Baltimore, Maryland. Charm City indeed. Andy O, Ben Gardner and I, all attended the 2016 National Home Brew Convention last week and it was a gosh darn blast. I won’t go over every single detail of every single seminar we attended because, that would be boring and we were pretty hung over for some reason. That said, the AHA gives members access to past conference seminars. They should be available here soon. I encourage you to check it out if you want the real nuts and bolts.
They sure set the tone off right by giving every attendee a nice goodie bag as soon as you pick up your badge. In addition to your official tasting glass we got bags of hops, bottle caps, cleaning supplies, koozies, stickers (kids LOVE stickers), tasting notebooks, pens, buttons and, other random beer-branded items. The AHA also teamed up with local Maryland brewery, Flying Dog to come up with a unique commemorative beer exclusively for members to take home. I had a bottle(s), dank!
So our mouths were foaming with free stuff so we hit the Home-brew Expo. This is where all the retailers and manufacturers bring there goods to show off. Cool new gadgets from Bling-man, Anvil, Pico Brew, Northern Brewer and, More Beer. We got to taste new malt varieties and smell new hops and help ourselves to more free shwag like dry yeast, hats, sun glasses, malt and… a burlap sack. The most important part was the beer being offered. Not only did breweries like Bell’s and Devil’s Backbone fill our cups but, it seemed like every retailer and supplier brought beer too. Go figure!
After the Expo we went off to the kick off event upstairs of the convention center. The Governor of Maryland said some words, Charlie Pappazian and, Sam Calagione all said some words to convince us to drink some beer. We din’t want to be rude guests so we obliged. After that I should have eaten dinner but I din’t. This was literally against the advice of the First Time Attendee Handbook. Drank more beer at the craft brewers reception. This was a beer fest in it’s self and featured mainly Mid-Atlantic breweries. I recommend getting your hands on some Duck Pin pale ale from Union Craft Brewing out of Baltimore, MD and Sorry Chicky from Burley Oak out of Berlin, MD. I do not however, recommend eating only half a soft pretzel with cold cheese sauce then going back to your hotel roof top bar to drink half a pint of Jameson and more of that delicious Duck Pin.
I snored really really bad and slept on top of the sheets embroidered with the Lord Baltimore Hotel logo. After playing several board games with the Grim Reaper to win my life back, we headed out to get some real breakfast to calm our guts. It kinda worked but, I have to admit, I was not the most enthusiastic seminar attendee. I was coherent enough to retain most of the information that was said but, I’m glad that I can rewatch these seminars.
Fast forward to the good stuff: We drank a pitcher of Natty Boh for lunch, grabbed our supplies and gear for club night and spent all of 15 minutes setting it up. We felt a bit like amateurs (we are) with our one simple jockey box, six kegs, Brew Haven banner, Your Pizza Sucks T-Shirts and red and white checkered table cloth. Other clubs were setting up elaborate booths. Some looked like straight up real bars, others like jail cells, pirate ships, 50’s diners, viking ships, colonial American shacks with a Jersey Devil on top. We decided we were just fine being low-fi. After all, with only 3 of us there, it would have been a pain to set up a baking soda and vinegar volcano science fair project, let alone a 20 tap Mos Eisley Cantina replica (didn’t see one but next time some one please make one). We served “Your Pizza Sucks” a saison with basil and oregano, “New Englander-weisse” a berliner style soured and fermented with Andy’s house sour dough starter, “Galaxy SMASH IPA” duh and Ben’s Honey- Ginger Lager. We got pretty good reactions form all of them. The great thing about our selection of beer is that each one told a story. Each one was a jumping off point to have some good conversations with like minded people (and a few arguments about who had the best pizza). Don’t worry, New Haven is still champion.
I met some great people from around the country. Some of the guys from Brew Your Own magazine were there and we got to talking. One of them actually bought my old house up in Vermont! They want to talk with clubs more often for content in the magazine and they seemed willing to be helpful with Brew Haven.
Andy got a picture with Charley P, Ben wore a “I LOVE PICKLES” shirt, I threw up in the bathroom and, a good time was had by all.
The next day we were thinking that Club night really meant that you felt like you were hit over the head with a club. Woof. We were not looking forward to going back to pack up our gear but, to our pleasure and surprise, the all too trusting security staff at the convention center let Andy drive his Prius into the building. I have never seen such joy on a mans face. It was like Andy was reliving every Christmas he had ever had all at one moment! The icing on the cake was that we got to see all the hung over club members disassembling their elaborate set ups all bent our of shape. Our tear down took all of thirty seconds. “WHO”S LAUGHING NOW!!!”.
To sum it up: Beyonce, Pit Beef, beer, farts, pepto, shwag, driving inside, seminars, not drinking enough water, beer, nice people, expensive bananas, beer, sunshine, paddle boards and beer.