Homebrew Con 2017 was held in Minneapolis, Minnesota, and following two days of exploring the many craft breweries within the city (see part 1) it was time to get down to the conference itself.
The main features of the conference that interested me included:
- Homebrew Expo
- Social Club
- Keynote Address & Toast
- Kickoff Party
- Education Sessions
- Club Night
- AHA Members Meeting
- National Homebrew Competition Award Ceremony
- Knockout Party
In addition to the above there were also BJCP and Industry-related meetings, sponsored demonstrations, National Homebrew Competition Judging and various other activities going on.
Homebrew Expo & Social Club
Within one of the exhibit halls there were a variety of booths where homebrew industry suppliers were providing information and samples of their products as appropriate. Some suppliers were pouring either local craft beer or beers that they had brewed to highlight their yeast, hops or grain. Naturally we took great advantage of stocking up on new yeast samples, experimental hop varieties, and various grains which will feature in our upcoming homebrewed beer.
In the center of the hall were rotating homebrew clubs pouring a diverse choice of beers. This provided the chance to sample different takes on beer styles and provide ideas for improving our own brewing techniques.
Keynote Address & Toast
At 5pm on Thursday we all gathered in the Main Auditorium to hear Gary Glass, AHA Director, welcome us all to Homebrew Con 2017. This was followed by the keynote speaker, Omar Ansari, who is the founder of Surly Brewing Co.
He gave us an amusing insight into how he transitioned from working at his parents’ abrasives company to opening and growing a 100,000+ barrels per year craft brewery.
The Kickoff Party is what used to be called Pro Night and is in effect a beer festival featuring local, regional and national craft breweries. It is the chance to sample various different beers and in some cases talk to the professional brewers about their beers and breweries.
A couple of beers that stood out for me were a 2013 English Barleywine by Alaskan Brewing and Rosie’s Old Ale by Barley John’s Brewpub which at 14% ABV was a great barrel-aged Old Ale.
Spread across the three days of the conference were a wide ranging set of talks and seminars with some starting as early as 9am and others being repeated due to parallel talks going on at the same time.
I attended the following:
- Going Pro: Why you should (or shouldn’t) turn your hobby into a business – by Ryan Krill, Cape May Brewing Company
- Common beer off flavors and fixes* – by Pat Fahey, Cicerone Certification Program, and Amaey Mundkur, AROXA
- Evaluate your beer like a master judge – by Gordon Strong, Saint Paul Homebrewers Club
* This session was heavily attended and comprised of us being given a control beer then spiked examples of four common off flavors:
- DMS (Dimethyl Sulfide)
- Isovaleric Acid
I found this session to be very beneficial and can highly recommend homebrew clubs obtaining one of these beer spiking kits and using it at a club meeting to learn about common off flavors in beer.
This is always a conference goers favorite which features a number of homebrew clubs from across the nation dressing up both themselves and their booths to pour a diverse array of beers – some great examples of BJCP defined styles which have done well in competition and others that are just plain bizarre.
AHA Members Meeting
The Members Meeting for the American Homebrewers Association was introduced by Gary Glass, AHA Director, and Roxanne Westendorf, AHA Governing Committee.
Unfortunately this meeting seem never to be as well attended as it could be but nevertheless important matters were discussed and after running through the itinerary the floor was opened to questions and comments which included international subjects which was great to see and demonstrated the reach of the organization beyond the USA.
National Homebrew Competition Award Ceremony
Homebrew Con is not just a conference, it is also the venue for the final round of judging for the National Homebrew Competition. The first round is judged at a number of regional centers around the country with the top three beers from each category advancing to the final round.
At previous conferences the awards ceremony has taken place as part of the Grand Banquet but this year the format changed to make it more accessible to conference attendees. The medalists for each beer, mead and cider category plus various brewer and club awards were announced in the Main Auditorium and to me the whole proceedings went both smoothly and quickly.
The final event of the conference was the Knockout Party which over the years has taken a variety of formats. This year’s take was in a large room with tables, small plate snacks and a combination of various beers on tap and the remaining final round beers from the competition available for pouring. At the same time there were a number of prize drawings being held by the MC on the stage.
Whilst it was great to sample the final round beers and chat to conference attendees, my main criticisms are that there was a lack of tables, no chairs for those weary of standing, and we were not permitted to hunt for beers from certain judging categories to sample. The pourers were from the convention center and to be honest knew nothing about beer and some were less than prepared to hunt for beers from certain categories and instead just poured beers at random!
Let’s just say that the Knockout Party is in need of fine tuning…
Minneapolis was a great location for Homebrew Con 2017 with fantastic craft breweries and the conference did not disappoint. Next year this event will be held in Portland but we will be flying.
If you have any questions or remarks please feel free to comment below.