July 8, 2012 by fhsteinbart
This year, the National Homebrewers Conference was held in Bellevue, Washington from June 21st through the 23rd. If you haven’t attended a NHC before, the conference hosts an Exhibitors Hospitality Suite full of vendors and retailers, numerous seminars on everything from starting your own brewery to brewing quality low gravity beers, Pro Night with over 40 breweries pouring their wares, Club Night, the final round of the National Homebrew Competition, and the finally, the Grand Banquet and Award Ceremony. With the conference being in our back yard, we had no choice but to go. I know, rough duty right?
F.H. Steinbart Co. participated as a sponsor of the conference which allowed us to have a booth in the Exhibitors Hospitality Suite. From 10:00 a.m. to 5:00 p.m. each day, Jeremy Morton-Maxon, Jeremy Frey and myself represented the shop and had a fantastic opportunity to talk to a lot of home brewers as well as representatives from a number of vendors and retailers. It did of course help that we were serving beer at our booth to draw people in. Nobody turns down free beer right? For our conference beer the three of us brewed 60 gallons of Saison which we aged for a month in a full size Pinot Noir barrel. Thankfully the Steinbart brew was very well received. We even had Charlie Papazian himself stop by for a sample. He liked it. Whew!
During the course of each day, three tracks of seminars ran concurrently on a couple of dozen different topics. The seminars ranged from equipment, yeast management, session beers, beer and food pairings, brewing with fresh hops, and many, many more. All of these seminars were led by top names in the home brewing and pro community. You can find a full list of the seminars here. If you didn’t attend the conference, and you are an America Homebrewers Association member, recordings of all of the seminars will be available on the AHA website. If you aren’t a member, you should seriously consider spending the $38.00 for an annual membership which will also get you a subscription to Zymurgy. You can sign up on the AHA website, or purchase a prepaid membership card at the shop, which we should have by next week.
Pro-Brewers Night was held Thursday evening. It was a fantastic opportunity to sample beers from over 40 Washington breweries. Many of the beers being poured were flagship beers from each each brewery, but there were also some hard to find rare beers being served as well. There was no way to sample them all, although some folks did try. Definitely an event not to be missed.
Friday evening was dominated by Club Night. This is where clubs from all over the country have an opportunity to set up a booth, most of which had some outrageous or wacky theme, and pour beers brewed by their members. Washington and Oregon clubs made up the majority, but a few clubs from New York, Nevada, Michigan, Colorado, Arizona and California made a strong showing. In many cases, the beers being poured put some of the beers from Pro-Brewers Night to shame. I was particularly impressed with the sour beers that were being poured. There are truly some phenomenal home brewers out there!
The highlight for me personally was the Grand Banquet and Awards Ceremony sponsored by Rogue Ales. Hosted by Gary Glass, Executive Director of the AHA and broadcast live over the internet by The Brewing Network, it was great to see so many home brewers winning awards for their beers that placed in the final round of the National Homebrewing Competition. But the highlight of the whole ceremony was the sumptuous dinner menu created by Sean Paxton, The Home Brew Chef, and cooked and paired with Rogue Ales. I can’t even begin to describe for you how fantastic the meal was. You’ll just have to check out the menu for yourself and imagine what it was like. If you were there, you know.
All in all, I’m extremely fortunate for the opportunity to attend my first NHC and I can’t wait for the conference next year in Philadelphia! It was so wonderful to get to see so many old friends and make so many more new friends.
If you want to hear more about the conference, don’t hesitate to ask Jeremy, Frey or myself the next time you are at the shop.
When not writting for our blog or manning the counter at the shop, Duke can be found prowling beer events and festivals in and around Portland or traveling the country (he works part time for an airline) pursuing his passion for beer and brewing. You can follow Duke’s beery exploits on twitter @Dukester or on his blog at brewtography.tumblr.com