The American Homebrewers Association's National Homebrewers Conference (NHC, or Homebrew Con, if you prefer) takes place in Baltimore this week. The location gives some of the area's finest brewers, both home- and professional, a chance to learn, network, win some awards, and present. Here's who to look for from the DC area, and where to share a pint with them in Charm City.
Where: The conference itself takes place at the Baltimore Convention Center, conveniently located across the street from The Pratt Street Ale House, where Steve Jones risked long-term back pain by brewing English-style ales in the basement.
CRAFT LAGER: WHAT’S OLD IS NEW AGAIN
Florida has seen a renaissance of brewing and beer styles over the past 10 years, though the surprisingly rich history of Prohibition-era lagers has faded away. This seminar is focused on the tradition of brewing in Miami, from business and advertising to process and ingredients. Craft lagers are making a comeback, and we’ll guide you through their brewing from the eye of the homebrewer. Stop worrying and learn to start loving—and brewing—lagers all over again.
Note: Josh is a past president of DC Homebrewers, and is using a DCBeer article in his seminar.
HOMEBREW BLOGGERS ROUNDTABLE
Derek Springer, Marshall Schott, Ed Coffey, Matt Humbard
Seminar Room 324–326
Homebrewers are a naturally curious and industrious lot: we love to experiment and expand horizons in pursuit of the perfect pint. Leading the charge on the homebrew frontier are bloggers, folks who document their adventures so that everyone can learn from their efforts. Derek Springer, Marshall Schott, Ed Coffey, and Matt Humbard are four prolific bloggers and experimenters who are passionate about expanding the state of the art and helping everyone get in on the fun. Join them as they talk about finding a homebrew passion, overcoming the challenges of putting words on “paper,” and anything else the audience wants to discuss.
REGIONAL AMERICAN IPA: WHAT’S UP WITH ALL THE CRYSTAL MALT?
Paul Sangster, Carrie Knose, Favio Garcia
This seminar will discuss the differences between East Coast, West Coast, and Midwest American style IPAs. We will compare and contrast each variation and show recipe examples highlighting the differences. The panel will include professional brewers from each region discussing their area’s customer preferences and where they see the market going for IPAs.
Favio Garcia is the Head of Brewing Operations at Ashburn's Lost Rhino Brewing Company. Also, please stop putting crystal malt in American IPAs.
THE DARK AGES: BALTIC, MUNICH, OR KULMBACH?
Michael Stein, Peter Jones
Baltic, Munich, and Kulmbacher: this presentation travels through European and American lands to get a better understanding of dark lager. Learn how German, Czech, and Baltic porter styles were appropriated by American breweries before, during, and after Prohibition. These styles barely resurfaced after “the great experiment,” but they are alive and well today and this presentation will explain lessons learned from historic breweries and how they can be used to improve your homebrewing.
Peter Jones is a DC homebrewer, while Stein has the title of Senior Staff Writer for this very site. They'll also be discussing historical porters at the Rennaissance Hotel in Baltimore for the Beer Judging Certification Program (BJCP) this week. Together they preside over Lost Lagers.
HOPPY SOUR BEERS: TAKING THE BITTER OUT OF IPA
Michael Tonsmeire, aka The Mad Fermentationist
Conventional brewing wisdom was that hoppy beers shouldn’t be sour and sour beers shouldn’t be hoppy. Luckily, innovative brewers have discovered that hops’ citrusy, tropical, and spicy aromatics meld beautifully with acidity. But what is the best process: mixed-culture fermenting with dry hops, kettle-souring with a hop stand, or maybe blending a 100-percent Brettanomyces-fermented IPA with acid beer? Taste and decide for yourself!
In addition, plenty of DC homebrewers helped out with organizing this conference, given its proximity. Thanks, all!
Yeah, Yeah, But What Should I Drink? And Where?
Calm down, junior. DCBeer editor Bill DeBaun has you covered:
Baltimore is a fun little city with a lot of corner bars. If you aren't fussy and don't mind a dive, any number of places are perfect for a shot of Pikesville Rye and a can of Natty Boh (which is no longer brewed in Baltimore but is still popular in the area).
My trips to Baltimore tend to be Penn Station-centric, so I'll start there and get further out. Within easy walking distance south of Penn is The Brewer's Art; it's a beautiful space inside an old building. The floor you walk in on has a lounge area and dining room, and the basement is more of a roughcut, dark, cellar feel with lots of private alcoves. The house beers here are impeccably brewed true to Belgian style, and the food here is delightful. A little pricey overall, but you definitely get what you pay for. The wine and cocktail lists here are also great.
If you're into Japanese, Ten Ten Ramen, which is quite close to The Brewer's Art is excellent, but it isn't much of a bar, just a good lunch/dinner place. The takoyaki (octopus balls) are excellent here, and I don't care if you don't like octopus.
South of Ten Ten Ramen is Lexington Market, which is kind of like Philly's Italian Market but a little bit rougher. Inside you can find bakeries, delis, cheap ethnic food, produce, etc. It's nothing fancy, and the quality is highly variable, but it's fun to walk inside and catch a quick bite. You might even catch an impromptu funk concert.
Further south from here (still "downtown," near Royal Farms Arena) is Alewife. Alewife is another aesthetically pleasing space with lots of dark wood. The beer selection here is great and constantly changing. The food is upscale-bordering-on-pretentious pub fare. The service for me has been inconsistent, but the quality of the food and beverage helps me to overlook that. Good for groups as the bar area is big. They do brunch if you're into that.
Still further south (a short walk, maybe four blocks) is the Pratt Street Alehouse. If The Brewer's Art is giving you authentic Belgian styles, Pratt Street has everything you'll want from the British spectrum. Head brewer is a British expat, and it shows in the high-quality milds, bitters, English-style IPA, cream ales, porters, stouts, etc. There's also a touch of the irreverent in these beers, so you'll see some nontraditional takes as well. The food is pretty decent pub fare, somewhat akin to Alewife. Another huge space.
About two miles east of Pratt Street Alehouse is Max's Taphouse. Max's is one of the best beer bars on the east coast in terms of selection. Something like 70 taps or something, and hundreds of bottles. The atmosphere is kind of kitschy, but the place is gigantic. The staff can be a little bit holier-than-thou, but this is a good place to kill a few hours with samples. I can't say much about the food except that when I've had it it has soaked up alcohol in a satisfactory fashion.
About a mile and a half east of Max's is Of Love and Regret, which is in the Brewer's Hill neighborhood. OLAR is a beer nerd favorite among those of us in DC. Run by Brian Strumke, brewer for Stillwater Artisanal Ales, this place is an excellent gastropub that features Stillwater's odd, experimental, yeast-driven beers (try Cellar Door, a saison with white sage). The shot and beer combos are excellent, and so is the cold-brew coffee on draft (on nitrogen, no less). A bit out of the way, but a very, very worthy destination.
Going all the way back to Penn Station, let's head on the north swing now.
First is a butcher/sandwich shop called Parts & Labor that is about a 25 minute walk from the train station. The sandwiches here are dynamite (and very fairly priced), and the beer selection is rotating and high quality. Run by the same folks as Woodberry Kitchen, consistently one of the best restaurants in Baltimore.
From there to go further north, you'll want a cab. The trip to Union Brewing Company takes about 10 minutes and should be on your list because they make some of the best beers in the mid-Atlantic. Check to make sure they're open and swing by to have a few pints. It gets full, but the staff and crowd are both friendly.
Within walking distance of Union is Blue Pit BBQ. Great beer, better cocktails, and excellent barbecue (try the beans, which have brisket in them) make for a winning combination.
If you want a fancy dinner, Woodberry Kitchen is near Union, but call ahead for a reservation. You cannot walk in here. This place has been the spearhead for local "mid-Atlantic cuisine" since it opened.