NHC 2015 Review pt.2

Have you listened to all the NHC talks I reviewed in pt 1? Ready to do some more? Let's dive right in! Remember, you'll need to be a member of the AHA to listen, so if you haven't joined already, head on over to the AHA website and get yourself signed up.

  • Kilned Versus Roasted: Do You Really Know Your Specialty Malt? by David Richter - There isn't really anything here that you wouldn't be able to glean off a malt spec sheet. I suppose if you have zero clue as to how specialty malt is made, you might find this a bit interesting, but it comes across more as a slideshow tour of Briess than anything practical a homebrewer can use.

  • Making Enzymes Work For You by Randy Scorby - You might think that this talk would be over your head if you're not a science type person. Randy does a really great job of breaking down to a basic level that anyone can understand. This talk is somewhat of a mix between my articles on How to Read a Malt Analysis Sheet and Basic Brewing Science : Basic Molecular Components, so this might be old hat to IB readers, but if you haven't read those articles or you're more of an aural learner, load this talk into your favorite player and give it a go.

  • Malt by John Mallett - Could you be any more vague with the topic? Why not just say you're talking about "beer"? If you're curious, this is more of a history of malting than anything else. There's a bit of an overview of small scale maltsters in the US, however, since there are no notes to download, it's impossible to really know what is being shown during any part of the talk. This is a huge disservice for anyone trying to follow along at home. I'm not really sure what you can learn from this talk, but if you're a real malt nerd, you'll probably still enjoy it.

  • Managing Yeast: Better Fermentation at Lower Cost by Jamil Zainasheff - Long time listeners to The Brewing Network might remember back when Jamil first started and every podcast was an info-dense deluge of homebrewing wisdom. Do you long for the olden days? Pine away no longer, because old Jamil is back and this talk is full of great information on yeast management. How to harvest yeast, how to store yeast, measuring what you collected, and subsequent pitching are all gone over in great detail, but described plainly enough that any homebrewer can understand. I miss this Jamil and wish he'd show up back on The Brewing Network again.

  • Mastering the Art of Hop-Fu! by Kelsey McNair - Hop-fu? Yeah, I wondered what that was too. It's Kelsey's award winning IPA. The first ten minutes are a little slow as he relays the narrative of his background and the background of the beer, but then it picks up with the description of how he came to dial in water profile, mash schedule, hopping, boil, fermentation, and packaging. This really shouldn't be thought of as mastering a particular beer as much as it is a study in how to develop a recipe into an award winner and tips for making a great IPA.

  • Mead Panel with Curt Stock, Ken Schramm, Michael Fairbrother, Ryan Chaytor & Steve Piatz - I have run out of superlatives with which to describe things, so I shall make one up for this panel: scrumtrulescent. Since the Q&A portions of these talks seem to be where the real gems are uncovered and this entire segment is a giant Q&A with anecdotes from some of the best in the mead business, what else is appropriate other than scrumtrulescent?

  • Mead: Recipe Formulation and Advanced Techniques by Steve Piatz - Saying you want to make mead is analogous to saying you want to make "beer". What kind of beer? What ingredients do you have to work with? What vision do you have for your final product? This is the thrust of what Steve tackles here. He walks through what kind of honey and amount, yeasts, fruits, spices, blending ... everything and anything you can think of mead related. You're drinking off such a fire hose of mead knowledge listening to this talk that it's hard to summarize without completely transcribing the talk.

  • Ménage à Myces: Blended Yeast Fermentation by Chris White - This must be quite a hard topic to discuss, because I don't think even Chris did a great job with it. It's better than last year and it contains some interesting information about blending different strains at different concentrations, but that's about it. The Frankenbrew experiment where they mixed 96 different strains of yeast into a single batch was fun to hear about. You'd do just as well to read over the slides, then skip forward to ~30 minutes into the audio file where the Q&A start. Once the audience starts pitching questions at Chris, lots of good information comes to the surface.

  • Modern Homebrew Recipes by Gordon Strong - I personally like Gordon's talks because he doesn't tell you what to do, he tells you how to think. Some people might think that's silly or they just can't get into it, but I don't see how anything could be more valuable than understanding how a master homebrewer thinks and troubleshoots parts of the process.

  • Motivating Club Member Participation by Lauren Domm & Joe Domm - I can't even imagine organizing club meets of 90 - 100 people. It must be like herding cats ... drunk, surly cats. You'll come across a lot of good advice from a very well run club, but this talk is really a lesson in leadership and how to motivate any group of individuals to do something together as a team.

  • Nitro Draught for the Homebrewer by Juice Drapeau - Not really sure what to say about this. Nitro has always seemed really straight forward if you understand kegging and how to use CO2. Juice pretty much tells you exactly what you already know. I suppose if you know zero about kegging, this might be of some value, but otherwise there is little here.

  • Organized CHAOS: Taking Your Club to the Next Level by Dave Williams, Ken Getty & Lucas Morris - CHAOS has to be the most insane homebrew club out there. They have a shared brewing facility that's fully outfitted for use of club members' use. They have over 300 members on their roster. They do all kinds of insane events. It almost makes you want to move to Chicago ... if it wasn't for that whole winter thing. The real interesting part of this talk is how they share the history of their founding and how they grew into the organization they are today. If you're looking for inspiration for your homebrew club, I think you might find more here than in Motivating Club Member Participation.

  • Panel on Regulatory Climate for Homebrewers by Craig Hendry, Gary Glass & Tom McCormick - I know I say that education is the most important thing the AHA does, but this talk really focuses in on another important role they hold which is forming and lobbying for legislating relating to homebrewing. You'll get a bit of an overview of the current laws around homebrewing and then a history of alcohol law in the US and why things are as screwed up now as they are. Thankfully, the AHA is working with others to make those laws a little less screwy.

  • Panel: Taking Homebrewing to the Pro Level, From Concept and Design Through Opening by Curtis Chism, Dustin Hauck, Kelsey McNair & Paul Sangster - If you think this talk would be filled with romantic tales of elevating up from homebrewer to pro brewer, you will be very disappointed. It's more of a mix between Shark Tank and a government meeting on public access. That's not to imply it's a bad talk, it's really informative and I think the dry presentation is exactly what some homebrewers need that have their heads in the clouds about facing the real challenge of opening a craft brewery. When I hear about people plotting to open a brewery, they only talk about recipes and equipment, but rarely think about their business plan, raising capital, regulatory steps, retaining legal counsel, and the real brass tacks involved in getting your product to market.

  • Practical Blending and Post-Fermentation Adjustments for the Homebrewer by Kyle Kohlmorgen - Achieving balance and thinking like a chef is what Kyle advocates here. Kyle even says there's nothing Earth shattering here, but he gives several examples of how use blending to boost subtle elements already present in the beer and borrowing ideas from the culinary world.

  • Selecting Yeast Based on Strain Characteristics and Applying Environmental Conditions to Promote Flavor and Aroma Production by Kevin Lane - Ever get the feeling that someone is just phoning it in? You will. If you want to listen to a laundry list of someone reading out the possible variables that are available from yeast, this is your talk. The end is literally "Experiment. You can find the best yeast(s) or microorganisms for your fermentation/beer. Have fun. Do not be afraid to try something different or use a strain for something it isn’t suggested for. You are in control of your beer and production, do it your way and your way only!" What? No. I want you to tell me how to do it another way other than how I already do it. That's what this is supposed to be about.

  • Send In the Clones: Sensory Analysis and Recipe Formulation Techniques for Homebrewers by Amahl Turczyn - I never expect a whole lot when the presenter can't even be bothered to keep the text from running off the slide so you can't read it. Familiarize yourself with ingredients and understand what they bring to the party. Taste your target beer critically and take good notes. Try to build your clone around that. Really? No kidding. That isn't to say there isn't any value here. I think if you're studying for the BJCP, read over Amahl's descriptions of his target beers. There's some pretty good breakdowns of the target beers and I'd be happy if I saw a score sheet with this kind of detailed information on it.

  • Sensory and Flavor Training for Brewers by Pat Fahey - I've always wanted to do a tasting with flavor spikes to really confirm I understand off flavors as well as I think I do, so I'm a bit jealous of everyone in the room. It sounds really odd to say you're jealous of people drinking bad beer, but there it is. The description of tasting technique is really great and there's so many gems scattered throughout on flavor descriptors and developing your own flavor descriptors. Put it on your must listen no matter if you have flavor spikes or not, you'll learn a thing or two about describing flavors.

  • Taking Funky Beers from Homebrew to Pro by Peter Perrecone - Peter says be brews by feel. I'm not sure how you give a presentation on how you feel. This is a very basic overview of information you could find in 5 minutes in a Google search. Couple that with the fact that Peter sounds like he's getting over a cold and I think you can comfortably skip this one. If you want to know about sours, check out Tonsmeire's American Sour Beers or just go to The Mad Fermentationist.

  • Tasting Beyond the Scoresheet by Rich Higgins - Where for art thou, slides? I think I've already expressed how incredulous I am at those who don't include slides and this talk is no exception. When you get sixteen minutes in and you're still not really sure where the talk is going, you know you're in trouble. Just don't bother.

  • The Beginnings of Beer in the Ancient World by Travis Rupp - Perhaps I've been a little harsh on the last couple of topics, but you don't have to worry about that here. There's so much history on the origins of beer you won't know what to do with yourself. You start from the very beginnings of civilization on through the Roman empire and get an idea of what is know in regards to the ancients and beer. You don't get a lot of recipes per se, but you can get an idea of what ingredients are used, how things were malted, and how it was made. Definitely give this one a listen.

  • Thinking of Going Pro? You Must Understand How to Make Money Making Beer by Sam Holloway - This talk is an odd mix of motivational speech and MBA's for dummies. If you have zero brains for business and you think you might want to explore opening a brewery, you need to listen to this. It'll wake your brain up to the next step; writing a business plan. If you don't fit into this category, then you can skip this one. It's just ... odd.

  • Tips on How to Homebrew Lagers by Jason Pratt - Say what you want about Miller and other big brew houses, but they have certainly invested in brewing science and share some of that here. Even if you don't make lagers, this is a talk you should listen to. Jason goes into detail on propagating and pitching yeast, ester formation, oxygenation, and fermentation control. Perhaps you think you know everything in those arenas already, but Jason sprinkled gems of information throughout the presentation that I didn't know, so this is a must listen in my book.

  • What a Proper Pairing Can Do for Your Beer by Adam Dulye, Greg Brown & Sean Clark - While this is a good talk for the topic at hand, I think this is a really good talk to listen to in order to get a grasp on the language of flavor and mixing and matching flavors. That can be invaluable when studying for the BJCP or doing recipe development. Not really sure what I mean? Download this and go to about 14 minutes in when they talk about pairing IPA and carrot cake. Get it now? Rewind back to the beginning and get ready to expand your flavor vocabulary and how you think about flavors and tasting in general.

  • Why Good Tasting Water Can’t Guarantee You Great Beer by Martin Brungard - I have a high degree of respect for Martin and his work, so this talk was a bit of a let down. It's not a bad talk, it just seems a bit simplistic given the information you find in the notes of Bru'n Water and on Martin's Facebook posts. I also don't know if I agree that all water needs treatment, but I guess that depends on what you mean by treatment. There are some good quick tips for water additions towards the end if you're not as inclined to use Martin's spreadsheet and just want a quick win on water adjustments.

  • Wild and Spontaneous Fermentation at Home by James Howat - James gives a really interesting overview of Former Future's spontaneous fermentation and how you can scale those lessons down to use at home. He goes over in detail the steps needed to get started, how to capture wild strains, etc. As always, the Q&A is the meat and potatoes of the talk, so don't stop taking notes when the slides run out.

I really hope if you're not currently a member, this might encourage you to sign up either as a first time member or a renewal. If you do sign up, make sure you drop a line to them and tell them how much to appreciate the work they do for homebrewing education.


No other affiliate links in these posts. Just join the AHA!