Tuesday, February 14, 2012

AHA says it hit 30k milestone

AHA graphic
Membership in the American Homebrewers Association has topped the 30,000 mark, a milestone for the 34-year-old national organization based in Boulder, Colorado.

The not-for-profit organization is synonymous with the annual National Homebrewers Conference and Homebrew Competition, as well the Big Brew event held on the first Saturday in May that unites homebrewers around the world as they brew a chosen recipe to celebrate Homebrew Day.

The AHA's growth is being driven by a resurgence in the popularity of amateur brewing, says the Brewers Association, the parent organization for the AHA. The BA estimates there are more than 1 million homebrewers in the US; the AHA's current membership represents a sharp rebound from a decline during the first decade of the 21st century.

At its core, homebrewing represents something more that a hobby. Lest anyone forget, making beer at home is a serious undertaking for its practitioners, and it can't be said enough that today's homebrewer is tomorrow's craft brewer.

"Interest and participation in the AHA and the homebrewing hobby has resulted in the beginnings of most of today's craft breweries, as well as events like the Great American Beer Festival and, of course, many glasses of terrific beer," says BA president Charlie Papazian.

New Jersey is no exception to that.

Homebrew's spin on NJ
Most of the state's production breweries can trace their founding to homebrewing. And at many of the state's breweries, whether brewpubs or production breweries, the beers are made by someone who learned the art first as a homebrewer before taking on some kind of formal brewery training.

"I don't think we realized how dramatically the American Homebrewers Association would affect the beer world," Charlie says.

A New Jersey native who headed west to Colorado after graduating from Virginia Tech, Charlie is a central figure in American homebrewing. With the first issue of Zymurgy magazine, the monthly publication dedicated to the hobby, he co-founded the AHA with Charlie Matzen in late 1978, the same year federal government gave its blessing to striking a mash at home.

Matzen & Papazian
Thirty-four years later, homebrewing has become woven anew into the fabric of US culture. It was part of the country's Colonial culture, and during the 13-year failed experiment of Prohibition, home-made beer, by necessity, became common practice for those thirsty for a beer (and perhaps reluctant to frequent a speakeasy).

Today there are more than 1,000 homebrew clubs across the US, and last year saw nearly 7,000 entries in the AHA's National Homebrew Competition. Meanwhile only two states – Mississippi and Alabama – still raise an eyebrow at making beer at home.

These days, there are a lot of people taking Charlie Papazian's advice, free of any worries because they're relaxing with a homebrew.

Read AHA press release here.