That Was 2012 : Homebrewer’s Nation


Does it still have low-rent connotations outside our community? In our little bubble we know full well that homebrewing is not only alive but seemingly powered by a titanium heart, stomping across beer-drinkers psyche with beers as tasty – if not more – than a large portion of ‘commercial breweries’ out there.

The term still seems dated, though. This week, I found myself in a discussion at work with a colleague ‘whose dad homebrewed when I was a kid‘, and ended up exasperated and out of breath at trying to get across how the homebrewing landscape is today; the sheer experimentation of style, cross-pollination of technique, the collaboration with professionals. In much the same way I find myself trying to explain to vibrancy of Real Ale to someone whose notion of Cask Ale is all the clichés, I find myself describing modern homebrewing. It’s not homebrewing anymore; it’s Amateur Brewing, it seems.

What of the homebrew shop? There’s not that many any more; replaced by excellent direct suppliers like The Hop & Grape (Yes, I know they operate out of a shop) or The Malt Miller. The massive amount of archive material online, Recipes banks and forums coupled with the access to malt and hops of pretty much every hue is encouraging some amazing experimentation and innovation.

Of course, breweries are noticing too. Actually, they’ve always noticed, but the bar has been raised so high in the last couple of years that they are actually studying it. I’ve been involved in another project during the first part of this year that led me to interview a number of breweries, and the amount that started out as homebrewers goes without saying; the amount that still keep a hand in that scene and actively encourage the ‘amateurs’ is just as high. You only need to look at the excellent prizes offered by The Leeds Homebrew group to see that; a society with true links to professional brewers in their region. Homebrewers seem to have a level of influence not before enjoyed; and thus are being offered a level of access that perhaps would have only been dreamed of five years ago.

London Amateur Brewers are another example of a modern homebrew society, throwing off the 70’s stereotypes of ‘beer-in-a-bucket’ kit brewing and presenting something altogether more professional. Less Ken Shales – more Garret Oliver – seems to be the overarching feel of Homebrewing right now. This year’s National Homebrew Competition received over 400 entries. There are excellently organised societies – co-ordinating and working alongside Breweries – literally everywhere you look.

What’s behind this surge in popularity in homebrewing at the moment? Simply a greater interest in Beer, by a crowd of perhaps younger people, with more means to homebrew (Disposable income?). A simple thirst for knowledge, perhaps; best achieved by getting your hands dirty and getting stuck in? People used to extol the cost savings of Homebrew as a major justification; that hardly gets mentioned anymore – don’t you think? People are doing it for the love, no? Why do you do it?

About leighgoodstuff

Blog: I'm Leigh Linley; born and bred in Leeds, and writing about it since 2005. TGS exists solely to highlight the great beers that are out there; brewed with passion by Craft Brewers around the World. I also edit the 'Tavern Tales' section of Culture Vulture, which looks at Pubs and Pub Life rather than the beer in the glass.

Posted on 05/11/2012, in Beer and tagged . Bookmark the permalink. 8 Comments.

  1. It used to be just about getting our hands dirty and experimenting — taking the clock apart and putting it back together again — but it’s increasingly become a way for us to get the kinds of beer we want to drink at something less than £4 a bottle + delivery charges.

  2. A great appraisal of homebrewing. Homebrewing is a fun, accessible hobby which you can dabble with, or take to the extremes of eventually going pro! Whether it be kits, partial or full mash brewing, there is an established brewing community ready and waiting to help with the inevitable questions. To answer your question: I started brewing because I was bought a kit as a present, and at that point I think this was to brew some cheap beer. Through this kit and through joining a few homebrewing forums my homebrewing has become more about the enjoyment of brewing some good beer and being involved with the people/groups that share the interest. Homebrewing in the UK seems to be a happy place right now. Cheers for blogging it!

  3. I’m loving the world of homebrewing at the moment, but as I don’t actually have my own kit you’ll probably know that I “borrow” others kits to make beers together..

    I really like the design aspect side of homebrewing too. I really enjoy coming up with beer names and designing labels for them too, it’s really fun,


    (P.S. Organizing a homebrew competition in collaboration with Copper Dragon was certainly one of my HB highlights!)

  4. I do it because its fun, the reward for dreaming up a recipe and seeing it through to the finished glass of beer. Finding new flavour experiences 🙂 Good article.

  5. Oh yeah… and we’re organising another Northern Craft Brewers Competition at Saltaire Brewery for next April 🙂

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