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Friday, 15 November 2013 22:55

AHA survey: Who is the American homebrewer?

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Homebrewer Graphic
These are heady days for homebrewing.

Never has the hobby enjoyed the popularity that it does now, and much of its surging growth has happened over the past eight years.

Earlier this week, the American Homebrewers Association trumpeted some statistics about the brew-it-yourself crowd, estimating the U.S. has 1.2 million homebrewers who make about 2 million gallons of beer a year.

That's a far cry from late 1970s-early 1980s, the nascent, post-Prohibition days of the hobby, when it had a status far closer to cult than populist. The profile of the American homebrewer back then was someone who was likely well-traveled – i.e. Continental Europe and the British Isles – or spent some time drinking in those few places where there was a choice besides the bland light lagers that commandeered America's beer identity. Homebrewing then was a matter of keeping the tide of new-found beer flavors from ebbing, say, after the cache of import brews was gone. Homebrewers still seek to re-create flavors of their favorite or just-discovered beers, but now the steady growth in craft brewing means there are more of those favorites to knock off.

Now, as back in the '80s, homebrewing skills launch craft breweries. Only these days, homebrewers have access to far better equipment, a richer knowledge base to tap, and a much stronger homebrew-supplies market to source equipment and ingredients. That has led to more and more homebrewers getting the urge to become commercial brewers, and of course, more craft brewery start-ups.

So while a few things about homebrewing have remained the same from the early days, Joe Homebrew has indeed taken on a new profile.

Which is why the AHA, the Colorado-based organization that champions homebrewering interests, undertook its first-ever nationwide homebrewer survey, querying 18,000 homebrewers – both AHA members and nonmembers – via an online questionnaire July 30-Sept. 3. The figures the AHA released Nov. 12 are snapshots of demographics, brewing habits and shopping behaviors.

"The homebrewing community is in every corner of the country," says AHA director Gary Glass. "From the amount of money spent on supplies, to the sheer number of homebrewers, it's clear this is a growing trend." (See the Beer-Stained Letter Q&A with Gary from last summer.)

Some of the AHA's stats are yawners, like nearly 80 percent of homebrewers are married or in a domestic partnership. Others are things you would expect to find in a hobby that plays to mechanical and scientific aptitudes, and can be expensive when you get down to it. The AHA says nearly 70 percent of homebrewers have college degrees or post-high school education; 60 percent have household incomes of $75,000 or more.

What's more significant is this, though: On average, homebrewers spend 800 bucks a year—something like $460 for general supplies and ingredients, and $330 on major equipment. That's money going into local economies, since practically all homebrewers (95 percent, the AHA says) tend to shop at two local supply stores, at a frequency, on average, that's greater than every other month.

More details: Homebrewers are fairly evenly spread throughout the country. But predictably, the greatest concentration (31 percent) is in the West. (The craft beer movement has deep West Coast roots, and most craft beer trends in the U.S. move West to East.) The Northeast trails at a little under 20 percent, while the South is home to over a quarter of the country's backyard beer-makers.

Average age?

The AHA says Joe Homebrew is typically 40, dead center of the 30-to-49 age range that dominates (60 percent) the hobby.

Brewing frequency and batch volume?

The survey puts the average number of batches at about 10 per year, with the average batch size coming in at 7 gallons.

Oh, and those 2 million barrels Joe Homebrew makes a year? That amounts to 1 percent of total U.S. craft beer production. That may not sound like much, but consider this: It's beer made by amateur (tax-wise anyway) brewers. That stat starts to take on a different meaning when framed that way.

(See the AHA's Nov. 12 press release here.)

 

 

Read 4333 times Last modified on Thursday, 07 August 2014 17:14

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