My last post covered setting up our booth at the NHC Homebrew Expo, exploring San Diego breweries, street-fighting, and hobnobbing with the homebrew industry.  This post covers Thursday, the first official day of the conference.

Imperial stout for breakfast!

The morning dawned bright, but soon to become overcast.  I had signed up to help judge the final round of the National Homebrew Competition (the biggest in the world!) starting at 8:30 AM.  Seriously, what was I thinking?  Groggily meeting other insane judges over some free breakfast and not enough coffee, I slowly regained my ability to speak in more than a guttural grunt or snarl.  I did have the benefit of judging stouts with a good group of guys.  Stouts in the morning at least have some coffee notes and sure beat IPA and American Lagers!

I was done judging before the Homebrew Expo started at 11, so I was able to run down there through antique halls before our Beer Dust booth opened for business.  We had set things up to raffle off T-shirts at the booth.  We also had samples of our all-grain IPA recipe–with side by side tastings of one made with filtered local Victoria, MN tap water and another made with reverse osmosis water and our Beer Dust IPA packet.  The tasting went very well and I think a lot of folks were shocked at the difference.  I wasn’t, but I’ve been doing test batches for over a year!

We really had no idea how many people would come by, or what kind of interest we would spark.  As a new product on the market with minimal marketing prior to this–our big unveiling–we were shocked at the lines waiting to check out Beer Dust and talk to us.  Over the next two days we had a consistent amount of traffic by our booth.  I really enjoyed the variety of different questions and points of view from our fellow homebrewers.  I think the majority of homebrewers into the hobby enough to go to NHC tend to be a little more hard-core than average, so we had lots of interesting conversations.  Also it was great to gauge interest in which beer styles people were most interested in for future Beer Dust recipe formulations.  We even had notable homebrewing celebrities like Brad Smith and John Palmer (author of Brewer’s Publications’ Water) swing by to talk and try our beer!

Through-out the day we split up a bit according to our official titles.  Mike (The Business) went to homebrew industry talks.  Keith (The Science) went to important talks on water chemistry and more.  I (The Judge) judged beer and people.  Just kidding about the people.  Actually my wife and I did shirk a bit and had lunch at the recently opened Green Flash sister barrel aging facility Cellar 3.  They had really cool sour and brett finished beers that I hadn’t known existed, as well as a food truck furnishing huge sandwiches and homemade beef jerky!  We later brought back leftovers to share with our booth-bound compatriots afterward.

After a long but fun day, we geared up for Pro-Night.  We started out with a quick and very tasty dinner at Waypoint Public, a stellar gastropub a short drive from the conference hotel.  For those who haven’t been to NHC before, Pro-Night is basically a big commercial beer festival held just for the homebrewers.  Being in San Diego, there was no shortage of local (and some from farther afield) breweries serving up fantastic beers that night.  Not surprisingly, the line for Russian River’s Pliny the Elder and Supplication was epic throughout the whole night…and Vinny Cilurzo himself served me some of that fine beer!  Lost Abbey brought it strong with the tart Red Poppy and the chocolate booze bomb that was Track 8.  And a surprise hit with both Keith and I was Monkey Paw Brewing.  They served up a smoked beer that was truly bacon-in-a-glass, as well as several other off-the-wall beers.  Oh and we can’t forget Societe Brewing’s perfect Belgian pale ale The Harlot!

I was too busy to take many pictures…

Up next: Another fine day at NHC and Club Night!