The ability to brew beer is one of the things that helped mankind advance as a civilization and survive outbreaks of diseases like dysentery, but many of today’s people sadly leave that skill to professional brewers. You might feel confident in your ability to head down to the local liquor store and pick up a sixer of your favorite suds, but how are you going to get drunk during a zombie apocalypse when your favorite brewer has been transformed into neckbearded member of the walking dead? For the sake of humanity, you need to learn how to brew your own beer, and the American Homebrewers Association (AHA) is going to help make that happen.
On Saturday at Stone Brewing World Bistro & Gardens – Liberty Station, the AHA will hold its annual San Diego rally to greet members of the local homebrewing community and make a pitch for others to join the ranks of the more than 46,000 registered members of the group. AHA Events and Membership Coordinator Matt Bolling was kind enough to answer a few questions about Saturday’s event.
For those who haven’t been to one, what can you expect at an AHA rally?
They’re typically an open house for homebrewers to come to a brewery and chat up fellow homebrewers and take home a free gift. It’s free if you’re already an AHA member, but anyone who wants to come who isn’t a member can sign up and get a discounted rate. One thing to keep in mind, if you’re a member of the AHA, you get the opportunity to purchase Great American Beer Festival tickets a day earlier than the general public.
The one at Stone is a little bit different from other rallies because Stone has a homebrewing competition that runs in conjunction with the rally every year. About 30 homebrewers enter the competition, and the attendees get to vote on their favorite to choose a top three. Stone picks the eventual winner, and they get to scale it up for commercial distribution. Some past winners include the R&R Coconut IPA and Xocoveza.
Do you have numbers on how many people are homebrewing in the US?
Our last estimate put it right around 1.2 million homebrewers, based on retail sales and website traffic. We support the local homebrewing community around the country, and that number shows that it’s growing along with the growth of craft beer around the country. I’ve always said that if you find a beer that you like, you can make it yourself, and you probably already have almost everything you need in your kitchen. It just takes a visit to the AHA website or a trip to your local homebrewing supply store.
I’ve seen some homebrewing setups that involve some pretty sophisticated equipment, is there a way to do this hobby on the cheap?
One of our favorite things to say about homebrewing around the office is that it isn’t rocket science unless you want it to be. Gary Glass, our director, always says that if you can make a great soup or chili, you can make a great beer. It’s a simple process that allows you the ability to be creative while diving in as deeply as you want. Whether you want to brew once or twice a year to share with your friends, or you want to make it a serious hobby, you have that choice.
What do you say to someone who says “I could homebrew, but it’s easier to go down to the grocery store and pick up a bomber of something?”
We hear that a lot, and that’s great. There are so many breweries around the country that you have the opportunity to taste these great beers, but it’s important to realize that many of these companies were started by former homebrewers. Steve Wagner who was the Co-Founder of Stone Brewing Company was a homebrewer. If you’re just into checking out the local scene, that’s great, but if it’s something that you want to take home and toy with to create your own flavors, you should give it a shot and come to the rally this weekend. You’ll have the opportunity to taste some pretty creative stuff on Saturday that you’d never see on shelves.
I’ve homebrewed and enjoyed it quite a lot, but I’m still finding bottles of my beer in the back of the fridge, any tips on how to get rid of five gallons of beer before it goes bad?
You can scale down recipes. Conventional wisdom is that you have to brew a five-gallon batch, but that’s not where most of the growth is these days. You can do one-gallon batches of beer, or brew in a bag, which is a simplified all-grain process. We’re even seeing the launch of companies like Picobrew that’s a desktop brewing system that can make you a few pints at a time. So while I’m brewing five gallon batches because I like to do big beers, we’re definitely seeing an uptick in the scaled-down setups.
I’d be remiss if I didn’t ask, has the homebrewing landscape changed with AB Inbev’s acquisition of Northern Brewer?
Homebrewers are going to shop depending on their own personal choices. I don’t have a comment on the purchase by AB Inbev, but I would encourage people to make sure that they’re supporting their local homebrewing supply shops. I’ve ordered online before, but you just don’t get the opportunity to walk in and ask questions that way. Lots of times I’ve been in the shop to ask questions of the owner, and there were two or three other brewers in there who can join in on the conversation. Not only do you leave with your ingredients, but you’ve made contacts with other people, and online retail doesn’t offer that.