Hello, and welcome to the inaugural Craft Beer Editorial for BrewLiving.com!
I've just gotten back from NHC 2014, the National Homebrewers Conference, held this year in Grand Rapids, Michigan – which I was lucky to attend with a few members of my local homebrew club, the Lawrence Brewers Guild, from Lawrence, Kansas. I've got tons of video and photos to compile into something nice for you, so more is yet to come! But in the meantime, please allow me to share some quick thoughts with you...
NHC was always intended to be BrewLiving's official first event, though I had no idea how close we'd cut it. I also wouldn't have dreamed I'd be able to serve some of my club's great beers at Club Night (so very cool!). And though that meant a 15-hour drive was ahead of us, it was totally worth every mile.
We launched the site just in time for (almost) everything to fall into place – and wow, what a great way to get started! I'm thrilled that NHC will forever be BrewLiving's official anniversary party.
As a first-time attendee at NHC, I must thank all the wonderful people I met who gave me such a good first-impression. A big thank you to the American Homebrewers Association (AHA), the Michigan Brewers Guild and the DeVos Place Convention Center for sponsoring and hosting such a terrific event. It was very well planned and executed.
My only real suggestions for next year would be to make sure there's better acoustics in the halls, so important speeches and the NHC Award Ceremony can be better understood by everyone, (though I haven't the slightest idea how to acoustically improve such a massive concrete and steel hall required to handle the nearly 3,000 brewers in attendance). Were it not for the screens to either side of the stage, I would have struggled to have any idea what was going on.
Also, on behalf of all the other desk-jockeys out there, foot-massage stations at every other booth in the expo hall would be lovely, but again, I won't hold my breath. :)
In all seriousness, what a terrific event. It's always wonderful to meet more of the people who have helped make your brewing what it is, and have helped mold and shape the kind of brewer you are – either the veterans among us who share their venerable guidance and recipes so selflessly with fellow brewers, or from the professionals who have helped shape your tastes as a beer-lover over the years. Because when you meet either of them in person, and they're every bit as personable and warm, kind and cool as you hoped they'd be – well, that's just the absolute best.
Events like NHC are as much about the camaraderie among brewers and making new friends, as it is learning and improving at the excellent seminars we had choose from (often a very difficult choice for each time-slot) or the excellent beers we all got to sample throughout the day – and I managed to do all of the above, and then some. For that, I thank every one of you.
No matter how you spent your time at NHC, I'm sure it was pretty fantastic. Feel free to leave your comments below and if you met me, please know that I'm so very glad that you're taking the time to check out this site, and will hopefully sign up. It was my honor meeting all of you. Thanks again for any input you gave, and especially to the few of you who asked about becoming a contributor to the site. I will definitely be in touch. To those of you who sent me home with products for review, or said you'd be interested in having our reviewers check out your new product, I will also definitely be in touch.
To wrap this up, a sincere thank you to all who made our first NHC a positive one. Congratulations to all of the NHC winners. Thank you to all the speakers who prepared such excellent seminars. Thank you to the Brewing Network for throwing a fantastic BNA9 party - nicely done! And especially, to all the clubs who served on Club Night and wowed me with your beers (and even your booths), to all of the professional brewers I'd not yet met who were as cool in person as I'd hoped, and to all of the homebrewers who extended such warmth and camaraderie, going out of your way to make a first-time NHC attendee feel welcome, I thank you all; and I sincerely hope to keep in touch over the years to come.
There are a great many people I'd like to thank specifically for helping to make my first NHC so memorable and positive, too many to list them all. But at the very least, I wish to thank the following:
The Saint Louis Brews, who were both awesome Club Night booth neighbors, and very generous with me throughout the rest of NHC as well. I hope our two clubs can collaborate on something awesome soon.
Mitch Steele of Stone Brewing, who was an excellent conversationalist during the BNA9 party. It was a true pleasure meeting you. It's one thing to love a brewery's beer. It's another thing to really respect and admire the brewers who make it. Thanks for such a positive first-impression.
The entire Brewing Network crew. You were at GABF when the inspiration for BrewLiving struck, and you were at NHC when it launched into fruition. Both times, you were encouraging and cool, and let us pick your brains for both positive ideas and pitfalls to avoid. I sincerely hope we can collaborate on something in the near future. Tasty, you were particularly giving of your time, and your seminar on consistency had some real nuggets of gold that I'll apply in my own brewing.
Chris "Crispy" Frey, who was hands-down the most animated and fun presenter at NHC this year. His Musings on Barrel Aging seminar was truly entertaining and if you missed it, you really missed out. His sours are incredible and he was very generous in sharing them with the large audience.
John Palmer, for his seminar on water chemistry and beer pH, which made me wish I'd paid more attention in chemistry class -- yet managed to make it interesting for those of us without advanced degrees.
Jamie Floyd of Ninkasi Brewing, whose seminar on tasting was excellent, and who was both encouraging and incredibly personable afterward, sticking around to talk at length. Can't wait to meet up for that interview at Oregon Brewers Festival next month. One day I'll get that Total Domination clone of mine right.
Denny Conn and Drew Beechum, brewers extraordinaire, whose seminar on Experimental Brewing was every bit as interesting and entertaining as I'd hoped. I look forward to their forthcoming book by the same name, as well as the accompanying online community they're building to share brewing experiments and data with the brewing world. Watch for a story on it here. It's a big project, but I'm convinced they can pull it off.
Dave Engers, Jeremy Kosmicki, and the production crew at Founders Brewing Co., who gave an excellent Q&A at Founders on Wednesday night, were totally approachable and had some excellent advice. Kosmicki and “Diamond” Dave Deschaine also gave some excellent seminars at NHC. You two appeared to be everywhere at once, and had some excellent knowledge to share. Thanks guys. The back-bar staff at Founders also gets a big thumbs up for their hospitality. Thank you ladies.
Chip Walton of Chop & Brew – it was excellent finally meeting you. I eagerly anticipate an NHC episode. Can't wait to see what you put together.
Greg "Gonzo" Haner of Gonzo's Biggdogg Brewing in Kalamazoo, thanks for the personal tour of your place. It's always appreciated. I enjoyed your beers and see great things for your future as you continue to grow.
Kyle Cox at HopCat, for making a weary Tuesday night after a VERY long drive worth staying awake for. You rock.
Steve "Bert" Berthel at New Holland for giving us some of his valuable time to answer questions about the beers at New Holland, even while in the middle of a brewing session. Your Darth Vator (doppelbock) aged in barrels is something special... Because of you, I have a new appreciation for New Holland beers. Thanks for sharing your time, and welcoming me and my club to Michigan warmly.
Taylor with The Beer Bug, which we will be featuring in a hands-on product review very soon. This is an exciting and innovative product that we really hope lives up to expectations. We'll find out very soon, once we put it through real-world testing.
Brian and Agnes with Chugger Pumps, who sent us home with a review product and a promise to get a first-look at the Chugger Max when it comes out soon.
And last but not least, Gary Glass and the entire AHA, for taking a moment out of their hectic days to talk with us. Thanks so much for a terrific first event for BrewLiving. We look forward to celebrating our anniversary with you every year, for many years to come.
Related Article: 2014 National Homebrewers Conference