2012 National Homebrewers Conference: Day 3 Recap

June 23 was the third day of the 34th Annual National Homebrewers Conference. Day 1 and Day 2 overflowed with information, fun, and beer. I expected nothing less for the final day. As usual, the morning started with seminars. Here's what I attended:

Specialty Malts:  I was disappointed by this seminar. The conference program stated the session would focus on specialty malts and how brewers could use them to enhance their beer. Rather, it digressed into a 40 minute mind-numbing description of the malting process. While this is fine information, it wasn't what was advertised. I left early and headed down to the Hospitality Room for some refreshments.

Fermentation Mythbusters:  Neva Parker, from White Labs Inc., provided a lot of great information about yeast and fermentation. Unfortunately, I arrived late as I spent too much time enjoying the hospitality in the Hospitality Room. Fortunately, all of the sessions were recorded and will be available on the AHA website in about a month.

Water Panel:  In this session, John Palmer, Martin Brungard, A.J. deLange, and Colin Kaminski talked about water! This session was advanced and went over my head. I've been brewing for nearly two years, and never bothered to contemplate or adjust my water chemistry. Someday, I expect I'll be ready for this, but not now. So I left early and made a return visit to the Hospitality Room. While I was there, I met the authors (Randy Mosher, Gordon Strong, and Jamil Zainasheff) of some of my favorite brewing books.

Left to Right. Randy Mosher, Gordon Strong, Jamil Zainasheff

Drink What you Think:  In this session, Ray Daniels explored flavor. Thinking in terms of flavor is not easy. Taste is a sense we can't share directly with others. Flavors are hard to describe and have no temporal reference. You can't point to it or experience it at the same time and in the same way as others. So instead, we need to describe flavors in terms of other flavors.  How many times have bloggers (including myself) described a beer as hoppy? What the heck does that mean?!? Instead, words such as piney, citrus, grassy, resinous, can better describe flavors. Ray then talked about recipe formulation. It was a good session and I'll revisit it once the replays are available.

Weird Ingredients are Everywhere:  They saved one of the best session for last! Dick Cantwell, founder of Elysian Brewing talked about using unconventional ingredients in beer. Dick is an engaging speaker and spent the hour telling us about the many unusual ingredients he's used over the years. Along the way, we sampled a few of Elysian's beers. Their Jasmine IPA has an incredible floral aroma that meanders into its flavor. Yuzu's Saison is made from yuzu, a citrus fruit. It has a unique aroma and flavor that reminded me of a cross between grapefruit and mandarin orange. It was a very refreshing beer. Finally, we sampled Peste, a Chocolate Chili Ale. The chili was strong and paired well with the bitter chocolate. Dick gave as a sneak peak (of picturesnot samples) of the final six releases in Elysian's 12 Beers of the Apocalypse series. Each of the beers in this year-long limited release series uses one or more unique ingredients. This session left me inspired and I plan to experiment with usual ingredients in the near future!

After the sessions, I headed to the Sasquatch Social Club. While I was there, Poster Presentations were being held. Think science fair for beer. Several brewers conducted experiments and shared their results complete with samples and poster boards! I was very impressed by the design of the experiments and the fact that the experimenters followed the scientific method. In one experiment, a brewer brewed five different single hop beers (using the same malt base). In another experiment, six yeast strains were used to ferment a common wort. I likes the experiments because they allowed us to taste the differences among the various hop varieties and yeast strains. Who knew science could be so much fun!

Then it was time for the conference's marquee eventthe Grand Banquet and National Homebrew Competition Award Ceremony. For dinner, Sean Paxton (aka The Homebrew Chef) prepared a fabulous three-course meal.  Each course was prepared with and served with a different beer from Rogue Ales. Since this post is getting long, I'll write a separate post and provide the delicious details. After the dinner, the award ceremony was held. You can see the complete list of winners here. Maybe I'll enter some of my beer into the competition next year...

After dinner, I made my final visit to the Sasquatch Social Club. While I was there, some guy asked me if I like sour beers. After I answered affirmatively, he set a box of beer (pictured below) in front of me and walked away. I learned that it was leftover beer from the homebrew competition. If you look at the labels closely, you'll see the number 17 on each of them. Category 17 is BJCP designation for Sour Ales. So I spent a few hours sampling Berliner Weiss, Flanders Red, and Straight Lambics (among other non-sour varieties). Not a bad way to close out an amazing weekend!

All in all, I enjoyed every minute of the 34th Annual National Homebrewers Conference. I learned a lot, sampled an insane amount of great beer, and met a lot of really nice people!  It was my first time attending the conference, and I know it won't be my last. Finally, I'd like to give a huge thanks to The Brewers Association for giving me media credentials and allowing me to attend the event. I had a wonderful time!

Would you like to attend the 35th Annual National Homebrewers Conference? If so, mark your calendar! It will be held June 27-29, 2013 in Philadelphia. They'll be Brewing Up a Revolution!

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