When you think about American beer towns, a few come to mind: Denver, Milwaukee, and even little Asheville are known for their multitude of craft breweries and passionate lager lovers.
"Baltimore is a great beer town," says AHA director Gary Glass. "Not only have we really been embraced by the craft breweries there, but there's also a passionate community of home brewers."
The conference, which takes place June 9-11 at the Baltimore Convention Center, is expected to attract 3,000 attendees from around the country (and Canada) to enjoy 64 educational beer seminars, an expo with two-ounce samples from 84 home-brew clubs, and an awards ceremony where the winners of the National Homebrew Competition will be announced.
The weekend kicks off on Thursday, June 9, with a keynote speech by Sam Calagione, founder of Delaware-based craft brewery DogFish Head, known for its innovation and experimentation. That night, the craft beer kick-off party will feature product from 50 local craft breweries and home brewers alike, an aspect unique to our home state.
"Back in the ‘90s, Heavy Seas founder Hugh Sisson helped passed a bill that allows us to have both donated home brew and donated commercial craft beer at our event," Glass says. "No other state in the country has that on the books."
The next three days will be filled with ultra-niche, home-brew seminars with topics like "Welcome to the Dark Side: The Evolution of Porter" and "Taking the Bitter out of an IPA." There will also be classes on throwing a beer event for charity and turning your home-brew club pro. On Friday morning, beer historian and former Sun columnist Rob Kasper will give an hour-long talk on the history of brewing in Baltimore.
"We've always had the competition aspect, but the education events have really taken off as well," Glass says. "But it's really meant to be a fun event. It's beer at the end of the day. Actually, it's beer all day,” he adds with a laugh.
Besides events at the convention, local breweries and bars will be getting in on the HomeBrewCon fun, including a tour and tasting at Heavy Seas Brewery, pints and pancakes with Flying Dog Brewery at Mahaffey's Pub, and a sour ale fest at Alewife.
The conference culminates on Saturday night when AHA organizers announce the winners of the National Homebrewers Competition, which was narrowed down from more than 7,000 entries in 28 style categories.
Glass points out that, while some of the most popular craft beers today (Fat Tire from New Belgium, Boston Lager from Sam Adams) evolved from home-brew recipes, it’s an incredibly accessible and approachable hobby to pick up.
“The biggest misconception is that it’s hard to do,” says Glass, who has been home-brewing for 20 years and is currently trying to perfect his saison. “It’s essentially like making condensed soup on your stove top. The reward takes a little longer since it needs to ferment. But it really can be that simple.”