More than 3,400 homebrewers and beer enthusiasts gathered at the 35th Annual National Homebrewers Conference this weekend at the Philadelphia Marriott Downtown. The Conference was presented the American Homebrewers Association (AHA), and attendees attended seminars, bonded over brews, and had their beers judged in the world’s largest beer competition.
The last time a woman was named Homebrewer of the Year at the AHA National Homebrew Competition, Ronald Reagan was president, Toto won a Grammy, and ‘M.A.S.H.’ aired its final episode. Flash forward to 2013, and Annie Johnson earned the Homebrewer of the Year award with her Lite American Lager.
Tavish Sullivan won the Cidermaker of the Year award with his Common Cider, and Mark Tanner won the Meadmaker of the Year award with his Strawberry, Rhubarb, and Blackberry Mead. Local homebrewer David Barber won the Ninkasi Award as the winningist brewer in the competition. He won gold medals in the Strong Ale, German Wheat, and Rye Beer categories; his homebrew club, Lehigh Valley Homebrewers, also won the Gambrinus Club Award.
“Homebrewing is growing fast and attracting a more diverse following,” said Gary Glass, director, American Homebrewers Association. “I’m pleased see a woman win the Homebrewer of the Year Award, and it’s impressive that she did so in a lager category. Lagers are difficult to brew well, which shows how homebrewers are more technically proficient than ever before.”
The National Homebrew Competition recognizes the most outstanding homemade beer, mead and cider produced by homebrewers worldwide. This year, there were 7,756 entries from 2,187 homebrewers located in 49 states and the District of Columbia, U.S. Military APO, Puerto Rico, three Canadian Provinces and Belgium, entered in the first round of the competition.
The first round of the competition took place at 11 regional sites in the United States, with each sending on the top three entries from 28 style categories to the final round of competition at the National Homebrewers Conference. It was here that 894 entries were evaluated by some of the top beer judges in the country. Over its 35-year history, the National Homebrew Competition has evaluated 103,075 brews. The first competition, held in 1979 in Boulder, Colorado, judged a mere 34 beers.
A complete list of winners of the 2013 National Homebrew Competition can be found on homebrewersassociation.org.
In addition to the competition, the conference provided attendees the opportunity to enhance their brewing skills through seminars such as “Yeast Culturing 101,” “Practical Malting,” and “Alternative Wood Aging Techniques,” while increasing their homebrew knowledge through sessions such as “Beers of our Founding Fathers” and “Biochemistry and the Mash.”
Conference-goers also enjoyed a series of events where they sampled each other’s brews and commercial craft beers. The Homebrew Expo & Social Club, Pro-Brewers Night ,and Club Night were opportunities for participants to try craft beers and meads from homebrew clubs and breweries across the country, while making new brew-savvy friends.
Tickets for the 2013 National Homebrewers Conference went on sale February 5 and sold out within 20 hours. Next year’s event heads to Grand Rapids, Michigan June 12 through 14.