With San Diego’s place in the world of craft beer, it only makes sense that the city has a strong community of homebrew enthusiasts who are constantly pushing the limits of brewing. This is, after all, the town where a retail store launched the brewing empire now known as Ballast Point Brewing & Spirits and dozens of other upstarts. Whether they do it with designs on going professional in the future, or just for the love of the craft, the artisan spirit of these hobbyists is as enthusiastic as ever. With such passion in the air, San Diego made for the perfect place for the American Homebrewers Association to hold its annual National Homebrewers Conference, which kicked off on Thursday.
Starting the festivities with a welcoming toast and keynote address, Tomme Arthur from Port Brewing & The Lost Abbey waxed about the importance of homebrewing in his own life, and everything that his hobby has brought him. “I am nothing without homebrew, and I found my everything because of homebrew,” said Arthur. “My passion for brewing is deeply rooted in homebrew and its culture of unbridled enthusiasm.”
As nearly 3,000 attendees roamed the grounds of the Town & Country Resort in Mission Valley, vendors from every beer-related industry showed off wares ranging from brew kettles to yeast and everything in-between. To lubricate the social interaction, a handful of professional brewers set up booths to pour samples for the masses, and various clubs had the opportunity to hand out tastes of their favorite brews for everyone to try.
Even with the expo humming away in the background, the main activity at the conference came in the form of a series of seminars geared towards various specialty interests. For attendees who were interested in making the leap from hobbyist to professional, an entire track of talks from brewing industry veterans dealt with subjects ranging from how to make money with beer to picking the right space for your brewery. Other subject matter ranged from beer history to the proper use of various ingredients.
With the business of the day concluded, opportunities to relax abounded, and this is a crowd that certainly knows how to have fun. Thursday night’s welcome reception featured dozens of professional brewers who brought beer from every corner of the country. Saturday night’s “club night” event served as a showcase for the various homebrew clubs that all brought beer, and many of them dressed up in costumes.
The conference wraps up on Saturday with a banquet and National Homebrew Competition awards ceremony, which culminates with the Ninkasi Award for the highest overall score. Paul Sangster, co-founder of Rip Current Brewing in San Marcos won that award in 2011, which was the last time the convention came to San Diego.