For all the homebrewers reading this, HomebrewCon is the one beer festival not to miss. Four solid days of brew-talk with some of the best people you’ll ever meet. This was my third HomebrewCon, and I will say with confidence it was the best one yet. This post is mostly about one thing: people. As mentioned in previous posts, the goal of this blog has always been networking with others – and its finally paying off. This year I hung out with more rad homebrew folks than ever before, and the community is ever growing. The point of this post is to help encourage others to not only attend HomebrewCon 2018, but to strive to network more with members in the community on both a local and international level.
My preparations for HomebrewCon the last two years have started in the late fall. Late fall is when the American Homebrewers Association puts out a call for presentations, and I’ve submitted (and presented!) the last two years. This past year I submitted two seminar topics, both with other brewers I’d met at HomebrewCon 2016. I teamed up with Derek Springer of Five Blades Brewing for one and Ed Coffey of Ales of the Riverwards for another. We all submitted our proposals and waited.
January came around and I received notice that both talks we had submitted were accepted! Wow!! Surprised, I spent the next few months mapping out what these talks would look like. The first talk with Derek ended was called “Lagers to Lambic: Hard Stuff the Easy Way.” The talk with Ed was “My Milkshake Brings All the Boys to the Yard: Brewing New England IPAs. ” [As it turned out, Ed was unable to make the conference so I recruited Malcolm Frazer from Brulosophy and Scott Janish from ScottJanish.com to help out. ]
A week before the conference I decided it was time to get my beers in order. I really enjoy sharing beer to get feedback and to actually showcase what I brew. I can write about beer all day long, but at the end of the day the bottle is my resume: pictures can look as sexy – but taste is what it all comes down to.
I had a seminar beer to bottle for the NEIPA talk and my sour beers for the MtF meetup. In this week leading up to departure I transferred and kegged eleven different beers, a total of around fifty gallons. I pulled my Blueberry, Peach-Nectarine, and Rhubarb Lambics off fruit, kegged, carbonated, and bottled along with the last of my Framboise and Kriek. I also bottled my house blend (Starboy), a beer with Funk Weapon 2, and some unblended Lambic. All in all I packaged about seven gallons that week into plastic seltzer bottles.
The packaging I used is starting to catch on for those travelling long distances to get to HomebrewCon. While nothing revolutionary, it has worked well for me the last few HBC’s as well as a few vacations I brought some beer on. Last year I brought two Lambic beers for my seminar, and tried using 2L plastic seltzer bottles. It seemed to work fine, but I was nervous this year as I was bringing twice as many bottles – and one of them was a beer that supposedly didn’t travel well: The ever so sensitive NEIPA.
I bottled the sours in two 1L bottles each, so I could share easier. The NEIPA was for a seminar, so that went in 2L bottles. The question for me was would the delicate NEIPA make it? With as little as I had, I wouldn’t know until minutes before the seminar. I should also add, I was “double stressed” because for whatever reason I forgot to purge my bottles with CO2 before filling them.
Departure & Arrival
I tossed everything in my suitcases and headed for the airport Tuesday evening. With a few winks and smiles I was able to get two 54lb suitcases on without overweight fees. Whew! I boarded the plane and had a rather uneventful nonstop flight to Minneapolis. A few drinks and a nap later, I arrived. I Uber’d over to the Hilton Garden Inn, took a longer nap and woke up to my good friend Matthew Brown mid flight with a bear hug. I hadn’t seen Matthew in almost two years and it was good to see him.
We nabbed lunch at Matt’s Bar, home of the Juicy Lucy. A few thousand calories later, we met up with Sachin “Chino” and rode back to the hotel. Just as we were hanging out, Marshall, Malcolm, and Marshall’s neighbor Jersey pulled up in an Uber. It was great to meet up again – the last time I’d seen any of these guys was HomebrewCon 2016! After hellos and hugs, Matthew and I went and picked up Derek (FiveBladesBrewing) and went out to Surly for beers and a snack before heading to the Chop and Bru Prefunk party.
Surly has a decent selection, but I wasn’t in love with as many of the beers as I thought I’d be. The brewery is gorgeous (and gigantic!) and the building as a whole had a great vibe. Food was tasty and insanely fast service. I’m a big fan of Darkness and Pentagram, so my expectations were high. Todd the Axeman was pretty good, but with Furious I wish they hadn’t added so much caramel malt!
We got to the C&B Prefunk and nabbed some beers. Insight is a solid brewery and their beers really hit the spot. The Prefunk was full to the brim, yet the bar did a good job of keeping up with smiles all around. The back room had cornhole boards and buckets of homebrew on ice. We met up with Marshall, Malcolm, Jersey, Eric (ericbrews.com), Jake (Brulosophy), Chino, Mike Koncel and a few other I’m sure I’m forgetting. (At this point, lets just call them ‘the Crew’).
There was trivia, karaoke, more beer, and great conversation. The night went by quicker than I would have liked and suddenly it was last call. Most of ‘the Crew’ stuck around to help clean up, before catching a ride onward.
We arrived at the Republic a short while later and filled our bellies with more beer and delicious treats. I hadn’t eaten since the burgers and crushed a plate of Jambalaya, Fish tacos, and french fries. We chatted until the place was starting to close down and headed back to the hotel to get rest for Thursday.
I awoke with my usual chipper-bounce-out-of-bed, showered and headed out to meet Marshall, Jersey & Malcolm for a bagel and beer. Not wanting to miss a second, we went to a great pub called Brits right when the doors opened to have a few pulls of Fullers to wash down breakfast.
Feeling better after a lox bagel and some Brit Hop, we headed to the Expo to check out whats new and exciting in the world of homebrewing ingredients and equipment. A few interesting booths were the All American home canning setup, which was right beside Sprout – a home malting system. It was fun to connect with the fools over at JaDeD brewing and catch up since last year. They’ve got a few new copper toys for working with various sized kettles and kegs I found enticing.
After the expo, we went to Room 102 and watched “Hold My Beer and Watch Me Science” with Marshall, Malcolm, and the Drew & Denny team from Experimental Brewing. It was a great panel with a good look into why these guys do what they do – as well as a lengthy Q&A session you can find later on the AHA website. Entertained until the end, we then headed back over to Brits for dinner (lunch?) and beers.
Full and happy after dinner (lunch?), we then went to the Milk the Funk meetup. Not quite as many people as last year, but the beers were fantastic. [Next year I’m going to label my beer better so I can drink more of others rather than having to decipher bottle top letters.] The 1L bottles were carbonated, without leaks, and really were the perfect size for the share. The Peach Nectarine Lambic was the bottle that went the fastest, with the Blueberry raising the most eyebrows. It’s hard to compete with bright purple head.
After Milking some funk, we headed down to the Craft Kickoff night. Many local breweries were showing off their goods. Not wanting to overdo it for my talk the next morning, I held back and tried a few beers that seemed interesting. It wasn’t long before I got the note about karaoke. We met downstairs several minutes later and hitched an Uber over to the karaoke lounge.
If you’re reading this you probably are a reader of Brulosophy, BrewUnited, or EricBrews. I don’t think I need to repeat what went on that evening, except it went from “what is this place” to “I’m having the best night of my life” quickly. We walked in to a deserted sushi bar, and were shown to the back, past other numbered rooms (all for karaoke?) to the VIP lounge. Song after song, edamame after edamame, we rocked the house. I departed around 1am so I could get some sleep for my 10:15 talk.
Once again, I bounced out of bed and did my morning routine. I met up with Derek and we gave our Lagers to Lambic: Hard Stuff the Easy Way. It went great. Having never practiced the talk together, we found it easy to provide background, examples, and some great back and forth.
After the seminar, we hit up the expo, had a beer or two – then found ourselves back at Brits. Delicious. Malcolm and I took off to meet up with Scott Janish in the hotel for last minute slide adjustments and a “who’s doing what”. With ten minutes to spare, we rushed to our talk and checked in on the beer.
I was thrilled (and somewhat surprised) to find the beer was in just as great of shape as when I had bottled it in the 2L seltzer bottles. While my mind was primarily focused on the talk at hand, a seed had planted has been growing with skepticism blossoms as to how “fragile” the NEIPA really is and whether the “don’t ship” mindset isn’t as real as we think.
The talk went great. It was one part seminar, one part conversation, one part panel, two parts fun. I was honored both Scott and Malcolm joined me (especially last minute) and greatly appreciated their expertise. [If you missed the talk, it should be on the AHA website soon!].
After the tastings, we went for a bite at the Butcher and Boar beer garden. It was packed. While a fun time, we dodged out pretty quick and headed back to get ready for club night.
Club night is the highlight of HomebrewCon. Its a huge beer festival, but instead of commercial beer being poured, its ALL homebrew! I brought the remainder of my Milk-the-Funk share bottles and moseyed around chatting with folks, all the while drinking and sharing homebrew. I can’t say any one beer captured my mind, however the mead from Matthew Chrispen was fantastic. I only get to try his meads once a year, and they’re always fantastic.
As club night came to a close, we were kicked out and headed up to meet and mingle in the Hilton with ‘the Crew’ and a bunch of cool other folks. The fridge was full of New Glarus Spotted Cow, and pizza somehow appeared a few hours later. The guys from JaDeD, Bootleg Biology and others I’m probably forgetting made the room come alive. Marshall realized this and stood to give the most epic of toasts – a toast that captured everyone’s hearts and minds – one that I’m sure you’ll want to be a part of next year!
I woke up, bright and cheerful as always and skipped my way over to Chino’s talk on “Brewing When You have No Time.” Seeing as how I am the “at home” parent with my two sons, I figured if any, this was the talk for me. Chino is a great speaker and extremely knowledgeable – his talk demonstrated both.
After his talk I went back to bed for a short nap. Staying up until 3am, as well as being a few time zones off didn’t really help me out too much. Rejuvenated, I met up with a few of the guys at the expo before heading to the awards ceremony. It was fantastic when Malcolm’s name was announced as winning a Bronze medal for his California Common. Congratulations Malcolm!
Some of us then ran over to stuff our faces with Chipotle, then return back for the knockout party. The knockout party is a new idea from the AHA this year. Instead of the Grand Banquet, it was the entire Con in one room trying beers from the National Competition (beer roulette?) and some of the beer Surly brewed for the Convention. After a little bit, ‘the Crew’ got together and decided to brewery tour Minneapolis proper.
We went to Fair State, Indeed, Bauhaus, and Town Hall. All the beers I tried were great, there wasn’t one I was disappointing with. Interestingly enough, I find myself ordering Pilsner and other lagers more and more. I’m not quite sure what is happening to me. I think I’m starting to become obsessed with another style, a style that is much harder to brew than the sour beers and NEIPAs I’ve been working on the last few years. Granted, those styles take skill, but there isn’t anything to hide behind in a good German lager – and I find myself starting to wonder if I can perfect the craft of lager brewing in the coming year. To be determined!
After the great brew tour, it was 2AM so I headed to bed – only to find my phone light up just as I was putting on my pajamas. I went down to share a last beer with Olan, Marshall, Malcolm and a semi-conscious-yet-audible Jersey. It was great to chat a little about our families and upcoming plans – even a little banter about HomebrewCon 2018.
I hopped back on the plane Sunday afternoon and flew home, quite uneventfully. However, my mind was racing. What would I do next year? Speak? Drive? After all, it IS in Portland, OR, and that’s only a 2 day drive from Anchorage! I hope to see you next year, look me up – I won’t be hard to find. Cheers!