Homebrewers flock to Chicago

Record crowds sample real beer and real food, cheer winners

June 27, 2003 - Bruce Stott of Connecticut was named Homebrewer of the Year and Curt Hausam of Oregon won the Ninkasi Award handed out during a record-setting American Homebrewers Association national conference in Chicago.


Attendance for the 25th annual conference topped 750, more than triple the number for the previous year.

"The attendance, enthusiasm and speaker lineup far exceeded our expectations. The Chicago area clubs are a big reason this conference was such a success," said Paul Gatza, director of the AHA.

Scott, who brews with the Hop River Brewers in Rockville, Conn., won best of show for his Cee Cee Schwarz beer. Quality Ale & Fermentation Fraternity (QUAFF) of San Diego captured Homebrew Club of the Year for the third straight year. Hausam won the Ninksasi Award for the second straight year, for his overall performance in the competition.

International beer authority Michael Jackson, a long time friend of American homebrewers, kicked off the conference by stressing the importance of homebrewing in the development of the American craft brewing movement.

Highlights from the conference included:

- Thursday's annual club night, with attendance close to 450, had groups from different communities vie for attention with homemade beers, foods and costumes. Groups dressed as bowlers, monks, prisoners and gangsters, manning their booths while dishing out everything from Ohio sauerkraut balls to Texas barbeque and filling cups with everything from roasted pepper ale to oily black Imperial Stout.

- Presentations at this year's conference covered a wide range of topics including brewing, beer culture and food. In addition to the usual talks on specific beer styles and brewing techniques, this year's program sought to include other food arts such as cheese making and sourdough bread baking and also included several talks on matching beer with food.

Lucy Saunders, author of Cooking with Beer and, led off this section talking about techniques and approaches for cooking with beer. She was followed by Garrett Oliver, brewmaster of the Brooklyn Brewery and author of the recently published "The Brewmaster's Table: Discovering the Pleasures of Real Beer and Real Food." The third talk in the series paired 13 beers with different cheeses with some surprising results.

- Saturday night's event called Real Beer Real Food was a walk-around tasting of food and beer open to the general public. "It's an attempt to cross-pollinate the craft food and beer worlds," says event organizer Randy Mosher. "We wanted to show people how many great combinations of food and beer there are, to show it off in it's proper context. And as it has for the last few thousand years, it makes for a pretty enjoyable party." More than 750 guests enjoyed American and imported craft beer of every description, along with foods including artisanal cheese, smoked meats and sausage, pickles, bread, and more, including beer-infused cheesecake and ice cream.

- Second-round judging of the AHA National Homebrew Competition was held onsite June 1819 during the conference. The best of 3,340 beer and mead entries from U.S. and Canadian homebrewers that advanced to the second round of the competition were judged. The results.

Paul Zocco of Andover, Conn., won Meadmaker of the Year, and Steve Olson of Menasha, Wis., was designated Cidermaker of the Year.