American Homebrewers Association Turns 45

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birthday candles in a beer

By Julia Herz, American Homebrewers Association Executive Director

On December 7, 2023, the American Homebrewers Association (AHA) turns 45. That’s a lot of beers since 1978. In four-and-a-half decades, the world has changed for the better because of the AHA’s existence, with homebrewers around the world setting the stage.

The AHA has fueled the craft beer movement and, even more relevant, catapulted the modern pastime of homebrewing. Yup, that’s what we did. In 1978, The New York Times published an article titled “Beer Is Most Popular of U.S. Bar Drinks”1, but we know what a dismal time for beer it was. Back then, the United States had fewer than 100 breweries, and rarely did one profess to be a homebrewer.

I’ll go on the record and say the two best things about beer in 1978 were the founding of the AHA and the signing of H.R. 1337 into law. H.R. 1337, signed by President Jimmy Carter, was the game-changing act that authorized “the home production of beer and wine without federal taxation.”2

The AHA’s anniversary is also an ode to the staying power of this very publication, Zymurgy, the preeminent magazine for homebrewers. Pronounced “zīˌmərjē,” the title means “a branch of applied chemistry that deals with fermentation processes (as in wine making or brewing).”3 Led by homebrewers Dave Carpenter, editor-in-chief for the past eight years (see more on his departure in Editor’s Desk); associate editor Amahl Turczyn; art director Jason Smith; Duncan Bryant, web editor for HomebrewersAssociation.org; yours truly; and an engaged team of not-for-profit professionals, we are your dedicated advocates.

Homebrewers must know that they put the f in fun when it comes to beer. Yes, you are a part of history, influence, and ongoing innovation. Since anniversaries are about celebrating and offering presents, here are some goodies for you.

  • Inaugural issue of Zymurgy: Did you know you can download the first-ever issue of Zymurgy? It’s a blast from the past and a fascinating read to flip through a digital version of this 12-page stapled pamphlet. 
  • Digital archives: AHA members enjoy exclusive access to the Zymurgy digital archives dating to 2000. Dig in at HomebrewersAssociation.org.
  • History of the AHA: This video gem from 2018 explains just how far we’ve come.
  • U.S. Senate resolution celebrating the AHA’s 40th anniversary: It’s from our 40th birthday, but, hey, a resolution is a resolution.
  • Search term trends: Will fermentation and the pastime of cosmic zymurgists become the broader practice of homebrewers? We are, indeed, hearing a lot from our members about fermenting beyond beer. Check out the history of searches since 2004 (the earliest provided) comparing homebrewing and fermentation.
  • Zymurgy Live: Circa 2023, it was appropriate that the AHA start a new monthly webinar series.
  • The Smithsonian documents homebrewing: This Homebrew Con session introduced the research and collecting work of the American Brewing History Initiative at the Smithsonian’s National Museum of American History. The initiative, led by the Brewers Association and the AHA, built a new archive of the histories of American homebrewing and craft beer. Listen in as curator Theresa McCulla, Ph.D., presents new research on early homebrew clubs, computing clubs, and the entrepreneurial and intellectual “ferment” of northern California in the 1970s.

With each anniversary, there is even more meaning, more batches of beer, and more accomplishment under our belts. What about your homebrew anniversary? When did you start brewing, and how do you annually celebrate? Please consider sharing your story by emailing me at ahaed@brewersassociation.org.

Julia Herz is executive director of the American Homebrewers Association. You can follow Julia’s homebrew talks and travels on Instagram @ImmaculateFermentation.