What: Learn to Homebrew Day
When: Saturday, Nov. 2
Where: More than 80 events are scheduled nationwide
Info: Visit homebrewersassociation.org for event listings, membership information and more
Eric Huber's brewing career started with a road trip. He was traveling through Flagstaff, Ariz., in 1995 when he came across a homebrew store. Huber picked up some basic equipment and drove it back to Snowmass, where he was living at the time, sent off for ingredients and started brewing. He kept up his hobby while earning a biology degree at the University of Colorado-Boulder and has been brewing ever since.
"I didn't buy beer for years and years," he said.
Huber turned pro when he joined the Mountain Sun's brew team in Boulder. He later brewed for Oskar Blues in Longmont and even spent some time working at a distillery. Last June, Huber and two partners opened The Kettle & Stone Brewing Co. in Gunbarrel.
Many of the beers brewed at The Kettle & Stone were inspired by Huber's homebrew recipes and are informed by a homebrewer's sense of experimentation and innovation.
"Most of us professional brewers started out homebrewing, which is really the roots of 'craft brewing' in the first place," he said. "To me, it's like cooking -- as much as we like eating out, we still like to cook at home. It's the magic and satisfaction of making something out of raw ingredients."
Gary Glass, director of the American Homebrewers Association (AHA), echoes that sentiment.
"Most people brewing at home are making 'craft beer' in the sense that they're customizing the beer to your own tastes and experimenting with various hops, yeast strains, fruit and spices -- pretty much any ingredient you can think of," he said.
People interested in getting started with the hobby have a prime opportunity to dip their toes into the proverbial brew kettle during the annual Learn to Homebrew Day on Saturday. Sponsored by the AHA, more than 80 brewing demonstrations and other events are scheduled at homebrew supply shops, breweries, garages and backyards around the country. To find an event near you, visit HomebrewersAssociation.org.
The site also includes a wealth of information for homebrewers, including a list of homebrew clubs around the country, a video on the basics of homebrewing, AHA membership benefits, as well as an extensive database of award-winning homebrew recipes.
Fewer than 100 breweries were operating in the United States when homebrewing was legalized nationally in 1978, Glass said, which not coincidentally is the same year Charlie Papazian and Charlie Matzen founded the AHA in Boulder.
The AHA's ranks have swelled to more than 40,000 members today and the number of American breweries tops 2,500.
Rather than diminish the number of homebrewers, the growth and increased availability of craft beer nationwide has only spurred people's interest in brewing beer at home.
"That's one of the unique things about craft brewing -- amateur and commercial brewers are really part of the same mutually supportive community," Glass said. "Interest in homebrewing begins with an interest in craft beer."
In the four months The Kettle & Stone has been open, Huber says, there's already a regular group of homebrewers who come by for yeast, which he gladly gives, as well as to trade tips and techniques for making better beer.
"Homebrewers can certainly teach professional brewers a thing or two, and vice versa," Huber said. "There's still a lot of cross-pollination that goes on."