Last October I turned the grand old age of 30. Every year I drive my wife crazy by refusing to make a fuss and doing my best to let it pass by as another ordinary day. This year I decided to make a fuss, a big albeit delayed fuss. So when the National Homebrewers Conference found it’s way onto my radar, in conjunction with the location being in San Diego (aka one of this country’s beer meccas), I knew this would make an excellent candidate for a 30th birthday trip… and my oh my did it live up to expectations, and then some.
We arrived late on Wednesday night-it was dark and slightly misty when we arrived. Apparently San Diego was going through a weather patch the residents call “June Gloom”. To an outsider that basically means not 100% perfect weather all of the time but they won’t be getting any sympathy from a guy who has spent the majority of his life dealing with English weather.
Thursday was the real start of my packed agenda. The initial conference schedule didn’t start until after midday leaving the morning with an opportunity fuel up for the day with a tasty chorizo scramble at a local restaurant. The afternoon kicked-off a vast selection of seminars on offer for the weekend, the most enjoyable was delivered by Mitch Steele (Stone Brewing Co’s Brewmaster) and his contrast and comparisons of the many variations of IPA.
The keynote capped off the afternoon with contributions from Charlie Papazian aka the Godfather of homebrew and Pizza Port/The Lost Abbey’s Tomme Authur. If you are a member of the AHA I highly recommend you seek out the MP3 download on their website. Tomme speaks with such passion about beer and his homebrewing roots. It was a great reminder of the symbiotic relationship between the professional and home brewing.
So many pro-brewers start out as homebrewers, including those who were at the vanguard of the craft resurgence in this country during the 80’s and 90’s and its occasions like this where I remind myself that most of the folks brewing up these wonderful beers I’m enjoying today started out in a kitchen/garage/basement etc.
After a late afternoon recess the evening consisted of a welcome reception featuring a multitude breweries and unsurprisingly a high percentage of them were from the San Diego area. This provided a great opportunity to sample beer from some of the lesser of known breweries in the region and breweries I was probably unable to visit on this trip due to time constraints.
On Friday at the brutal hour of 9am, the seminars resumed. The one thing I really enjoyed about this conference was the sheer variety of topics. Topics ranged from homebrew clubs, sensory analysis, brewing history and brewing techniques with my favorite of the day, Brewing with Coffee, falling into the latter category.
I’ve had a penchant for the combination beer and coffee ever since I tried my first Founders Breakfast Stout. After that the curiosity set in about how coffee flavors can be integrated into beer. The seminar was led by two members of staff from Modern Times Beer who provided some great insights on the topic and I was impressed by their dedication to the craft, going as far as custom roasting beans to ensure optimal coffee flavors are present in the final product.
Friday night was all about Club Night. This concept behind this event is to allow homebrew clubs (many of whom dress up in themed costume) to share their creations with fellow homebrewers. Being the only representative from my homebrew club, I was simply a drinking participant for the evening.
I sampled lots of good beer during the event but nothing stellar and a few not so good ones but that’s only part of the experience, there was so much else to enjoy. Seeing the passion, energy other people have for beer and being able to share my same passion with like-minded people was best part of the evening. This was a theme not only the at Club Night but for the conference as a whole.
Saturday morning wrapped up the seminars including a really informative session on the history of beer by Randy Mosher. Randy’s book Tasting Beer was the first serious beer book I ever read and remains a staple in my library to this day. So to hear his presentation and later meet him in person to get that book signed was the highlight of the day.
The conference concluded mid-afternoon enough time for me to have a substantial nap and ready myself for the remaining 4 days of the trip. The focus on the rest of the trip was seeing what the city of San Diego has to offer. I knew I wasn’t going to be able to visit all the breweries, no human liver could withstand that kinda beating but the ones I did certainly lived up to expectations.nhc, nhc15