It is always good to reconnect with old friends, and make new ones. That's become my number one reason for attending. The forum meet-up was a good example of that.
This was my 12th conference, so some of my comments reflect comparisons with past experiences.
- I understand the reasons for returning to the Town and Country, but honestly, if it comes back there again I will choose to finally skip a conference. 6 hour wait to check in, finally getting into our rather shabby room at 7, massive price gouging on marginal food, noisy as hell (we were near the hotel laundry) - all reflect the same experience as the last time. Not again.
- I loved having the Welcome Reception and Club Night outdoors. I don't see how that can be repeated elsewhere, but I hope it can. Someone made a comment about how crowded it was - I thought it was much less of a zoo than any of the last few years.
- Club Night beer quality has been steadily declining for quite a few years. I have no idea about how to reverse that. Since I'm in Ohio we couldn't run our own booth (too far), but for next year we've already decided that all beers have to pass an independent evaluation before making the list.
- A lot of the presentations were sub-par, or near-total repeats of prior years. I hate that the AHA feels the need that all of the authors of new books get a spot. It seems to be all about book sales. Mitch Steele has great information, but his presentation was 99% the same as last year.
-Presentations I particularly liked included Andrew Mitchell's Brewing Session Beers, Phil Farrel's Does Your Fermenter Affect Your Beer?, and I laughed through Drew and Denny's Experiments (the experiment of having everyone try the two "different" beers was fun, though trying to do it with the big crowd meant few got the beers in similar condition - my first was warm and oxidized, the second cold and fresh).
- I've stopped judging at NHC, and this year confirmed that as a good idea for me A major reduction in the volume of alcohol consumed away from fun events greatly improved my well-being through the week-end.
Finally. I'm on the AHA Conference Sub-Committee, so please continue to make your comments, up or down. We are listening!