Wednesday, July 1, 2009

National Homebrewers Conference notes....

If any of the homebrewers out there have not attended the annual conference, let me just say that YOU MUST. It's educational with loads of beery fun for full three days, and you're surrounded by the nicest bunch of people you've ever met. I don't think I saw a single frown in three full days (well, maybe when the hospitality suite closed and kicked us out at 2AM), just loads of big smiley faces. I'm not a homebrewer, but I love going every year. There's always plenty of things for me to learn or just enjoy during the seminars, and depending which city it's being held in, lots of commercial beer choices from local breweries as well as endless choices of creative homebrew. This year, being in Oakland, California, I finally got to try a bunch of Russian River brews (there were 5 Belgian-style and barrel-aged beers on tap at a bar a couple of blocks from the hotel) as well as listen to the "Funkification: a 100% Brettanomyces Spontaneously Fermented Mind Dump by Vinnie Cilurzo" seminar, all the while sipping his Sanctification 100% Brett beer and Beatification, his spontaneously fermented beer. A real treat. And, as I listened in rapt attention to Firestone Walker's Matt Brynildson talk about his Burton Union I sipped happily on Double Barrel Pale Ale, and Double DOUBLE Barrel Pale.....
Professional Brewers Night exhibited about 45 breweries; the aforementioned Russian River & Firestone Walker, Lost Abbey, Stone, Magnolia, The Bruery, Sierra Nevada, Anchor, Dogfish, Sam Adams, Rogue, the list goes on and on. I remember enjoying a unique Moonlight Brewing pale ale spiced with redwood tips instead of hops. Mmmm. And, I was "in" on the sharing of a jeroboam filled with aged Russian River Supplication (if memory serves me correctly- I do know it was a sour fruit beer).
Club Night was, as usual, a blast, with clubs showing off their best beers, costumes, and booth themes. My beer-overloaded brain remembers a fabulous cedar-aged IPA, a prune lambic, Berliner Weisse, rauchbier, a fabulous coconut porter (not my favourite type of beer, but this one was great), and a host of others.
The finale to the conference was the banquet and awards ceremony where we were treated to a fantastic meal prepared by "the homebrew chef" Sean Paxton using Rogue beers in the preparation of all courses, and served with more Rogue beers. Our Asian-inspired salad was served with Rogue's "Mom" hefeweizen, a Belgian-style wit brewed with ginger along with the usual other spices. A sublime pork tenderloin marinated in Rogue's "Charlie" followed; it was served with an apricot chutney that also incorporated the beer, and Rogue American Amber was the beer that was served with this course. A nice match; malt and hops playing nicely with the sweetness of the meat and the fruitiness of the apricots. Dessert, a chocolate explosion of mousse, grains of chocolate malt and chocolate chips all served in a chocolate shell was paired with a Rogue Chocolate Imperial Stout, a beer that I believe is not readily available in the USA, well, not in Michigan. (Rogue have a series of beers exported to Japan, and this was one of them.) Chocolate with chocolate can be "too much" sometimes, but the beer was roasty and well-hopped as well as bitter chocolate-y and it balanced the sweetness of the dessert perfectly. During this meal we also opened various bottles we'd purchased from "City Beer", and the hands-down winner of these was "Mirror Mirror", a strong pale from Deschutes Brewing based on their fabulous Mirror Pond Pale Ale. Although somewhere in the mix, I think with the pork, we enjoyed a wonderful rye saison from The Bruery. The evening was a fitting finale to the conference, more so when it was announced that fellow Michiganders Jeff & Susan Rankert from the Ann Arbor Brewers Guild won a gold medal for their barley wine, and our friends Bob & Kim Barrett (in absentia, also from Ann Arbor BG) won silver for their wheat beer. Michigan homebrewers are the best!
We arrived home late the next day, tired but happy, as the saying goes. And.....Delta Airlines, I'm VERY pleased to say, did not lose us, or our luggage!!

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