Thanks to President Jimmy Carter homebrewing was made legal in the U.S. in 1979 (but in 2011 it’s illegal in only Alabama and Mississippi). The American Homebrewers Association was formed by Charlie Papazian in 1978. As of 2009, there are over 750,000 homebrewers, 300 homebrew competitions and over 800 homebrew clubs in the U.S. We attended the 33rd Annual AHA National Homebrewers Conference in San Diego last weekend — here is what we learned about these passionate hobbyists. [info]
5. Homebrewers love Russian River Brewing Company’s Vinnie Cilurzo
About 1,000 people gathered for a keynote with Russian River Brewing Company founder Vinnie Cilurzo. He spoke about the history of Sonoma County’s Russian River Brewing Company. Vinnie started homebrewing as a hobby and eventually became a professional. He has created sought-out beers like Pliny the Elder, Supplication and Consecration. What we didn’t know is that Russian River Brewing Company was once owned by Korbel Champagne, eventually Korbel wanted to get out of the beer business and figured out a way to sell the name to Vinnie.
4. Food and craft beer pairing is like science
The “Homebrew Chef” Sean Paxton has been cooking with the idea of food and beer pairing for a while now. We attended the Grand Banquet where chef Paxton teamed up with Oregon based brewery Rogue Ales to create a mole sauce with a chocolate stout, rice infused with bock and flan infused with hops.
3. Making your own beer at home ain’t easy
Barley, yeast, hops and water — using these ingredients isn’t for the lazy. There are over 40 different variations of hops grown in the U.S. and each has a unique character and flavor. There is even an organization just for the avocation of U.S. hops. Imagine having to put together all these ingredients to create the most drinkable homebrew — this hobby takes dedication, education and a bit of cash.
2. Homebrewers might eventually become professional brewers
We attended Pro-Night, where professional brewers showed off their beers to the attendees. We spoke to Widmer Brothers Brewery co-founder Rob Widmer about how he transitioned from homebrewer to professional. He explained, “My brother and I picked up the hobby around 1980. We were interested in starting a brewery shortly after. There was a brewery up in Portland that we went to see. We were both anticipating this sophisticated brewing equipment but what we saw was a guy doing exactly what we were doing at home, just using bigger pots and pans. At that point we were both thinking we can do this.” It’s a hobby for many but for some the ultimate dream is to own their own professional craft brewery or work in the brewing industry.
1. Homebrew brings people together
How would you know if your homebrew taste decent? You’ll have to find a friend to critique it for you. Over 40 home brewing clubs across the country came to San Diego just to show off their brews to over 1,800 people. Now, that’s a party!