Homebrewers are an interesting demographic. Get two of them together at a barbecue and you're bound to overhear chatter about proper fermentation temperatures and yeast preference. Get 2,000 homebrewers in a room together and you're in for a party and years of boozy memories (or lack thereof). Welcome to the National Homebrewers Conference, where beer hobbyists and professionals gather for three days of education and the world's largest homebrew competition, all soaked in more than 700 kegs of beer.
Although the conference took place in classy San Diego, the Bay Area was strongly represented throughout the weekend. At the Pro Brewers Night, the longest lines in the room belonged to perennial favorite Russian River Brewing and Bay Area newcomer Heretic Brewing. Local homebrew clubs shone at Club Night, where the Bay Area Mashers impressed with their Berkeley Tokemonster Smoked Porter and upped the ante with housemade mortadella and bacon candy coated in hop-infused sugar. Pacheco, California's Brewing Network took home the enviable honor of Homebrew Club of the Year after netting a handsome number of medals in the big competition.
For the third consecutive year, our very own Homebrew Chef Sean Paxton had the honor of cooking a beer banquet for 1,500 guests. The cooking process consumed seven kegs of beer, with another 238 cases of bottles throughout the room for pairing purposes. Inspired by San Diego's proximity to Mexico, the beer-infused feast featured Rogue Chipotle Ale-brined chicken in a Rogue Chocolate Stout mole made with local TCHO chocolate. Another highlight was a Cascade hop-infused flan topped with a malted caramel sauce. Paxton was also invited to give a talk about cooking with beer. He provided a glimpse into his methods and theories behind using beer as an ingredient and a supportive element in a well-balanced dish.
One of the biggest honors of the conference belonged to Russian River Brewing's Vinnie Cilurzo, who was asked to give the keynote address in front of a sold-out crowd. Cilurzo provided a photo-laden retrospective of his career, going back to his membership in San Diego's QUAFF homebrew club in 1989. Cilurzo started homebrewing with his buddies under the name Danger Brothers Brewing, where he experimented with prickly pears, Syrah grapes, and all manner of palate-bending ingredients. He went on to found Blind Pig Brewing, where he is credited with concocting the first double IPA. Cilurzo's slides showed just how far he's come since the '90s, when he used to buy brewing yeast in brown bags from a science lab. Luckily, he no longer has to engage in shady back-alley yeast deals. When Korbel winery decided to sell its Russian River Brewery in 2002, Cilurzo (who was already at the helm) cut a deal to retain the brand in lieu of severance. After a short move to Santa Rosa, the brewpub opened to instant acclaim, and the rest is history.
The moral of the story: Grab a pot and start homebrewing. We'll pencil you in to give the keynote address at NHC 2030.