We flew out of DFW early Wednesday morning to arrive in San Diego around noon before we checked in and then decided to find a good local beer or two for sampling. Where did we end up? Monkey Paw Brewing in the downtown area was our first stop--and after all was said and done, possibly our favorite stop. We each picked up a sampler tray and had at some really tasty beers and sandwiches. This place had a great variety and was still a cozy little corner pub styled place. And without our knowing, we later found out that this was the same brewery with which our staff member Derek once brewed a pro-am beer after winning a large local competition. Afterward, we also wandered until we hit Half Door Brewing Co, where we enjoyed a well done and refreshing Berliner Weisse (let's face it, that isn't exactly a common occurrence with every BW you run into out there).
Afterward, we went back to the hotel and got into conference mode for the industry-only events and receptions that happen the night before the actual start of the conference. Here, we had a chance to talk to a number of homebrew supply store owners, suppliers, and technical types who not only shared some great info about a variety of subjects in the industry, but also had a helluva good time. We went to three different reception events that night, starting out by the hotel pool area for an LD Carlson reception with all the Ballast Point Sculpin and Victory at Sea you could want (which was kind of dangerous for some folks considering the ABV), then up to the top floor of the hotel to the BSG Handcraft reception for some snacks and Firestone Walker Pivo Pils amongst others, then we managed to catch the last few minutes of the Brewcraft reception at the Ballast Point Tasting Room and Kitchen, before we finished the night with our first visit to the hotel pub, Charlie's. We got to know them fairly well over the next few days. Great fun staff, so if you ever stay at the Town and Country be sure to visit (ask them if they remember Mr. Jones).
Thursday morning the conference got rolling with some industry seminars and updates and the start of the expo. Homebrewers poured into the conference center and enjoyed themselves as they checked out all the supplier's products, many of which you can find in our store. For example, we stopped and spoke with our friends at FastRack, the creators of the FastRack bottle drying system, the FastFerment conical fermenter, and FastLabels. They didn't have any new products this year, but they did tell us how well accepted their gear has been in the industry and how easy their drying system has made the lives of homebrewers. Plus, Stubby did well enough at their bottle stacking challenge to win a custom colored FastRack to take home. We also caught up with the makers of our chillers, Coldbreak Brewing, Monster Mills, OhmBrew Automations, and many others, including Craftmeister, from which you'll soon see more great cleaning products on our shelves. Oh and did I mention all the beer? They served up a variety from the homebrew clubs in the Social Club area and in the expo itself there were beers from Lagunitas, Green Flash, Samuel Adams (with the Longshot winners), Bell's, Coronado, and others that the conference goers were happily sampling during the expo and between seminars.
That afternoon we had lunch at the Stone Brewing World Bistro at Liberty Station. There were some good beers on tap and it was a gorgeous place with interesting building materials and architecture. Though we all agreed that the food was only okay, especially for the price. And it also had one major drawback: it's located across an inlet from the end of the San Diego International Airport. Which is a VERY busy airport. Flights were taking off about every five minutes, which didn't make for the most pleasant outdoor dining experience. And that night? The pro brewery night! Over 2000 folks crammed into lines to get to the pro beers. Some great stuff was on tap, but we cut out early to skip the lines and we happily took a seat at Charlie's to end the night. The favorite beer: Cali Creamin' from Mother Earth Brewing Co. We need to reverse engineer this recipe!
Speaking of seminars, they continued from Thursday morning through Saturday morning. During that time, we caught up with our friend Kevin Lane from Fermentis for his seminar on yeast that covered the same territory that he recently spoke to us about on our podcast. He had a great turnout at both sessions and the Fermentis booth at the expo was popular. You can check out a little of the footage and pics from his seminar at his podcast link above. Also, Denny Conn and Drew Beechum put on another great experiment based brewing seminar that had the room completely packed. We'd caught up with them earlier in the conference to talk about the success of the related book, Experimental Homebrewing. They also spoke to us about the next book they're working on, Homebrew All Stars. You can check out that interview on our NHC Recap podcast.