First Time Attendee Guide

by AHA Conference Veterans For Fun

First Time National Homebrewers Conference Attendee Guide

An AHA conference is an amazing confluence of incredible beer, knowledge and community. This guide was created to help you get the most out of your time at the conference. It’s a lot to take in. So, our best advice is to have a plan, and don’t be greedy. There will be more beers in the next event…and the next…and the next…you get the picture. It’s a marathon, not a sprint.

Registration, Hotel & Travel
General Conference Tips

Conference Week Events
National Homebrew Competition
Homebrew Expo & Social Club
Seminars
Book Signings
Welcome Reception & Toast
Pro-Brewers
Club Night
Grand Banquet & Awards Ceremony
General Drinking Tips
Beer at the Conference
Food
Social Tips
The “Attire”
Thank You

Registration, Hotel & Travel

Grand Rapids, Mich. is the host city for the 2014 conference, June 12-14.

Registration opens in February. Recently, due to high interests in homebrewing nationwide, the conference has experienced a quick sell out. Registration is only open to AHA members. Join now! Each member may bring one guest. Your guest registration must be purchased at the time of the member registration.

The all of the official conference activities take place in DeVos Place, Grand Rapids’ convention center. There is no official host hotel. Once the registration lottery is completed, hotel information and special rates will be sent to registered attendees.

DeVos Place Map – coming soon

Please use caution when booking travel plans. The AHA recommends waiting until your conference reregistration is confirmed before scheduling major travel plans.

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General Conference Tips

National Homebrewers Conference GlasswareWill glassware be provided?
Yes. Commemorative glass provided for each attendee. Bring your glass with you everywhere you go – plastic cups ruin the flavor of your homebrew, and you never know when Drew Beechum is going to crack a bottle of Brut. And that guy standing next to you you’ve never seen before? Probably an awesome homebrewer with a bottle of tripel in his pocket looking for someone to share it with.

Will I need a car?
Not during the conference. The majority of the people attending this conference say it is like a time warp – you go in Wednesday night and don’t come out till Sunday sometime. And besides, there isn’t likely much need for one, as the action is at the conference.

Hold onto your badge.
Your conference badge must be worn around your neck at every official conference event. This includes seminars, Homebrew Expo, Social Club and the banquet. No badge, no entry, no exceptions.

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Conference Week Events

The local committee, sponsors, breweries and friends of the AHA plan a number of trips, brewery tours and pub crawls that happen a few days before or during conference week and are not part of conference registration. These events are a fun way to meet people and get into the local culture. Be sure to book your travel plans to accommodate events early in the week. Sign up early to help them plan the event.

Visit the Events section to learn more.

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National Homebrew Competition

The final round, judged during the conference, winnows down the survivors of the first judging gauntlet. This round is fast and furious, holding the fate of the homebrewing world in its hands. If you’re a judge or steward, don’t forget to register to participate–we need you! (coming soon)

Judges should have registered ahead of time, but if you’re free, look for the person in the judging area with their hair on fire and ask them if they could use some help…or a bucket of water. If you’re thinking about becoming a judge, stewarding can be a valuable learning experience. You can find more information about judging at www.bjcp.org.

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Homebrew Expo & Social Club

Pro Brewers Night

The Homebrew Expo & Social Club is a magical wonderland of vendors, stuff to pick up and sniff and drool over. Oh and there’s plenty of homebrew on tap from local (and not so local) clubs!

Did you bring your glass?
No? Why not? Go get your glass!

What is it?
The Homebrew Expo & Social Club is a great place to meet friends old and new.

During the day, grab a beer from one of the clubs pouring brew, drool over the latest gadgets from retailers and manufacturers, and see the world’s tallest microbiologist. Do be careful what (or who) you drool on, though.

At night, the Social Club is the party. It will open when the last event of the evening ends and stay open until midnight. After that, you’re on your own.

How can my club pour our beer in the Social Club?
Sign up for a slot—in advance, please.

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Seminars

National Homebrewers Conference Seminars

The conference talks are hosted by big names you know and probably shouldn’t trust (all 3 days). Many repeat so you should be able to get to all those you have been waiting your whole life to see.

Did you bring your glass?
No? Why not? Go get your glass!

Will there be beer?
Some of the talks will have beer/mead/cider included. Be polite when taking samples and don’t take full glasses or those in the row behind you might attack if they don’t get any.

Since most seminars don’t offer beer, grab one from Homebrew Expo & Social Club before the talk.

Do I need to sign up?
If by sign up you mean “Do I have to walk into a room?”, then yes. If you mean do you have to choose one and put your name down somewhere, then no. There are multiple seminars running simultaneously during each time slot. You can attend any one you want until the room fills up. Get there early to secure your seat.

Are the talks repeated?
Most of the talks scheduled during Thursday’s judging are repeated so that judges don’t miss out on the goods because they judged!

I’ve been brewing for 0-50 years, will I learn anything at the talks?
We’ve attempted to create talks aimed at all levels of brewing:

Joe New Brewer will learn lots at the talks.
John Palmer learns things at the talks.

There are two speakers I want to see at the same time!
And how?! Here at the AHA we’ve been diligently researching how to effectively be in two places at once. The first part of the equation seems to be a nice glass of barleywine. The second part involves a comfy couch. That’s as far as we’ve gotten. However, we now record all of the seminars and put both audio and presentations files on the web following the conference.

Check out all the 2013 audio and presentations files. (open to AHA members only)

National Homebrewers Conference Seminars

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Book Signings

If there is a speaker who has written a book that you are contemplating purchasing, it will likely be available for sale at the conference and there is a good chance you could get it signed – just saying, if that is something you might like to add to the ‘ole library.

If you already own a copy, feel free to bring it–the more beat up the better. Authors love adding their illegible scrawls and pithy bon mots to books, and many will be there in the flesh, as long as they remembered to register in time.

Check here or in your program for the book signing schedule. (coming soon)

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Welcome Reception & Toast

New in 2014, conference attendees will enjoy a welcome reception on Thursday evening. Sample beers from local craft brewers and snack on appetizers in a fun, intimate event alongside other registered attendees. AHA Director Gary Glass will officially kick off the conference with a group toast.

The welcome reception is Thursday’s final official conference event of the day. After the reception ends at 7:30 pm, consider exploring Grand Rapids for dinner and beers at nearby breweries and beer bars.

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Pro-BrewersPro Brewers Night

Although this is a homebrewers conference, you will see professional beer and brewers in seminars, Homebrew Expo, Welcome Reception & Toast, during the Keynote and at the Grand Banquet.

Show them some love as they share their hard work with you. Oh, yeah, and drink their beer.

Did you bring your glass?
No? Why not? Go get your glass!

see General Drinking Tips

Many stations will have a brewer available to chat and ask questions. Be kind to your fellow conference attendee and don’t hold up the line, there are probably thirsty homebrewers behind you.

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Club Night

Club Night is the happiest homebrew gathering on the planet. Marvel at the booths, the food, the ingenuity and the creativity. This is the BIG ONE. Wear a silly hat if you have one. Did we mention beer?

Did you bring your glass?
No? Why not? Go get your glass!

While light snacks are provided, please have a full dinner before coming to Club Night. You don’t want all of the great homebrew going straight to your head!

Many clubs don’t just pour beer, they go all out with a theme, costumes, and beer serving gadgets. You may have to lift a dog’s tail to get a beer, or try your luck with a beer dispensing slot machine!

There are far more beers at Club Night than any one person could possibly sample, so don’t try! Remember to savor the flavor.

see General Drinking Tips

Whatever you you do, DO NOT get into an ugly shirt contest with anyone not wearing shoes.

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Grand Banquet & Award Ceremony

National Homebrewers Conference Grand Banquet

This gourmet beer paired dinner is followed by watching your old and new friends win awards at the largest beer competition in the world.

Did you bring your glass?
No? That’s okay. Fancy glassware is provided for you.

How do I save a seat?
Overly anxious attendees get there early and wait in line! The line starts forming around 5:00 pm and you’ll need to be swift to get the best seats in the house. But relax, don’t worry, there is a seat for everyone.

Can I Bring Beer to the Grand Banquet?
Only if you share with others! Beer is served with each course during the banquet. If you want to share some of your brew with folks at your table, you may bring in some homebrew, so long as it will fit on or under your table.

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General Drinking Tips

General Drinking Tips at the National Homebrewers Conference

We know you’re an expert, but bear with us. There will be a lot of beer, do not try to drink it all at once. Seriously, pace yourself. During some of the seminars limited samples are offered, but when you add up what is available from mid-morning until late at night, you don’t want to over indulge at the risk of missing some cool events.

Stay hydrated, drink plenty of water. The conference is not a sprint, it’s not a marathon, it’s Iron Brewer.

Also in the veteran conference attendees medicine bag: Gatorade, Propel (available in easy just-add-water packets for those who fly), aspirin, milk thistle, multi-vitamins (emergen-c, the official morning beverage of Drew Beechum).

As delicious as it is, beer is not really food. Don’t get carried away with your conversation on hop glycosides and hot side aeration and forget to eat.

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Beer at the Conference

Beer brought for Club Night or Social Club
If you are bringing beer for your club’s Club Night booth or Social Club shift, be sure to label it in advance and drop it off at an appointed time and proper location.

Is it OK to randomly share beer?
No, we don’t like the random sharing of beer unless we happen to be there to be shared with. Seriously, can you think of a better venue to share, get feedback and hear comments about what is in your bottle?

How do I get my kegs of beer?
If your keg has been properly labeled, it will be delivered to the appropriate place at the appropriate time. If your keg has not been properly labeled it will be considered a donation to the cellar crew. They have a tough job.

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Food

We’re not your parents, but trust us, eat something more substantial than a hotel mint before any of the big evening parties. You’ll thank us.

In order to keep registration fees low, we limit hotel catered food to appetizers during the welcome reception and club night. Dinner is served at the banquet, for additional costs. You can buy breakfast, lunch and dinner from nearby restaurants for a fraction of what it would cost to cater the same meals for you at the conference.

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Social Tips

National Homebrewers Conference Social Tips

Talk to people; “brewing gods” are approachable. Just walk up and say hi. Randy Mosher, for instance, has only been known to bite one homebrewer per year, and this is rarely fatal since the rabies cleared up. Maybe it will be you!

Talk to people, make new friends, talk to people you just met on the forum.

But people scare me!
Then have a beer!

But I don’t like beer!
Are you sure you’re at the right place? Do we need to call a doctor?

Seriously, homebrewers are the best. You will make new friends at this conference. Did I say talk to people? What to say? Hey, start by asking them what the best beer they had was. That is except for Drew Beechum, now he’s scary (but not as scary as Denny Conn). Only mildly so, and only if he’s missed his morning coffee.

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The “Attire”

National Homebrewers Conference Attire

It’s homebrewing, so we’re fairly relaxed. Facial hair and beer shirts abound. If you want truly bad taste, just look for Crispy Frey and his multi-tonal pastel couture collection. Try not to look for it. We dare you.

An event specific t-shirt is almost inevitably available for sale at the conference, tuck $15 or so away and buy one early, because they sell out quick. In fact, plan on it–it’s one less item you need to pack for the conference.

Please dress a little nicer for the banquet dinner. This is not the time for your brew-day clothes.

Do I have to wear shoes?
Do not take this decision lightly. You are responsible for your own feet. But, be warned, Mike Bardallis won’t wear shoes either. Do you really want to share the same carpet as his feet? Eeewww!

Can I wear a kilt?
No, kilts may not be worn. People don’t wear kilts, kilts wear people. If your kilt would like to wear you to the conference, great. There will be many kilts wearing people there, probably a kaftan and a moo-moo, too.

What about outrageous costumes?
More outrageous than old-timey bathing suits, Mexican wrestlers, or 20s gangsters? Yes. Costumes are encouraged, especially on Club Night.

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Thank You!

Thank you for attending the AHA Conference. We hope it’s the best time you have all year!

This sure-to-be-amazing event is also put together by a large local committee and dedicated AHA staff, and has been in the planning for at least two years. Don’t forget to thank everybody who has worked so hard to make this happen. Your gratitude will be appreciated by the fine folks who work for the AHA, and hug a local volunteer as well – they deserve it!

See you there!