Whether you arrive via plane, train, or automobile go check into your hotel and unload your gear. It is very advantageous to stay at the same hotel as the conference, so you can just stumble to the elevator when you are done for the night. This is not always possible, rooms sell-out quickly. I was told the Sheraton is full. I’ll be staying at the Hotel Sofitel next door, even though I'm local.
I encourage you to show up for Wednesday’s preconference activities. They aren’t official, but they are loads of fun. Activities include: Brewer’s Brunch, Brewery Tour, Twins Game, Pub Crawl, Brewer’s Network & Northern Brewer Pre-Con Party, BJCP Judge Reception, and the BJCP Exam.
If you arrive on Thursday go unload your gear then go to the registration area and check-in for the conference. You’ll get a lanyard to wear around your neck; this will admit you to whichever conference package you bought. Wear it at all times. The door centurians WILL check prior to admitting you into any rooms or talks. You will also receive a booklet with a schedule of events and a short bio of most of the speakers. You should also receive a small commemorative glass. You’ll notice it is a small glass, and it was done so on purpose. This way you may sample as many beers as possible, and not end up non-functional after a few Quadruple IPAs. There should also be commemorative beers and meads for you to enjoy. These were brewed and bottled by local homebrew clubs, try them and let the local people know what you think of them.Now go fill your glass at the Northern Brewer Hospitality Suite - This is a great place to unwind, chat with friends, and see what vendors have to show off. See the AHA link for details on the Hospitality Suite.
Pro-brewers Night - Typically the AHA uses the ballroom of the hotel, and lines the perimeter of the room with tables for the breweries to set up their kegs and taps. Pro Brewers from around the country bring out their best craft beers for us. They may bring beers in limited production, beers only available in small parts of the country, or beers before official distribution. We have discriminating palates, and we drink loads of their craft beers, so here is were they try to wow us. You pick a line, and ask for a sample, repeat. Frequently the brewmaster is there to answer questions. Don’t over-do it! It's easy to lose control and get so drunk you'll miss half the next day. See who is pouring beer.
Club Night - Similar to club night, only with clubs serving homebrew. Clubs close enough to drag a few kegs will bring a variety of what they do best. Some clubs may offer snacks. Many clubs have themes, most of them are the same themes every year, and I just hope they wash those shirts and wigs. See who is pouring beer on Club Night.
The Banquet - my favorite part, includes the awards ceremony for the National Homebrew Competition, including Brewer of the Year, Meadmaker of the Year, Club of the Year, and the Ninkasi Award. Rouge is main sponsor of the banquet and typically has several bottles at each table and a few kegs going. This event always has the longest wait to get in the room, and many clubs like to sit close to the front - except one. The wait is for table location, and to make sure you sit with whom you want. A case of beer works out well while you wait, and could help you make new friends. Miller Chill seems to be an excellent waiting in line beer!