Wednesday, September 11, 2013

NHC Recap & My 2nd Round Results

As Philly fades into a memory I wanted to post my NHC 2nd round results.  As expected I got hammered a little by the judges.  If you follow me on Twitter, you might remember that I drank my remaining 12oz bottles of my Belgian Dark Strong before I got the NHC results.  So I was left with opening a couple 750ml's and racking the beer into smaller bottles.  Which overall went smoothly, but how much damage did I do to the beer?  Also if you've never attended NHC you might want to check out my thought's of this years conference. 

Gail Belgian Dark Strong:  Scored a 32/50 Overall. Category #18E Belgian Dark Strong. 2nd Round National Homebrew Conference 2013

Judge #1, National 31/50

Aroma: 7/12 Low aromas of dark fruit esters, more cherry and pear.  Malt is very grainy and not as complex as I desire for style.  Improves as it warms, but still would like to see more malt.

Appearance: 2/3  Medium Copper in color, clear, head is too thin for style.

Flavor: 11/20  To much bitterness and not enough rich malt complexity.  Alcohol warmth is high & touch harsh.  To much hop flavor for style.

Mouthfeel: 4/5 Touch to harsh due to alcohol warmth.  Body is a bit to thin co2 on the low side.

Overall Impression: 7/10 Overall a very nice beer, but complexity is subtle and the malt esters are too low.

Judge #2, National 31/50

Aroma: 7/12  Low total aroma, some sweet malt, subtle spiciness, low alcohol. 

Appearance: 1/3  Course head, copper and tan

Flavor:  13/20  Pleasant malt richness, overly sweet caramel.  low alcohol very subtle.  Maybe not big enough for the style.

Mouthfeel: 3/5  Under carbonated, (hurts aroma level badly) under attenuated.

Overall Impression: 8/10 Tastes like American Caramel rather than special B, under carbonated.  

Judge #3, National 34/50

Aroma: 7/12 Medium-level toasty malt w/very subdued spiciness.  Alcohol noticeable but not hot.  Spicy hop notes add complexity.  Complex but not as rich as expected for style.  A bit oxidized.

Appearance: 2.5/3  Amber copper, great clarity, low carbonation for style.

Flavor: 14/20  Very smooth - well managed fermentation, some oxidation, but not too distracting.  A lot richer than the aroma led on.  Toasty, caramel alcohol heat. Well hidden, spicy hops add complexity. 

Mouthfeel: 3.5/5  Carbonation very low for style.  Warmth there, but smooth.

Overall Impression: 7/10Very nice BDSA.  Great rich complexity, flavor.  Needs more malt, maybe to old?

Chris's Notes: I think the judges are spot on.  I racked an extra bottle to drink when reading the judges comments and I think they pinned it correctly.  A little old, off balance and flat.  Honestly, it became a different beer once I racked it over.  The common theme about the carbonation has to be the result of my stupidity.  I have a couple 750ml left in the fridge for special occasions and they have a perfect level of carbonation. 

Now for the Conference:

As for the National Homebrew Conference, the location was great, once you were inside.  Parking, as in any big city, was a nightmare.  I saw trucks with keggors on the street with tarps over them awaiting club night.  Luckily I was riding with my cousin and didn't have a car, but I did split the parking costs with him. (If the AHA is reading, a big city is ok, just have it outside the city limits for parking) The hotel did have a gem next door, Reading Terminal Market.  This was filled with food, cheesesteaks, more food and more cheesesteaks.  Honestly it was a godsend to have next to the conference hotel.  In San Diego food was severly lacking during the conference which lead to me passing out by the pool for a couple hours (San Diego is also my hometown, so I didn't have a room) A few other homebrewers and I discovered Reading Terminal Market quickly and loaded up on cheesesteaks for a late night snack.  But strangely enough, there was no notice inside the hotel about this wonderful resource next door.  It could be a advertizing thing, I suppose. 
Reading Terminal Market

Wednesday night I attended the Brewing Network's 8th Anniversary party.  I hated it.  I hated it more than anything the entire weekend.  Now I love me some BN, I even have them as my club on my NHC badge and as my 2nd round entry club.  It's just that the event was a logistical mess.  3 stories, lots of stairs with people not knowing where to go which resulted in clogging the hallways.  Most of the beers they listed were for the VIP attendees only.  I think I only had 4 beers the entire night.  3 of them meads from Moonlight because they had the shortest line  (Michael comes off as an asshole on the air, but after talking to him he is just overly excited about his product) Which might of been some of the best beers(meads) of the weekend. The only really positive thing about the BN8 event was the buses, they had that aspect worked out perfectly.

My morning Steak and Egg Cheese Steak

Down the other side walkway of the main walkway
The Main walk way inside the Terminal
This pulled Pepper Turkey was mindblowing @Reading Terminal Market
The Conference was on 2 levels, which wasn't that much trouble due to the hotel conveniently placing escalators between the 2 floors.  This year the Homebrew Expo was combined with the Social Hall. (Rotating clubs pouring homebrew from 9am to 2am)  I think the AHA did a great job on the Expo.  The amount of vendors with booths has really grown since the San Diego Conference.  It was a good mix of vendors pouring beer, samples and showing homebrew related products.   The expo was also a great place to bring down some Homebrew samples, grab a bar table and talk with people.  I ended up bringing a Flanders Red, a couple Brett Saisons, Gail my Belgian Dark Strong, Parallel Brett IPA and a couple Stouts to share after Pro-night.  All the beer was well received, but lets be honest, most of our palettes were shot from drinking all day.  As for the beers served on the Social side of the Expo, I found a lot of them to be "off" in a way.  The service employees were getting a solid workout lifting the dumping buckets.  But a positive note I can take from this is the amount of sour beers poured on the floor was in the 20+ or more range.  Berliner Weisee being the favorite beer brought to the Social Floor

The main Expo Floor

I loved the selection from the vendors

The conference speakers missed the mark for me.  Please AHA, lets cut the going Pro-talks.  If a homebrewer wants to go professional, they can attend a Craftbeer Conference thus creating an opening for a homebrewer to attend the conference.  Mitch Steel from Stone and the Brewer from Iron Hill spoke, but where was Victory, Dogfish Head and Duclaw?  I really wanted to have some of the big players in the East Coast Craftbeer World speak.  The homebrew to craftbeer connection on the west coast so strong, maybe the connection is different back east?  Either way it felt disconnected.  Despite my comments, a couple of speakers really did stand out, Stan Hieronymus the writer of "For the Love of Hops" is a great speaker and really understands how to talk to homebrewers.  The Beer and Cheese Pairing didn't seen to fit the direction of the NHC Conference at first, but I decided to sit down and listen.  Having no cheese tasting experience, learned that I love hard cheeses paired with Stouts.  On the other hand, having these great cheeses and beers only to have the guy across from me gulping and farting away all the samples really takes away from the experience. 

The conference also had a long standing joke about the Commemorative Beer.  The cans, brewed by Round Guys Brewing started to explode around the hotel.  All sorts of Twitter posts and conversations inside the Expo popped up about it.  Honestly I thought it was an awesome way to chalk up a conversation with another homebrewer.  I did feel bad for Round Head's Brewing who took a beating on social media during the conference. During Pro-Night however, they served an amazing Berliner Weisse.  (So it was quickly forgotten.)  Once the word got out about it the line grew in a matter of seconds.  In the end nothing "official" was ever said about the can bombs, but everyone there knew the cans where set to detonate before the conference ended Sunday.

Club Night in full swing

The best thing about the NHC is Club Night.  The mood changes as club night sets in.  People come out of their shells.  The team mentality really start to shine.  Clubs really go all out with their booths.  Urinals with taps, golden toilets, recording studios, couches, living rooms and salons.  It's all covered during Club Night.  Also you get the best homebrew at NHC served at Club Night.  I really don't have to many pictures due to my hands being full of homebrew at the time. But I did try a great Brett IPA made by Jamey "Barlow Brewing", which he was kind enough to deliver to me as I worked the Booth for the Brewing Network.  I also hung out with a bunch of BNArmy heads around the booth after my shift.  Putting your thoughts aside on the club issue some people have, they are an awesome group of guys and had some of the best beer at Club Night.  As it turns out the BN was pouring a 3 year old Goze from Jake Ocque which was the best beer on the conference floor hands down.  He also won Gold for his Peach Lambic. (Picture and recipe on the left side)
Me and Jym Ferrier @neckbeardbeer on twitter

While I was pouring at the BN booth, it was great talking to other brewers that recognized me from this blog.  Seeing other people in person from Twitter was also a highlight.  Putting a face to a name makes interacting so much better.  Plus over beers everyone is a friend.  Right?

As the conference gets bigger I'd really like to see this area get more attention from the AHA governing body.  The interaction you get with pouring a beer and being able to talk to the brewer is nothing like anything I've experienced as a homebrewer.  It was however a little disappointing not having any of my beer to share.  A cross country trip would of been brutal on a keg of homebrew;).

Setting up the Keynote Address

Tom Peters the owner of Monks Cafe was honored to do the Key Note Address.  He really put Philly on the craftbeer map.  His toast was very well done and to the point.  Understanding he has no homebrew experience I had low expectations walking into the grand hall.  Thankfully I was very impressed with his abilities as a speaker in front of 3,500 homebrewers.   The Key Note beer was a traditional porter beer, which is fitting for Philly.  Brewed by Manayunk Brewing Co named Philadelphia Porter.  This beer might of been the best porter I've ever had.

Waiting for the Opening Toast

The Opening Toast address is before Pro-night.  Gary Glass thanks the organizing/local hosting club and gets all the formalities out of the way for some drinking.  This year they had Iron Hill’s Headbanger IPA as a opening toast beer.  It was a very well done IPA.  During the Opening Toast and the Keynote address you can really get more than your fair share of beer if you want it.  The AHA tends to go overboard on pouring, which is a nice touch since some of the seminars have terrible pouring plans.  This year they also had carts of pretzels and snacks for us to much on. A great addition, as the Opening Toast tends to go a little longer than most people want.  After the Opening Toast they start the pouring at Pro-Night.  Which to be honest looked like 8-10 breweries didn't even show up for.  Maybe another bad connection to the homebrewing community?  Either way there is plenty of beer to go around, my favorites of the night were Round Guys Berliner-Weisse which formed a line quickly after I started to tell everyone how good this beer was.  I also had a Chinook Pale single hop beer from a brewery that forget that was perfect in every way. From Vault Brewing Company, thanks for that FiveMileBrewing for pointing that out

The yellow bottles of the Honey Kolsh were so good.

The Grand Banquet is a little like a rush to the finish line.  Once the door opens it's a free for all to your table.  Understanding that homebrew clubs want to sit together, it gets a little complicated.  Luckily we had a great group and didn't have any trouble securing a seat.  We didn't really care about sitting close to the podium, which would of been a bigger deal if I had multiple beers in the second round.  Sean Paxton does a great job on the food and beer paring, the desert on the table with the cranberry (?) reduction was incredible.  One thing to understand at the grand banquet is that you will run out of beer quickly as a table if you do not follow some simple rules.  Don't start popping bottles open until the food paring is in front of you.  Also share the bottles.  A little hint, the left over bottles are normally in the back against the wall if you want more, but the servers will not bring them to you.  You have to get back there before they are gone.  Also, If you do not have a beer in the competition dinner can get a little long.  My beer didn't place but a couple homebrewer buddies beers did, including Danny from DeeperRoots who started brewing along side of me.  He received a 3rd place for this Kate The Great Stout.  Which is an awesome beer, that I think I have the last bottle of. Looking back it would of been a great time to hit up Monks Cafe.


  1. Nice recap! It is always frustrating when circumstances (like racking from 750s) come up which degrade your beer - knowing that is probably where the oxidation came from. Still 30s at NHC round 2 are a great achievement!

    You hit the nail on the head with Moonlight Meadery. It was my first taste with mead, and it was a delight. I tried to attend conferences that had beverages/food etc. I knew I would be able to go back online and "listen" to all of the other "straight-talks." So I guess I don't understand the hating on the "Going Pro" talk, there three other speaches you could have attended instead right?

    Reading terminal was great, although I did venture the 15 blocks or so to hit up the real cheesesteak places (Jim's was my favorite). Only problem with reading terminal was that most of the places closed early. Last thought, some of the best beer I had all weekend was after the awards dinner, when they brought out the leftovers from the competition. It was a tasty russian-roullete of homebrew.

    1. I forgot about the 2nd round beers left over. I scored a couple really good ones and a couple bad ones. One really bad mead BTW. It was great that they placed the beers there, I did see a couple of people taking cases which is really bad form.

      As for hating on the Go-Pro talks, I just love keeping it homebrew focused. I've never understood the desire to go pro. Some people love cooking and they don't get asked, "When are you going to open a restaurant?" I understand it's a hobby, I also understand the majority of the attendees at NHC are older and most likely have secure jobs not in the brewing industry. I just think the AHA could use its resources better and focus on the homebrewers. Or I could be in the minority, so it was nice to get the NHC recap survey last week.

    2. That makes sense, it is the National HOMEbrew Conference :). I did not attend the going pro seminar as I feel the BrewStrong "Going Pro" series did a wonderful job and was able to go into more detail than an hour long seminar would be able to. I agree, everyone the I talk brewing about asks me when I am going to start a brewery...I guess I need to show a little more passion in other aspects of my life to start avoiding receiving this question?

  2. Great job describing what happened and making a non-attendee jealous. Bummed to hear that the seminars were not all that great as that was a highlight for me at the San Diego conference. Thanks for the kudos on Kate the Great-luck was on my side. You were hugely instrumental in my brewing it.


Thanks for Commenting, Prost!