NHC 2016 has just come to an end. For those of you who don’t know, this is the conference “HomebrewCon”, formerly known as the National Homebrew Conference. It’s a four day mashup of beer related seminars, vendors, socializing, late nights – and, of course, some serious sampling. The last NHC (I’m still having a hard time with the new HomebrewCon title) I attended was in 2013 in Philadelphia. While I had a great time there as well, this time I was far better connected and got to put a face to many of the people I’d been conversing with online for years. Here’s what I remember, and apologies to anyone I left out:
I left Anchorage late Tuesday evening and arrived Wednesday evening in Baltimore. After dropping off the beer for my seminar, I checked in to the hotel and went to meet up with Eric of Eric’s Brewing Blog and Marshall of Brulosophy. I converse regularly with both of these guys, but it was the first time we’d met up in “real life.” Both are super awesome dudes. We scarfed some seafood and pounded some brews at Phillips on the water. We then headed over to Max’s, a local watering hole with a great tap selection. We had some beers, talked about karaoke, then, had some more beers.
Thursday morning I woke up bright and early around 11am. Having already checked into the conference, I headed down to meet up with Marshall, Matt, Malcolm, and a few others. We also met up with Derek of Five Blades Brewing and Matt of Accidentalis. I spent the afternoon checking out the vendors and meeting up with many of the people who make some of the great products I love to use. I also made a few connections with others whose products I plan to use in the future. A highlight was chatting chillers with the guys at JaDeD Brewing. They make a fantastic chiller that uses coils in parallel (rather than one long one that uses the same length in series). Both were also great to chat and pound brews with. I also met up with Rex from the Brew Bag. Great sense of humor and super helpful in answering all of my questions. Other vendor highlights were the Devil’s Backbone Vienna Lager, aromatizing hops at the Lagunitas booth, and blending with the guys from Love2Brew. Fantastically enough, I chatted more with the Love2Brew guys to work out some flat rate shipping to Alaska. Hellllllo ECY!
I attended Tasty’s talk on Fast Lagering in the afternoon with a few others – it was a great “to the point” talk on making Lager beer in much less time than traditional methods. Afterward, we swung by my hotel room to get a sample of some sour beer, then headed out to nab some some food at Luna Del Sea. Crab cakes were great. After dinner we all attended the Craft Beer Kickoff Party, where we drank from many breweries near and far.
Friday morning I got up and headed out to see the talk “Brewing Wild” on spontaneous beer. Brian Wolfe and John Wilson did a great job of providing an informational and entertaining talk on strategies for brewing using yeast you won’t find anywhere but outside. After that, I went back to prep for my seminar. The seminar went well and while I didn’t have as much beer to serve as I would have liked, the beer that did make it was still in fantastic shape. [Having flown from Anchorage, the best way for me to get beer to the conference was in 2L plastic bottles. A method I’d used before, but I’m always nervous checking important things with airlines.]
After giving my seminar, I finally got to relax and decided to attend Jeff Mello’s seminar on Wild Yeast. Jeff is working on making a yeast bank with yeast from around the world that have never been used before. An ambitious goal! After Jeff’s talk we proceeded to another highlight of the trip: Milk the Funk meetup!
Milk the Funk is a resource for all things funky when it comes to brewing. Their wiki is a fantastic resource for sour and wild brews. Here I met Mike, The Mad Fermentationist, Matt from SourBeerBlog, Scott from ScottJanish.com, and many other interesting and genuine people. I served my Lambic v3, my Framboise (yeah, the same one, now 4 years old!), a Brett IPA, and a Kriek I plan on writing about soon. I also had a NE Style IPA (another upcoming article) which wasn’t sour/wild (gasp!) but was a great palate cleanser. I was really impressed with the quality of everyone’s beer, especially a couple of the bottles from Matt Miller.
After removing most of the enamel from our teeth, we headed to Chipotle for a quick burrito, then back to the convention center for Club Night. If you’ve never been to an NHC, you should probably go simply because Club Night is amazing. For one night, every homebrewer who wants to can serve their own beer! I tried as many beers as I could. Some were simply amazing. I had several great Lambics, a fantastic Berliner Weisse from Clarence at Midnight Homebrewer’s League and played around making a blend of IPAs from Mike and Scott’s beers from the DC Homebrewer’s Club. There were other countless great beers but I simply can’t recall the name of each one!
Saturday I awoke feeling excited and refreshed. With a little skip in my step, I went down to attend the Homebrew Blogger’s Roundtable. Moderated by Chip Walton, this presentation was hosted by Ed, Marshall, Derek, and Matt (of A Ph.D in Beer.) The seminar was informal, yet inspiring – hence this post! After the roundtable, I stayed to watch Malcolm and Marshall share information they’d collected in mash length, boil length, and fermentation temperature in Modern Perspectives on Traditional Methods. Great speaking, guys!
After the presentations, I took a brief siesta, had lunch, and came back to watch Mike talk about Dry Hopped Sour Beers. To summarize: Mike is an enthusiastic and inspiring speaker. I get the sense he’d done this before, but his talk was motivating, funny, and easy to follow. All of the beers he served were great, although his second offering, a slightly more soured, one-month-old pale beer was my favorite. It was the talk that I was most interested in after having tried similar methods recently. There is a fine line between too hoppy and too sour when brewing this style: one which I plan on investigating more thoroughly soon.
After the seminars, we freshened up and went to the grand banquet.
I shared a table with Eric, Marshall, Malcolm, Matt, John Palmer…
After the banquet, we headed out for a few more beers at Max’s. I had a light sampler of local brews, we downed some grub and headed back to the hotel. The next morning was final goodbyes and a short plane ride home.
Would I go back to NHC? Hell yes. I’m already starting to brainstorm about Minneapolis for next year. Am I having a beer tonight? Probably not.
What’s new here at brouwerij-chugach?
With my seminar work finally done, I hope to finish up a few of the Fast and Dirty sours series. I’ll also share a few recipes on some NE IPAs that came out marvelously, as well as a Brett IPA with Lemon Drop hops. I also went through to taste everything in my cellar and am working on dumping or packaging those beers. Recently, I ordered a BrewBag to fit my 55 gallon pots so I hope to try that out in the next month or so. I’m also planning a series on reviewing beers and breweries in Alaska.
Bread related, I’m working on expanding my baking to using less common grains for variety and flavor: kamut, spelt, and einkorn. I hope to have results within a few weeks. I’m also working on my flour blend for bagels.
Other than that, if there’s anything YOU as a reader want to know about, shoot me an email or leave a comment below.