Thoughts About Club Night

Club Night at the National Homebrew Conference is likely the most popular reason to attend, and this year in Philadelphia was no exception. According to the American Homebrewers Association site, almost 90 clubs from across the country were represented.


Steve Wilkes with a couple of his new best friends.

Club members pulled out the stops to show off by building elaborate booths and putting on tap many delicious brews. The Barley Legal club members out of Maple Shade, New Jersey, brought in 125 kegs and were awarded the coveted Golden Urinal for their efforts.

In my experience, club night features some of the most cutting edge brewers and beers in the beer world – commercial and amateur. Brewers let their imaginations run wild to combine ingredients and techniques in daring ways. Where else can you learn that blending a maple beer and a bacon beer at the tap can result in a mind-blowing breakfast brew. Then, a few minutes later, you can be sipping an incredible no-boil Berliner Weisse and get tips from the brewer to try it yourself. Another booth featured around a dozen single-hopped pale ales.

As I sit in the airport composing this article, the details are fuzzy on who brewed what, but luckily we captured footage for Basic Brewing Video that will clear that all up.

Here are a few lessons from this year’s Club Night and a couple of tips for next year:
– Pace yourself. There are more beers than you would ever be able to sample in one evening. Don’t even try.
– Use the dump buckets. If you sample a beer that you’re not thrilled with, don’t be shy about dumping it out. Just do it at the next booth you visit so you don’t offend the brewer who brewed it.
– Drink water. Staying hydrated will help your feelings on Saturday morning as you get up to take in informative sessions.
– Take notes. Just jotting down a style and the club may help you track down more info about something new you want to try brewing.
– Talk to others. Whether it’s getting brewing tips or simply finding the best beers in the room, Club Night is an excellent time to network with your fellow brewers and beer lovers.
– Don’t put your mouth on the Golden Urinal spigot. You’ll get more beer on your clothes, but who knows where that thing’s been?

Okay, that last one was pretty specific. The point is that Club Night is overwhelming to the uninitiated. In fact, this was the eighth one for Steve Wilkes and me, and it was still pretty overwhelming. It’s sensory overload in a good way. We’re looking forward to being overwhelmed again in Grand Rapids next year.


  1. Chuck McKenna says

    It was great meeting you guys, hope I don’t land on the clotting room floor! Glad you enjoyed the Wild Brett Farmhouse .

  2. Michael Domin says

    That me in the hat! I had an amazing time at the Conference and had the good fortune to meet both you and Steve at Club Night. You guys are wonderfully authentic and just darn nice folks; just as I had imagined!

    P.S. The photo of you and I on my phone looks so ridiculous because my face looks like a 6 year old on Christmas morning!

  3. Dave King says

    James, Steve, we missed you at the IPA & BIER booth. We had a bunch of Brown Ales, and lots of other creations. It’s just too much, too fast. I vote for making it 2 nights. What do you think? Pro Night was OK, but it’s “just a beer fest,” so either delete it, for the 2nd Club Night, or make the Conference a day longer. We could do more Seminars and workshops in that extra day.

    • That’s a great question. Way too many beers for the time period. Half of the clubs one night and the other half a second night? If the conference keeps growing, some creative solutions are needed.

  4. Peter Kennedy says

    Great meeting guys at club night! Glad you enjoyed the Greasy Pig (bacon brown ale). It was a super fun beer to share with all the Homebrewers on Friday. I only the bacon beer for events like that, it has to get consumed fast and it makes a huge mess of my equipment.

    Club night was also the perfect place to explore blending beers, I look at this event as “Why Not?”. Why not brew a beer with bacon, why not mix these beers together, Why not? It’s just plain fun! 🙂

  5. For $295, or something silly like that for signing up to the event, never mind selling out in ~2 minutes, then go to the left coast for the next event. Shee I thought how much beer can I make with $295, then add transportation, hotels, etc. Talk a about a sour mash, the AHA gave me one. Cheers, great podcasts James!

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