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2014 American Homebrewers Association National Homebrewers Conference – Grand Rapids, Michigan

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The 36th annual American Homebrewers Association National Homebrewers Conference (AHA NHC) was held June 12-14 in Grand Rapids, Michigan which is appropriately nicknamed Beer City USA. To be perfectly honest, when we were sitting at the 35th annual NHC last year in Philly and they announced this year the homebrewers would be “mashing in Michigan”, all we really knew to expect was Founders Brewing Company. Turns out, Grand Rapids is way more than just Founders and this years NHC had a few surprises up it’s sleeve as well.

2013 was the first year we attended the NHC, so that is our only point of comparison, but  DeVos Place where the convention itself was held did a great job of accommodating the homebrewers. We were able to stay at the adjoining Amway Grand Plaza in the NHC block of rooms which was great, especially because the hotel was either across the street from DeVos Place or could be accessed by a covered walkway adjoining the two buildings.  We stayed for the entirety of the convention plus a few days to explore the area, but did skip the banquet dinner as quite frankly we were underwhelmed by it last year. So instead of a long, boring recap of everything we did during the conference, here is the good, the bad and the ugly of the NHC 2014.

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The Good

The Homebrew Expo & Beer City Social Club. Much nicer this year and felt more like an actual convention, rather than handful of vendors shoved in a room. There was also more professional beer on tap which was nice and the homebrew clubs that were pouring had their own little beer garden-esque area

The seminars. We attended one given by Jeff Mello of Bootleg Biology where he detailed how to harvest your own yeast strains with minimal equipment. He is on a quest to “create the world’s most diverse library of microbes for the creation of fermented foods and beverages.” The goal is to eventually obtain a yeast strain from every zip code. We look forward to returning from our next trip with a suitcase full of beer and a purse full of test tubes. We also enjoyed the talk about sake production given by Edward Hoskin. We were originally hoping sake making would be a little less time consuming than homebrewing (spoiler alert: it isn’t), it does seem like something we eventually want to take on. There were also a couple of his homemade sakes floating around which were enjoyable, yet bizarre, to sample in a conference room at 9 am.

The city itself. Grand Rapids is full of breweries and guess what? Most of them are really, really good. One of the more remarkable things was that Hopcat owner Mark Sellers purchased the name Grand Rapids Brewing Co. and reopened the brewpub on the same street as Hopcat, no more than 50 feet away. Surprisingly, they were both packed and there seemed to be more than enough craft beer fans to fill both establishments. Guess they don’t call it Beer City USA for nothing.

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The Bad

Pro Brewers Night. Well, to clarify, we didn’t actually attend Pro Brewers night because we thought it had been axed from the lineup this year. They renamed it something else that was super easy to overlook in the schedule and it wasn’t advertised nearly as much as club night. Even trying to search the website for it now is proving unsuccessful. To be fair, club night was the more interesting of the two last year but it still would have been nice to check out.

The seminars. Though we won’t name names, and we know talking about homebrewing can sometimes be tedious at best, there were a few that were so dry (ha ha) they were difficult to sit through. Obviously all the speakers were extremely knowledgeable and it must be intimidating to present to so many people, but there are still ways to jazz up boring information.

The great glass scandal of 2014. Though we checked into the conference upon arriving in Grand Rapids, our room was not yet ready and we didn’t feel like lugging around our goodie bag full of SWAG around while exploring the city. We opted to pick it up the next day, but when we arrived at the table they were totally out of tasting glasses. It wound up being no big deal since disposable cups were readily available,  but you do wonder how they run out of glassware at a liquid themed event.

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The Ugly

We were led to believe that every faucet in Michigan only pours KBS. Sadly, not true. You have to pick up a special treasure map at Founders that shows you how to get to the KBS faucets. A lot of work if you ask us.

4 Responses to '2014 American Homebrewers Association National Homebrewers Conference – Grand Rapids, Michigan'

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  1. Hi fellas!

    I’m glad you enjoyed the sake presentation! If you have any feedback for me, I would love to hear it! I’m looking to submit for another presentation next year on a different topic.

    Eddie Hoskin

    5 Nov 14 at 6:29 pm

  2. Hola Eddie,

    We honestly did enjoy the presentation and of course your homebrewed sake. The talk was informative and better yet entertainging. Having attended the past two conferences our biggest complaint about the lectures has been most of them are not as interactive or engaging, well done. It would be great to see you give another presentation next year but make sure you get your propsal in: the dealine is Monday, November 10th.

    Thank you for stopping by the site. We hope you come back again and tell a few friends.

    Best,

    A+K

    A+K

    5 Nov 14 at 9:34 pm

  3. Thanks for the feedback and encouragement! My post-conference polling data was mediocre…but all the verbal feedback has been positive!

    I did get a submission in on time….hopefully I’ll hear some good news in a couple weeks!

    Eddie Hoskin

    22 Nov 14 at 1:26 pm

  4. Ed,

    It’s unfortunate that the polling feedback was not what you expected but hearing positive thoughts from attendees is always good. Best of luck with the submission. We hope you keep reading Beer Loves Company!

    A+K

    28 Nov 14 at 11:06 am

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