I have recently allowed my membership to lapse, and will likely be spending less time on here. (The way I see it, I'm not paying for the forum, so I don't want to "take advantage" of the AHA's graces.) Why did I not renew? Because I feel the AHA, and this forum, are doing home brewers a disservice by not furthering a technical understanding of brewing.
When I first got into homebrewing, this forum was a fantastic resource. Between books I had read/bought, and the AHA webpage, I had the basics down pat pretty quickly. My first extract batch tasted like bananas, and the second was ruined by a rusty dip tube, but by the third batch I was making good beer. (I believe I joined this forum looking for help with that dip tube.) Seeing this as a sign of being capable of successfully brewing all grain, I purchased and electric BIAB system and went to town. I was brewing once or twice a month, and quickly reached the limits of my knowledge.
This is the point where this forum became vital. I'd managed the nuts and bolts of AG brewing, but I was running into issues beyond the basics. Some of my beers had a bad mineral water quality that really detracted from the beers. I learned about managing pH through this forum, got a copy of Bru'n Water, and was able to fix this problem as well. All the while, I was also being schooled on yeast by a member on here. At this point, I felt my brewing was improving at an exponential rate, and I was at least brewing beer that I was truly proud of. Without this forum I'd likely have just continued using 5.2 pH buffer in my mash, and would have probably quit out of frustration.
Now I'm at a point where my brewing has plateaued. I have no desire to start a brewery, but I do want to move on to that level. Before anyone claims I'm moving towards the modern German techniques, I'm not. However, the Germans don't have the market cornered in brewery engineering/science/understanding. The Brits also have done a ton of research, though perhaps less focused on the affects of HSA. This is the sort of information I'm now looking for, yeast management and fermentation systems in particular.
My point in all this is that the main strength of this forum has been the advanced technical help available to members. Recently, many of the members who provided this advanced knowledge have moved on to other forums. An attempt to leveage AHA membership to get access to technical brewing papers was met with disinterest by the AHA. (Though I'll admit, that faced significant hurdles.) The AHA seems happy to just keep evangelizing new brewers, and not really working to provide help for advanced brewing methods.
I've allowed my AHA membership to lapse because I don't see a benefit from it. I have no local AHA member deals. Homebrewcon was a blast last year, but I'm not in a financial situation where access to that on a yearly basis is a perk. Zymurgy is a nice publication, but again in general I feel like it doesn't provide enough advanced technical information. Yes, it could be said that my money helps bring new people into the hobby, but I can also help do that on my own. I will still encourage new brewers to get a membership, the AHA will more than provide the information needed to get to the big leagues in terms of quality. However, if a brewer desires to move on from being a "Brewing Technician" to being more of a "Brewing Engineer", the AHA isn't worth the expense. This saddens me greatly, as this forum was once a place that could provide that function to the few who would want it.