NHC 2014 Homebrew Expo

Ok, so this is REALLY what I came for.  You know I’m an equipment geek, so it was cool to see all the latest stuff.  In no particular order, here is my list of the coolest things I saw.

Missed my first post on my thoughts of the evening events?  Go back to the beginning..

Difficulty: level_1

This might be slightly more difficult to read than most, because your inner brew geek mind will easily wander into thinking about what you can buy or make next.

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My Favorite Things….


SYNEK Draft System

This is like the countertop kegerator. And the thing is, that isn’t the coolest thing about the SYNEK. What is so cool, is that they have brought focus to a new way to package beer. The best way to describe it is like box wine. If you’ve ever bought some and taken apart the box to find the bag inside, you’ll know what I’m talking about. I’m not ashamed to say that I still do buy it, because there actually is good box wine. I’m an ultra-beersnob, but I’m fine with the Two Buck Chuck (or Three Buck, depending on where you live).

Anyway, back on subject. The premise is that anyone from homebrewers on up to professional breweries will be able to use the new packaging. It’s one of those ideas that was waiting to happen, since all the technology was there. I like the fact that with growlers, you can go to most any brewery and bring home the deliciousness. The bad thing is that once you open them, you need to drink the beer within a few days or it goes flat. Unless you are using some sort of carbonation cap (I’ve got a method, which I’ll have a post on soon). In any case, glass is not an ideal material for holding pressure.

I talked for a while with Steve Young, the founder for quite a while.  He’s the guy in the videos on their site.  You really have to watch the videos at the SYNEK Kickstarter page. It can do more justice than me writing about it.

I myself am planning on acquiring an early unit to run it through it’s paces. For purely scientific reasons….


EV Container Plastic Kegs

So a few plastic keg manufacturers have come to market with mixed reception. What I think is so great about this one is that they have a removable liner, so it makes cleanup a snap. This will have huge implications for commercial breweries. NOBODY likes cleaning. I had this idea when I decided to go with the Fermentation Bucket Liners, but hadn’t thought all the way through how to do it with a corny keg, so I’m glad to see that somebody has done it with normal kegs at least. Currently, the only fittings available are for a Sanke keg connector. They are supposed to be slightly larger in diameter than a standard sixth-barrel or corny keg.  Visit their site to get more info.


Speidel Braumeister

Not necessarily new, but my first time seeing it in person. I have to say, it is quite beautiful. It’s like the Porsche of brewing equipment. Appropriate, since they are headquartered in Ofterdingen Germany, not too far from Stuttgart, Germany, home of Porsche. If you have the means, I highly recommend picking one up.
If you can read German, go here:
If not, go here:

Hop Union

Until NHC, I hadn’t used their products or website. I had just seen their nice advertisements in Zymurgy. I got a few hop samples and intend to use one for my 1 gallon brewing experiment (in process). Their website has a ton of resources applicable to the homebrewer. You MUST go to their site and find out all you didn’t know about hops already.

White Labs

What’s so new with White Labs? They’ve been around. Ok, well besides what I think is a cool application of genetic mapping technology to study the yeast family tree.

White Labs is introducing their new FlexCell packaging. All the information you would want can be found here:
And in case you were wondering, as with the traditional vials, if you collect 5,000 empty FlexCell packages, Chris White will come to your house. Start saving!!

Clear Beer Draught System

So I keg and don’t filter my beer. I use a combination of patience and not necessarily caring what my beer looks like. OK, so when I do get to that point in the keg where my beer is crystal clear, I do feel pretty pleased with myself. What we have here is an invention that allows you to pull beer from the top of the keg, instead of at the bottom. It’s basically a floating siphon. When I saw it, I thought “I wish I had invented that!”. I must acquire one and try it out.

Grog Tags

Ok, so I don’t bottle. Why do I care? It’s not just bottle labels, but keg/carboy labels, coasters, bottle caps and more. I hadn’t realized this before visiting their booth at the expo. I currently use gaffer’s tape on my fermenting buckets and then keep the same label all the way to the keg, but I do like the keg/carboy labels. And since my bottle labeling consists of a handwritten Sharpie label, it might be handy to have some real bottle labels made up. What else is cool about the bottle labels is that they are re-usable. As a test, I even ran my NHC tasting glass through the dishwasher with their sample label and it came out just fine.
More info and video.

Click on my link below for 10% off.

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Brew Toad

First off, thanks for the free wireless at NHC!

Another brewing software has entered the market. I talked to the developer of Brew Toad at the expo. While it doesn’t yet support special tools for BIAB, I will wait for it to mature a little and then include them in a future comparison of brewing software. I currently use BeerSmith, but I know things are moving the way of web based so you can have your information anywhere you have an internet connection, so we’ll see how this turns out.

I’ll be breaking my thoughts into a few posts:

Part 1: Evening Events
Part 2: Seminars
Part 3: Homebrew Expo (This post)
Part 4: Other highlights and parting thoughts


NHC 2014 Seminars

Of course having access to beer samples all day is cool, but only a true beer geek can appreciate the variety and depth of the seminars put on.  I had to plan out how I was going to make it to everything I wanted to see, but there were at times, four seminars in the same time slot.

Missed my first post on my thoughts of the evening events?  Go back to the beginning..

Fortunately, one of the perks of being an AHA member is that the AHA posts the seminar material online so you can read up on what you missed later.  Even if you didn’t make it to NHC, this is an awesome resource.  There were plenty that I didn’t get to go to, but you can’t be everywhere at the same time.

Difficulty: level_1

If you have made it this far, please continue.

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Here is a recap of the seminars I attended:

Kosmicki Spills the Secrets

Founders is one of my favorite breweries, so it was cool to hear from the men behind the curtain. We were a bit late, but still got to hear enough of the info. I was also grateful for them sharing the recipe for the Oak Aged Rye IPA brewed just for NHC. I’m not a huge hop head, but Rye IPA’s are one of my favorite varieties. I prefer my Rye IPA’s to be higher than normal on the rye and lower than normal on the IBU’s, so I didn’t find the Founders version to my taste, but that’s why I brew my own. Because I can!

The Homebrewer’s Guide To Vintage Beer

I had heard Ron Pattinson on a Beersmith podcast earlier this year and it was fascinating. Some of the pictures of the old breweries were neat to see and it was interesting to see how different breweries adapted to tax laws, ingredient availability and their various systems of measurement.

Vintage English Beer Brewing with Ron Pattinson – BeerSmith Podcast #75

Shut Up About Barclay Perkins (Ron Pattinson’s blog)

Long Live Lagers

My favorite type of beer to brew and drink is lagers. As Jason Oliver and Warren Haskell said in their presentation, lagers are fun because they present their own unique technical challenges. The biggest takeaway I had from the presentation was their note that on their step mashes, they immediately raise the temperature after mash in, instead of leaving it to sit at one temperature for a rest. I think I’ll try that on my next brew.

Debunking the Detested Decoction

I have to say that even after listening to the seminar, I’m still of the opinion that doing a step mash is the most effort I want to put into the mash. I realize that there are other flavors that may come out of a decoction mash, but for me, I’m not trying to win awards. I may try one at some point. Never say never!

No Boil Hop Beer

This was a very interesting experiment that Matthew took on. He had the sample beers there to try and I have to say that there should be some more investigating to this. My observations so far from what I’ve read, heard and tried are that hop usage at lower temperatures seems to provide a much smoother bitterness. The premise here is that he would take the wort through a sort of hop filter and they would never need to go into the kettle.

Pair Like a Pro

There was a lot discussed in this seminar before tasting, but basically what was presented were a piece of salami and a pickle coupled with two beers, Bell’s Oarsman Ale and Short’s Huma Lupa Licious.  The Oarsman is a 10 IBU, 4% ABV that has been inoculated with lactic and the Short’s is a 96 IBU, 7.7% ABV beer.  We’ll call them LOW and HIGH, so you can substitute with any similar beer.

You can try these experiments at home kids!  Try a bite of a pickle after LOW and it takes most of the taste away.  A bite of the salami before LOW causes it to essentially taste like nothing.

It was noted that the salami has that umami taste and can calm the bitterness of HIGH.  The 96 IBU’s was hard to beat, so after a bit, you actually feel that bitterness come back.  The pickle also calmed the bitterness.

The point was that what you are eating with your beer can influence how you interpret the taste of the beer.

Sensory Evaluation: Methods to Improve Your Palate and Vocabulary

This is something I’m not quite good at. I don’t add a lot to my explanation of things. To me the color is pink. To someone else, it is salmon. When I taste a beer that I think is good, I just know it and can’t necessarily explain why. This seminar got me at least thinking of how to explain what I am tasting in a more descriptive way.

I’ll be breaking my thoughts into a few posts:

Part 1: Evening Events
Part 2: Seminars (This post)
Part 3: Homebrew Expo
Part 4: Other highlights and parting thoughts

First Timer’s Thoughts on NHC 2014

Want to hear my thoughts on our first trip to the 2014 National Homebrewers Conference?  Keep reading.
We always do a long weekend trip somewhere each summer that is typically within driving distance from our home on the northeast side of Indianapolis.  I’m always looking for ways to incorporate beer into that trip.  I somehow tricked my wife into coming with me by telling her it would be our weekend getaway for the summer.  One of the things that did help get her excited was reading letter to the editor from the wife of a homebrewer in the November/December 2013 Issue of Zymurgy that talked about how it was cool when women attend NHC.

This was my first realistic chance to attend NHC, since I’ve started brewing.  Although a bit pricey from the outside, I can say for a true beer geek, it is worth the cost of admission.  I’m just going to give a review of our trip from a newbie’s perspective and try to keep it as short as possible.

I’ll start with the evening events, then the seminars, the equipment and then some other highlights.

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Difficulty: level_1

If you have made it this far, please continue.

Evening Events

Welcome Reception (formerly, Pro-Brewers Night)

010-Welcome Reception Beer List

Overall, we were disappointed in the welcome reception for two reasons.

One, those serving the beer were merely employees of the convention hall and couldn’t answer anything about the beers they were serving.  Perhaps there is a good reason for it, but it would have been nice if each beer served had representation from the brewery that made it.  At a minimum, it would have been helpful for each beer to have an explanation beyond just a name and type.

Two, honestly, I was a bit disappointed in the offerings.  Nothing really blew me away.

It was cool that almost all the breweries represented were from Michigan, but again, no representation.  And that’s all I’ve got to say about that!

Club Night


Ok, so as disappointed as we were in the welcome reception, we loved Club Night.  Almost everything I tried was spectacular or was at least something I had never before tasted.  Variations on mead, a Braggot, Kombucha and some other interesting twists.  We only made it to about a third of the booths, because we were having such a good time talking to the brewers, meeting new people and trying the beer.  Before we knew it, the lights were dimming and we all reluctantly (but politely) vacated the premises.

010-WHALES Menu

Some of my most memorable beers were from the W.H.A.L.E.S. Brew Club, where one brewer (last name Hansen) was showcasing some historic beers.  The one that blew me away the most was the 1839 XXX based on Ron Pattinson’s 1839 Barclay Perkins XXX.  I think brewing historic beers is going to me my next venture into beers I’ve never tasted before.


We also had a nice long conversation with a recently engaged couple from Kansas City.  They were from the Kansas City Bier Meisters.  The women (Amanda) was a like minded engineer and she had an excellent beer on tap called Face Melter (Imperial Dark Saison).  And yes it was!

Awards Banquet

I heard it was great, but being a dad is kind of a big deal to me, so we packed up the mini van and headed home so we could get back in time to see our kids again and be well rested for the Father’s Day activities the next day.

I’ll be breaking my thoughts into a few posts:

Part 1: Evening Events (This post)
Part 2: Seminars
Part 3: Homebrew Expo
Part 4: Other highlights and parting thoughts