As Captain America prepares to protect the red, white and blue this summer, it’s important to remember that behind that mask and shield stands Steve Rogers, an average American, hardly recognized as a hero. Same goes for Clark Kent, Peter Parker, Diana Prince, and the others who never get to bask in the glory of their contributions to truth and justice. In the battle against evil brewing forces, the members of the Justice League of Craft Brewers are well known: Sam Calagione, Tomme Arthur, Vinnie Cilurzo, Kim Jordan, etc…

This week, the less glamorous heroes will gather not in some secret cave or lair, but at the 33rd Annual National Homebrewers Conference in San Diego.

From Thursday to Saturday, this American Homebrewers Association-sponsored event is equal parts education and celebration, not to mention one very large competition, where members of the fraternity of homebrewers from all 50 states will descend. Some 1,900 homebrewers have registered for the conference – once again setting a new record for attendance proving an ever-increasing interest in the hobby. Additionally, 1,650 people entered into the competition that is, arguably, equally as auspicious to medal in as the Great American Beer Festival.

The AHA doesn’t really promote the NHC as a beer festival, but the atmosphere is more raucous, jovial and beer-soaked than any fest in the land. Between club night (48 clubs from across the country are participating this year) and the hospitality suite, it is estimated that over 700 kegs of homebrew – some more powerful than a locomotive, some that will have celebrants spinning yarns.

It’s nice to know that there are over 1,700 craft breweries operating in this country fighting the good fight against villainous macrobrewed beer. But don’t forget that the battle didn’t start in Milton, DE, or Boulder, CO or Chico, CA. It started where it continues to be waged: In the garages, kitchens and backyards of everyday folks amid purple mountain majesties, above fruited plains and from sea to shining sea.

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