Friday, July 11, 2014

NHC Day 5: Club Night!

Day 5 of an epic trip to Grand Rapids, MI for the 2014 National Homebrewer's Conference!

I forced myself to get up at a decent hour this day, to take advantage of the cool homebrewing talks going on at the convention center.  Sj stayed in bed like a lucky slug.  My first lecture was Keeping It Simple: What Monks Can Teach Us About Brewing, by Stan Hieronymus.  I love Stan's books and have read Brew Like a Monk twice.  Because of my familiarity with the subject and having now traveled to Belgium twice, I feel that I probably didn't learn a ton from this lecture.  It was still entertaining and not a waste of time.

The second lecture I went to was Mitch Steele from Stone Brewing discussing herbs, spices and botanicals in beers.  Stone has been doing a ton of unusual spices and ingredients in the past few years so this was a cool talk.  I've used many of these ingredients over the years, but some have slipped my net!  I appreciated that he gave some hard numbers for amount to add as a starting place based on their experimentation at Stone.  He also had big bags of herbs in the back for people to take samples of, but I lacked anything to carry them in so left them behind.  Volunteers passed along pitchers of Stone Saison that includes lavender and habanero!

After this it was back the riot that was the exhibits hall/expo.  We drank samples of Moonlight Mead Last Apple and a cool sour beer  from New Holland.  Sj tried to win us a Fast Rack, but failed.  I didn't try since my sausage fingers would likely result in broken glass everywhere.  We gathered more stickers and bottle openers (I think I have hundreds now.)

The Bob

Meeting up with fellow JABber, Mike Lebben, the three of us headed across the street to have lunch at The Bob.  An acronym for Big Old Building, this is a large 1903 grocery warehouse turned into a strange collection of venues.  A small brewery lurks in the basement, Bobarino's pizza place is upstairs, a comedy club, dueling pianos, a steak house, and more!  The brewery was closed (they should have opened up for NHC!) so we went to Bobarino's instead.  We shared a sampler of their beers and those were all across the board: a nasty diacetyl IPA, but Crimson King Amber and Spaceboy Stout were both decent.  The food was also decent but not special.

Back to the exhibits for more free beer samples and to kill a bit more time playing ring toss with keg o-rings.  Then a lecture from Brett Vanderkamp and Jason Salas from New Holland Brewing, talking about using spirits barrels and doing sour beers in barrels.  This was a cool lecture, but so much of it was on a large production brewery scale that I don't know how much was directly useful to me as a homebrewer.  Still, some cool stories and background on the brewery though!  They also served us Dragon's Milk during the talk which made it all worth it!

After this it was nearing time to eat dinner, so we let the last lecture of the day go and headed to HopCat before the post-lecture rush arrived there.  We timed it just right, getting one of the last available outdoor tables (just under a fire escape populated by an angry pigeon by the way!)  We shared a rather expensive bottle of Rodenbach Vintage 2010 with dinner, but well worth it.

Back to the hotel for a quick rest and then back to the convention center for the peak of the whole NHC--Club Night!  Club night is perhaps one of the most fun beer events that I have taken part in.  Coming from a guy who has been to many festivals, beer dinners, etc, that is saying something!  The event was in the same space as the modified Pro Night from the previous day's festivities, but the place had taken on a whole new and crazy vibe.  The clubs who contribute will have jockey boxes, portable bars, MASH unit tents, and other background for their booths ranging from utilitarian to extravagant.  Many clubs dress up in outfits or have a theme to their attire.  Some clubs bring only great beers, others invite any member to contribute--as a result there can be a wide range of quality.  However, overall, I had much better beer at club night than the previous day!

I'll be honest the night was chaotic and a bit blurry.  I did not have my real camera and was busy drinking it all in (so to speak) so I didn't get many good pictures.  Some snippets:

1) The Carolina BrewMasters had a walnut Baltic porter that was one of the best things I had all night--the walnuts really came through!

2) A spicy and amazing poblano wit from someone in the Best Florida Beer supergroup.

3) Mike Lebben tasting a beer that he described as "Feels like someone shat in my mouth after they ate a bunch of aluminum fans!"

4) Having someone jump in front of me in line at the Mead Mamas booth and realizing it was Susan Ruud.  Since Susan is opening her own Prairie Rose Meadery I took this as a good sign that the meads were not going to strip the paint off my house and give my family a permanent orange aftro!

5) Susan and Sarajo getting molested by Hop Man!

Hop Man!

6) Travis Scrotch from MASH letting me try his great maibock and very Pliny-like double IPA.

7) The crews from Midwest and Northern Brewer all dressed up like enormous gnomes.

Sj and a drive-by gnoming...and getting photo-bombed by BrewToad!

8) The ANNiHiLATED booth from NJ serving up Poltergeueze--a two year blended lambic that was as good as nearly anything I had in Belgium.  I believe the brewer was Adam Juncosa.  I went back for several "samples" of that one!

9) Seeing the BrewToad mascot navigating the urinals in the men's room, while everyone laughed and tried to take pictures of his junk.

10) Mike Sutor (another long lost Facebook friend from Seattle NHC) sharing his homebrewed cherry sour that knocked my socks off!  Might have to drive to Wisconsin to try some more of his beers!

11) Watching one poor drunken sot trying to shove messy gloopy nachos into his mouth but getting them all over his face instead.

12) Finishing up the night with one last sampler of Poltergeueze and heading back to the hotel before things get messy.

Up Next: NHC Days 6-7 The End!

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