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National Homebrew Conference

From previous stories you may remember I’m a homebrewer. While living in Phoenix my club, the Arizona Society of Homebrewers (ASH), found a great opportunity to promote the club and go to the annual National Homebrewer’s Conference, to be held in Las Vegas, Nevada.  
I called Julio, an old friend and homebrewer, living in Minnesota. We talked about it and decided to meet, and split room costs of the conference. Our plan was to meet at the airport and take a rideshare van to the Riviera, where the conference was. My plane was an hour late, so I missed Julio at the airport.

We met up at the Riviera registration desk, and Julio was wearing a homebrew shirt. I told him to hide until I finished registration. The Riviera had higher rates for conference attendees, feeling homebrewers would gamble less. I booked the room separate from the conference to save some money. I had heard the hotel/casino would renege on the lower rate if they found you were part of the conference group.

Julio's all-time favorite beers...

  1. Lite Ice - he's fighting with the Beer Advocate people for giving it a D-
  2. Old Milwaukee - taste as great as it's name
  3. Red Stripe - It's BEER. Hooray beer!
  4. Corona - Miles Away From Ordinary
  5. Keystone Light - bottled beer taste in a can... Mmmmmmmm
  6. Pabst Blue Ribbon - PBR me ASAP
  7. Labatt Blue - A whole lot can happen, Out of the Blue
  8. Pig's Eye Pilsner - Pig's Eye was the original name for Saint Paul, MN, yummmy
  9. Red Dog - a finely crafted beer from the Plank Road Brewery
  10. Old English - most underrated beer ever
We got our luggage up to the room and headed to the conference registration. Next with our conference badges we were off to start drinking. The conference had a hospitality suite staffed and ready to pour homebrew 24 hours a day, for the next 3 days. We'd also have access to a multitude of educational seminars with beers as examples, toasts by the brewing elite as they tell us how great they are, and the main event each night.

We bought a Styrofoam cooler to chill and store beers we brought to share. It’s always fun to sample beer you not available where you live, and to compare each other’s homebrew. We got the cooler and filled it with lots of free hotel ice, and our beers.

The first night’s theme was Pro Brewers Night and there was some fantastic beer from large and small craft breweries. I vaguely remember sampling Sierra Nevada’s Bigfoot Barleywine Ale and Stone’s Arrogant Bastard to excess. Both were high alcohol ales.

Sometime into the drunken night I lost Julio. He just disappeared; nobody had seen him in hours. I was drunk and the room was closing and most of the vendors had locked up their craft beer for the night. I hit the hospitality suite for one last beer I didn’t really need and headed up to the room.

When I got to the room I discovered two things – Julio sleeping naked, and two cases of homebrew. A spare bath towel took care of the first problem, and then I had to investigate the two cases of beer.

Part of the conference was the National Homebrew Competition and second round judging. Judging for the competition started before we even arrived, and continued through the first day of seminars. Neither of us had any vested interest, we didn't judge nor did we have entries to be judged. The National Homebrew Competition had evaluated the second round of beers and sorted them as to which beers advanced to the Best of Show (BOS) round. The BOS would determine the best overall beer of the competition. The beers that didn’t make it to the BOS were placed in the hospitality suite. To this day I can only guess Julio thought we needed two cases of nationally ranked beer that just missed the cutoff for the BOS.

Julio woke up and headed into the bathroom, still naked. On his way back (without the towel I threw over him) he made a wrong turn and entered the hallway, and started to wander. He wandered back and forth down the hallway for a few minutes not really knowing where he was. I got him back into the room preventing a security fiasco, jail-time, or worse - he went back to bed, and I covered him again.

A couple hours later, about 4:00am, he awoke and headed to the bathroom again. After finishing in the bathroom he took the same wrong turn and headed back into the hotel hallway. Still naked, he walked the length of the hallway back and forth. I was sleeping when this happened, so I had to get up and look out into the hallway to see where he was. I yelled at him to get back into the room, but he didn’t acknowledge. He walked all the way down the hall, and turned the corner towards the elevator!

“Oh SHIT,” I thought!

I ducked back in the room to grab my pants and a shirt. While doing so I have visions of Julio walking all the way into the casino floor naked only to asking some old lady for a glass of water? As I was getting my shoes on, there was a very light knock at the door. I expected security, but it was Julio. I got him back in the room again and he went bed again, after I yelled at him to put some damn clothes on.

He wasn’t completely done for the night! The next time he woke up he stumbled and fell on the Styrofoam cooler. To say the cooler exploded into a million pieces was an understatement. He tried to clean up the mess by scooping ice with his bare hands and hauling it to the bathroom sink. In the process he spilled half the ice load on his bed. It didn’t take long before his bed was a soaking mess. Julio tried to flip the mattress, so he could use the dry side. He fell and ended up with the mattress half on the bed-frame and half on the floor. He gave up, kicked the mattress so it was all on the floor and slept on it right there.

Morning meant two things, time to play some Judas Priest, and time to tell Julio a story. After he asked me to turn the music off he didn’t believe the story I told him. After he saw the beer and Styrofoam evidence, the mattress on the floor, and how everything near his bed was soaking wet he started to believe. We both needed time to recover from alcohol poisoning. Later, that afternoon, we purchased another Styrofoam cooler.

We did lunch with a large group of homebrewers at the new Hofbräuhaus. Lunch at the Hofbräuhaus included a competition where competitors had to hold a large mug of beer straight out with an extended arm until every other contestant gave up. After lunch we had the shuttle drop us off at the Las Vegas Hilton. Being Sci-Fi geeks we both wanted to see the Star Trek Experience. On the way back I suggested a cab, since I was sweaty and hot from the dessert heat, and a touch hung over. Julio said,

“We don’t need no stinking cab, we need to tough it out.”

When we arrived back at the Riviera Julio’s feet looked like this;

That evening was Club Night; the theme was for each club to have their own original theme. Many clubs dressed looking as dorky as possible (Julio and I did NOT dress up). By the time we hit our drinking stride we had a case of the beer that almost made the BOS near the pool. We were enjoying them with some fine Cuban cigars secured from a Canadian brewer. A friend, who knew about the beer from the National Homebrew Competition checked on us. He told us they did want the beers and had given them away the night before. He left and came back with a matrix sheet to decider each beer number to the corresponding style each beers was. Up to that point we’d been playing mystery beer.

We walked across the street to Circus Circus Casino for the best foot-long chili dog I’ve ever had. Julio and I are both large men, and we noticed we were walking and having to turn our shoulders to pass by all these skinny guys. We decided to be proud and walk with a purpose not twisting to make it easier for others to pass. We almost knocked a few of those skinny kids down without size. Unfortunately we almost got into a fistfight with some local punks on the way back to our hotel. The next morning Julio flew back to Minnesota, and I flew back to Arizona!