Brews Up Homebrewing Conference

wilThere was lots of drinking, laughing and general silliness and a bunch of support for a community I love. This year’s National Homebrewing Conference was held in San Diego. It was my first American Homebrewers Association event and it was a fascinating experience. Truth be told, the conference was much different than I had expected. Why?

  • I didn’t think Wil Wheaton would be there. Then again, that guy likes to homebrew. He seemed surprised (as I was) over the level of fun and sincerity the homebrew community shows vs. general geekery.
  • Speaking of fun, lots was had the Social Club on the first night of the conference, which featured commercial beers. There was a Club Night the following night with beers from area homebrew clubs. I met some cool industry professionals, mostly in marketing, who I hope to stay in touch with and visit at their respective breweries.


  • The focus on “we all started with homebrew” resonated from the keynote speaker’s opening toast to the final goodbyes. I guess I’ve never thought about the learning curve and there is a symphony between skilled homebrewers and the places where they live and play. If we didn’t have good beer to drink, we wouldn’t become better at, or more innovative in, our brewing processes.
  • There were significantly less women than I had thought would attend. It was a plus not having to wait in line for the bathroom and peering over at the line to the men’s bathroom. However, that perk wore off quickly. Female representation in the presenters wasn’t ideal. Barley’s Angels Milwaukee member Paula was the only female presenter not on a panel. The women’s panel was intriguing and I was glad to see a fair amount of men in the audience.


  • The Barley’s Angels crew became popular. People knew who were by day two, mostly due to our matching shirts, but also because our friend gave us a shout out during her presentation.
  • Knowing, and partying with, the cidermaker of the year was kind of like knowing a celebrity. The banquet on the last night of the conference is one huge celebration complete with a beer pairing dinner and special beers from all over the U.S. being passed around to friends and strangers, including while waiting in line to get into the banquet room.
  • beersink-768x1024I didn’t think we would be drinking that much. There were beers supplied every night, beer samples at the expo running most of the day and even sample beers during a fair amount of the seminars. Oh, and we filled up the sink in our hotel room (no fridge) with beers to share.
  • Something that was not surprising: The two categories with the most entries for the National Homebrewing Competition were IPAs and Stouts. Coincidentally these are the styles I brew most often.


  • I met a ton of awesome people. It was easy to strike up a conversation and I learned that I need to travel a little to the states touching Wisconsin to judge homebrewing competitions in those regions.

I would recommend going to the AHA conference for anyone who is into homebrewing or learning how to become a better brewer. I am now in the process of experimenting with a coffee beer because of the inspiration one of the seminars gave me!

If you are an AHA member, you can listen to the presentations and see slides online from Brews Up at

Beth Pickhard

Beth Pickhard

I have a passion for beer, bikes and travel and write about these things on my blog, Brew City Biker. My mission is to explore the world of craft beer by bike and involve newbies in these activities. I am a homebrewer and BJCP Certified Beer Judge.

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Beth Pickhard

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