Last weekend I was in the pretty little town of Market Bosworth. For the Home Brew Festival, where I had been invited to speak. It sounded like a good laugh so why not? I might even get to flog a few books.
I’d been invited last year, but declined because it clashed with the NHC (American Homebrewers Association National Homebrewers Conference) in San Diego. Not that I went to the NHC – I was blackballed for the second year in a row – but I was in San Diego at the same time. It’s a long and slightly depressing story that I won’t go into now.
Having attended the NHC in 2014, I was able to compare and contrast the two events held either side of the pond.
The most obvious difference was the scale. The NHC draws hundreds, if not thousands of attendees, to big, flashy convention centres. The Market Bosworth event is held in a rugby club pavilion and a marquee. That’s partly a function of the relative popularity of the hobby in the two countries. After a burst of popularity in the 1960’s and 1970’s, home brewing fell out of favour in the UK, though there has been a recent resurgence. While in the USA it’s massive.
The NHC is a full-blown home-brewing exhibition, with manufacturers filling a hall with tempting shiny things. In Market Bosworth it was more about people swapping surplus bits of kit with each other.
And while the Americans have seminars in multiple theatres, the Brits have a tent with a few odd chairs for those listening.
But I have to say that in many ways I enjoyed the Home Brew Festival more than the NHC. Its smallness meant I had chance to talk to pretty well everyone there. At least anyone who wanted to talk to me. And a very friendly bunch they were. Neither I nor Dolores – whom I’d dragged along – lacked company at any point.
Then there was the beer. You don’t see much Mild at the NHC. While here there was plenty. That particularly impressed Dolores. She’s almost as big a fan of Mild as I am, which is quite an achievement. And there were plenty of other styles there, too, both fashionable and unfashionable. So as well as the inevitable IPAs, also Brown Ales and Ordinary Bitters.
Wine and cider, too. Dolores was particularly interested in the former, as she makes it herself. She’s been struggling to avoid oxidation and she managed to get some good tips from the winemakers in attendance. And to drink some of the surprisingly good wines that were available. Maybe she wouldn’t have drunk quite as much if they hadn’t been so good. For once wearing my sensible head, I just stuck to beer.
The only downer was the weather. I’d planned on dropping by on the Friday evening, but it absolutely pissed it down. I didn’t fancy walking a mile along a country road in the pouring rain. So we sheltered in the Ye Olde Red Lion, the pub where we were staying. Warm, dry and with several cask beers in pretty good nick. It could have been much worse.
We didn’t completely manage to avoid the rain, as it was raining when we left on Saturday evening. The walk was a little scary as well as damp. Country road with no pavement, at night, in the rain. Where were all those cars going to/coming from? I’m glad I wasn’t staying in a tent like many who attended. Must have been murder keeping dry.
Oh, one last difference with the NHC. The Home Brew Festival paid me travelling expenses. All I got from the NHC was free entrance to the conference.
The Home Brew Festival
Market Bosworth Rugby Football Club
Ye Olde Red Lion Hotel
1 Park Street,
CV 13 0LL
Tel.: +44 (0) 1455 291713
AHA National Homebrewers Conference
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