18 March was the beginning of a new era in Nelson, and possibly a new organisation in New Zealand. By the end of the weekend, three enthusiastic beginners had pulled of the first New Zealand Homebrewing Conference. (And one even attended the birth of his second child.) They found sponsors, fearlessly recruited a posse of American brewing celebrities, successfully pre-sold enough tickets on PledgeMe to cover key costs, and then kept it all together through a pregnancy, day jobs, online crashes, and all the other hiccups that come with such an event. It seems they achieved something that many larger conferences do not: a reasonably smooth experience for both the punters and presenters.
We didn’t attend the Friday festivities – BrewMania was a unique judged homebrew competition with the brewer of the three top beers taking home a year’s supply of Gladfield Malt, plus the opportunity to have his beer brewed in San Diego by Will Gallaspy at 32 North Brewing Company.
Sam Davis Talwar took out the big prize.
The rest of the winners were:
BrewMania Second Place – Paul Fraser (who won a Mangrove Jacks Stainless Steel Fermenter)
BrewMania Third Place – Gareth Phillips (who won a $150 Brewshop voucher)
The Singles comp was taken out by Laura Finney, who won a 30L Malt Mechanics Conical Fermenter.
While we did not attend, Friday’s bash was a rousing success with fun, beer and bonding, priming everyone for the next two beery days.
Saturday 19th was Marchfest – the weather cleared by early afternoon, and the stage was set for another day of hanging out with a couple of thousand folks drinking, brewing, and dancing.
The general consensus is that Marchfest is less and less a beer festival, more of a day out with friends, music, and of course nice beer.
Most of the beers are designed for leisurely drinking, and this year’s batch was of uniform quality. The standouts for us were Dale’s APA, Moa’s Belgian Blonde Ale, Sprig and Fern White IPA, Hop Federation XPLidocious, and Golden Bear Capernoited Daze.
We spend much of the day talking to folks as we went between the brewing demos, food stalls and beer hall.
There were 5 simultaneous brews on 5 Grainfathers this year. The celebrities were put to work talking to punters and signing books (and the Grainfathers, which will be auctioned for charity on Trademe.) Once again the Gospel of homebrewing was spread to many mainstream folks who happened to wander into the shed.
Sunday was the main event for home brewers in from all over New Zealand, and Australia. It all started with a brunch catered by Founders Brewery. Standard breakfast fare features well integrated beer in for example the creamy mushrooms. It was a good way to meet some of the attendees in a casual way before the onslaught of information.
The conference consisted of four talks in each of four sessions, with a keynote for everyone at the start, and after lunch. John Palmer closed the event with another single talk. The talks were mix and match, so as long as there was room, you could pop in on the next one if you were consumed by curiosity. Here are a few snaps to give a feel:
It was a chill event with massive information and experience on offer. The guys have promised they are thinking about the next one, but haven’t committed to a time or place. They are also considering the foundation of a New Zealand Homebrewers Association, so watch this space, or better yet theirs for more info.