Once registration opens, you can get your dorky badge and a big bag of swag. In my bag were packs of hops, coupons, pens, bottle openers, advertisements, a dangerous frisbee, and assorted other cool beer items. We also get a fantastic tasting glass to cart around the rest of the weekend, since there is such easy access to beers. Included in your entry swag are commemorative beers: this years were all commerically brewed with local breweries from homebrewer recipes! We got an Elysian saison made will all Washington ingredients including honey, apple and mint; a dark sour from Black Raven; and of course an IPA from Alaskan. I'm excited to try these out on my homebrew club buddies at home.
The head of AHA, Gary Glass gave a nice speech at the start, followed by talks from the local organizers. Beers are handed out and toasts are made. This year they actually had a Senator, who was instrumental in changing local law to allow homebrew sharing and competitions, give a quick talk as well.
From about 10-5 the hospitality suite is open for business. Here you have several clubs taking turns serving up homebrews, as well as a couple of commercial breweries like Rogue and Widmer sampling their wares. Several homebrew supply places like Northern Brewer, Midwest, Morebeer and High Gravity have booths. And there are a whole bunch of new products or hop and yeast suppliers on hand to answer questions and give out stuff. I did snag quite a few shirts, hops, etc. Northern Brewer had a "take a picture of Chip" for a free shirt campaign going. Before I even knew about that I was talking to Chip and he was complaining about everyone stopping him to take pictures...and I promptly pulled out my phone and snapped a pic! Ha!
Throughout the day there are three one hour seminars on brewing/beer/etc going on, with the first starting at 9AM. Wow is it hard to get up for a 9AM lecture when you have been out late the previous night, more so when they are serving up IPA during the lecture. High points for me this year were a talk on current and historic IPA by Mitch Steele of Stone brewing; a panel discussion on running homebrew clubs; and a wierd ingredient lecture with suitable samples from Dick Cantwell of Elysian Brewery. The Elysian Jasmine IPA is really wacky.
5) Lagunitas Party
Lagunitas sent out their recipe for Hop Stupid, (which is hard to come by in MN these days,) and encouraged homebrewers to make their own versions for the party. They rented out a small suite at an adjoining hotel and filled a bathtub with bottles of Hop Stupid. My friends with the Primary Fermenters brewed a version and got me in. Very crowded, but very fun, with the Lagunitas guys sending us off with extra bottles for home!
|Hop to it, stupid!|
6) Pro Brewer's Night
Thursday night's festivities started at 8PM and went until about 11, with over 50 breweries in attendance. Some of my favorites were the New Belgium Pink Peppercorn IPA and all the beers from Black Raven. I had grand plans of taking more pictures and keeping notes. That did not happen and the night was long. After 11, many went on to party at the Sasquatch Social Club where more homebrew was served. I went to bed like a lame panda.
7) Keynote Speech
This is often a high point of the conference, with a brewing luminary telling stories from the days of yore and giving advice to budding brewers. Last time I saw this it was Mark Stutrud from Summit and everyone was really excited to hear his take on the past, present and future of pro and home brewing in the USA. This year was Charles Finkel from Pike Brewing. His speech was less than stellar. I respect him as a person and what he has done for the brewing community, as well as for creating the stellar beers at Pike Brewery. But that speech was pretty horrible. He talked for over an hour straight with no real point. He talked about cavemen deciding to grow grain instead of hunting sabre toothed tigers. He talked at some length about the early days of wine distributing, listing off pretty much every wine that was available in the 1960's-70's. Then talked about beer distributing in the 1970's, listing off every beer he could think of. I felt like a senator being subjected to a filibuster of epic proportions! He ran out of time before he could even really talk about Pike
or brewing. One person in our row who shall not be named fell asleep and dropped his glass, then "went to the bathroom," and didn't come back. Smart man... Oh well, better luck next year!