Sunday, 19 June 2016

Not the NHC

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
Cadeby Lane,
Market Bosworth,
CV13 0BA

Ye Olde Red Lion Hotel
1 Park Street,
Market Bosworth,
CV 13 0LL
Tel.: +44 (0) 1455 291713

AHA National Homebrewers Conference


Anonymous said...

Why were you black balled? You can't leave that one hanging out there!

Anonymous said...

Any thoughts why homebrewing in the UK is less popular than in the US?

As an American, I get the sense that there are lots of hobbyists in the UK in other fields, like cooking. No shortage of beer enthusiasts there, for sure. I'd assume that there's not a shortage of malt, hops and yeast there, like there might be in places like Mexico or India, or some kind of problem getting the equipment.

Anonymous said...

Yes, spill the beans. Should I start pestering the host committee now to get you involved, or was the conference not worth the effort for you? I can see the plane fair alone making you think twice about the whole thing. Kickstarter it for the plane fair and someone can drop you off at Kristen's house with no warning.

kaiserhog said...

Ron, don't let a jerk or two get you down. You have thousands of fans in the USA including this one.

Ron Pattinson said...


the motivation for home brewing in the UK was totally different. It wasn't about getting beers you couldn't buy easily, is it the US. It was all about price: getting beer cheaper than in the shops. With heavily discounted beer in supermarkets, that motivation ebbed away.

Northern England Brewer said...

Homebrewing in the uk died a death with the grim beer kits of the 60s and 70s, but is now having a bit of a resurgence. But we are a very long way behind the American scene .

Bob said...

Thanks for your kind comments. We certainly enjoyed your company and your interesting lecture.

The Home Brew Festival is open to all home brewers and we are starting to plan next year's festival which will once again be held at Market Bosworth from Friday 9th June to Sunday 11th June 2017. Check us out at

vacant said...

No need to walk along that country lane, there's an excellent all-weather track from behind the southwest corner of the pitch straight into the town park (gravelled, wheel-chair accessible gates, fenced in on either sides so no cattle). Try is next year ;)