Following a great National Homebrewers Conference (NHC) 2013 in Philadelphia last year we were definitely looking forward to this year’s event in Grand Rapids, Michigan. On Wednesday June 11 I set out from State College, Pennsylvania, and headed west along Interstate 80 to pick up my good friend, fellow craft beer enthusiast, and homebrewer in Cleveland, Ohio.
What should have been an easy 4 hour drive turned into 5 hours with us being in the middle of the USA’s fifth season, namely Red Barrel or Construction Season, which included a 20+ mile detour off the I-80 and left me wonder whether I would end up in Buffalo, New York, rather than at Cleveland…?
From Cleveland we headed past Toledo, Detroit and Lansing aiming to reach Grand Rapids in time for Registration so we didn’t have to haul our goody bags around the conference on the Thursday.
Alas due to more construction traffic, the occasional thunderstorm and a slight miss-understanding with a State Trooper at a Yield sign (no points or citation – phew!) we made the convention center after 6pm which meant Registration had closed.
Next morning we were up early and went to register at Devos Place which is a modern building located next to the Grand River that flows through Grand Rapids.
We picked up our name tags, conference program, bag of goodies (such as stickers, bottle openers, flyers etc), commemorative glass, and most importantly a 22oz bomber of each of the following commemorative beers:
We then headed back to the hotel to drop off the bottles and goody bag before returning to the conference.
Homebrew Expo & Social Club
Once back at DeVos Place we entered into Exhibit Hall C which contained the Homebrew Expo consisting of a number of industry suppliers who as well as exhibiting their products and services were also pouring beers from different breweries.
Bell’s were pouring their commemorative Beer Michigan Barleywine on tap which gave us an opportunity to try it without having to open our bottles which means we could take them home for cellaring – bonus!
At one side of the hall was an area of seating and booths containing homebrew clubs pouring their beers. These rotated throughout the conference whilst the Social Club was open. I for one felt that the homebrew clubs were more out on a limb rather than being a center piece of the hall as they were at NHC 2013.
Welcome Reception & Toast
At last year’s NHC the first night of the conference was Pro-Brewers Night which was more like a private beer festival preceded by a toast from the American Homebrewers Association (AHA) Director, Gary Glass.
This year’s conference included a format change and was named a ‘Welcome Reception’ which lasted for two hours instead of the three or so hours for Pro-Night. The aim was to allow attendees to get out into the town and visit breweries, craft beer bars and local restaurants.
At the Welcome Toast the Michigan Brewers Guild poured a number of Michigan beers and appetizers were also provided. To us the beers were reasonably accessible but the pourer’s were largely not the brewers so it was not possible to chat about the beers whilst sampling. The lines for the food were extremely long so our only chance of getting something to eat was via food carts as they passed by.
Below is a list of the various beers that we managed to sample at this event:
- Arbor Brewing – Expresso Love Coffee Stout
- Arcadia Ales – Scotch Ale
- Atwater Brewery – Vanilla Java Porter
- Beggars Brewery – Delirium trigger Stout
- Brewery Vivant – Big Red Coq Hoppy Belgian Red & Undertaker Belgian-style Dark Ale
- Cellar Brewing – Düsseldorf Altbier
- Cheboygan Brewing – Lighthouse Amber
- Dragonmead Microbrewery – Sin Eater Belgian Dark Strong Ale
- Hideout Brewing – Hazelnut Stout
- Keweenaw Brewing – Widowmaker Black Ale
- The Livery – Maillot Jaune Bière de Garde
- New Holland Brewing – BOTL Cap Maibock* & Eli’s ESB
- Pike 51 Brewing – Sabotage Coffee Milk Stout
- Schmohz Brewing – Treasure Chest ESB
- Stormcloud Brewing – 228 Belgian Tripel
- Unruly Brewing – Mad Cacao Disease Imperial Milk Stout*
* denote our favorites from the night’s choices.
During each day of NHC 2014 we attended a number of seminars, check out our upcoming articles to find out more. If you have any comments or questions, please do not hesitate to leave them below.