Director’s Cut: Looking Ahead to 2023

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Julia Herz AHA director

By Julia Herz, American Homebrewers Association Executive Director

There is much to look forward to in 2023 and beyond for homebrewing and the American Homebrewers Association (AHA). Here is a look at what is new.

National Homebrew Competition: Back to First Rounds and More!

You asked, and we heard. As part of this 45-year strong National Homebrew Competition (NHC), we are bringing back First Round judging sites to multiple US states in spring 2023. This step allows the AHA, in concert with the Beer Judge Certification Program (BJCP), to judge all entries at a regional level to determine which homebrews qualify for Final-Round judging in San Diego during Homebrew Con in June. Woot.

This move also brings back the BJCP scoresheet judging process for First Round entries with Final Round entries judged using the same comment sheets from 2022 NHC. So, get brewing and get ready to enter the world’s largest homebrew competition to compete against the best in the world. Competition registration opens January 24, 2023. For more information, visit the National Homebrew Competition website.

Homebrew ConTM | June 22–24, Town and Country, San Diego, Calif.

Time to plan for a fermentation vacation! In 2023, look for the world’s most robust educational homebrew gathering to be more “vacation style.” We’ll emphasize outdoor events, new workshops, and more sleeping in, yet still with plenty of world-class seminars from the world’s top homebrew speakers. At the same time, don’t miss leadership gatherings including a new Homebrew Club Officer Bootcamp and Industry Convention. Registration opens March 7, 2023, with an early-bird rate for the full conference and social package and discounted hotel rooms available while they last. For the latest information, check out HomebrewCon.org.

Welcome to Zymurgy Online Learning!

In 2023, we will produce a new exclusive webinar series for members to participate in live or watch via rebroadcast. This virtual opportunity allows us to offer the same level of world-class homebrew content you’ve come to expect from Homebrew Con seminars, all year long. Look for monthly topics that cater to beginners and advanced homebrewers alike.

Member Deals: More Robust National Discounts

We’re all about the reward of membership paying itself back exponentially. Did you know you have access to more than 2,000 members-only deals at homebrew shops, breweries, and online retailers? The savings more than pay back the cost of your AHA membership. In 2023, look for even more robust national discounts. Want a sample? As of December 2022, AHA members now get 20 percent off all Cicerone study materials, BeerSavvy Online (which includes the Certified Beer Server exam!), Road to Cicerone courses, flash cards, and more.

USPS Shipping Beer

Homebrew Shipping

One of the top things homebrewers ask me about is the legality of shipping homebrew and solutions for shipping to competitions. The bottom line is that it is federally illegal to ship alcohol through the US Postal Service, so solutions require state-by-state private carrier help.

With support from the Brewers Association (BA), the 501(c)(6) not-for-profit trade association that works on behalf of small and independent craft brewers and parent organization to the AHA, we continue to work on this issue. Getting homebrewing legalized in all 50 states is one example of what can happen when your national organization works with state-based organizations. Today we stand ready to do the same for shipping and assist unified state efforts where homebrew clubs and state brewers guilds are in sync.

Please get in touch with us if your club or state has active efforts, and for those wanting to know about this issue’s history check out Brewers Association Continues Efforts to Legalize USPS Shipping of Alcohol.

More Robust Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion (DEI) Efforts

The second top topic I get asked about, which also comes up in our member surveys, is how the AHA can advance diversity among homebrewers. With only an estimated 5 percent of membership being women and 8 percent non-white, we have a lot of work to do. In 2023, we will build upon earlier efforts and offer more best-practice materials and resources, including

  • New 2023 DEI mini-grants open to homebrew events, media production projects, and educational initiatives focused on inclusivity;
  • Training resources for homebrew leaders who want to be more inclusive;
  • AHA Model Code of Conduct for homebrew clubs;
  • Bringing the AHA into the overall BA DEI membership committee structure giving AHA members an expanded voice in overall organizational DEI work and resources.

A Pause of Governing Committee Elections

The AHA has paused our 2023 election, and current Governing Committee (GC) members slated to term out in 2023 were given the option to extend their term for one additional year. I advocated for pausing the election, and this proposal was approved by the GC. It’s a unique step for unique times and a direct result of the GC’s work having been interrupted by COVID-19. This doesn’t mean you can’t participate or lead at the AHA. Part of the GC’s recent work has been to formalize a new path to tap and train volunteer leader members and establish new subcommittees and working groups, an overview of which appears below. For access to the GC overview page, visit HomebrewersAssociation.org.

AHA Governing Committee Mission

Supports the health of the American Homebrewers Association and homebrewing. Responsible for: Subcommittee and working group work of the AHA; Advising the AHA Executive Subcommittee, Executive Director, and BA Board; Ensuring AHA member resources fit with member needs.

AHA Governing Committee Executive Subcommittee Mission

The lead steering group to prioritize issues for the full GC and represent the GC to the Executive Director and BA Board.

New Governing Committee Subcommittee and Working Groups

AHA members ready to roll up their sleeves to advance the AHA and homebrewing, should look for prerequisites and application information to be published in the early months of 2023.

  • Events and Education Subcommittee: Bring together AHA member leaders to provide input and support for AHA-driven events, educational offerings, and sponsorship/support from outside organizations to increase member value and retention.
  • Competition Working Group: Provide input and support to execute the world’s largest and most respected homebrew competition that appeals to the broadest number of homebrewers.
  • Industry Working Group: Connect industry members and AHA members to provide industry insight and support and align industry resources with AHA membership needs to ensure mutual benefit.
  • Homebrew Con Seminar Working Group: Guide the seminars at HBC based on what AHA members believe are the most critical issues and topics for the homebrewing community that year.

New Group Membership Offerings

Now breweries can purchase group memberships for their teams, and non-member breweries can also purchase AHA group memberships. This is the perfect team gift and/or professional development offering. Reach out to our Membership Team Monday through Friday between 8 a.m. and 5 p.m. Mountain Time at 888.822.6273, ext. 2, or by email.

New Association Management System Means Enhanced Online Experience

In 2022, we moved to a new association software platform to better manage member data and benefits. The benefits to you include enhanced data protection and a better member experience. While this is exciting, and while most of the change takes place behind the scenes, you’ll need to create new credentials to access your AHA website benefits. We ask you to partner with us to provide input on what we can refine and improve from here. If you have not recently logged into your account on HomebrewersAssociation.org, please do so, and do not hesitate to reach out with feedback or for assistance. Our membership team is here to help.

Financial Update

Because of our amazing access to world-class talent and the infrastructure of the BA, we stand ready to support, as resources permit, AHA efforts to secure better legal treatment for homebrewers while we further invest in member benefits, deliver increasing value, and advance the hobby of homebrewing. As you may have noticed, changes are far-reaching in the homebrew business due to COVID-19 and its variants. The global economy is in a new space, inflation is rising, and here in the US, challenging economic times are afoot for homebrew shops, our allied trade partners, and us as homebrewers.

It’s all enough to make one want to go brew, right? So, brew I do, as I share that this affects the AHA, too. Despite headwinds, challenges, and working hard to be revenue neutral we are fortunate to have the support of our parent organization, albeit a fraction of annual revenue and expenses. For organizational information and updates, visit BrewersAssociation.org.

Excitement and Optimism

Summarizing 2023 leaves me excited and optimistic, with an eye for growth. AHA growth means membership renewals and new memberships, both of which are essential to us and to the broader ecosystem of homebrewing as a hobby.

So, please renew and recruit with abandon while we continue to over-deliver on benefits that help you recoup your marginal membership cost exponentially. Can we grow our 37,000 AHA member community to 50,000? To 100,000? Just think of what we could do. Here is to an amazing year ahead and, as always, for the latest, be sure to opt in to our bi-weekly What’s Brewing newsletter.

Julia Herz is the executive director of the American Homebrewers Association. Follow her on Instagram @ImmaculateFermentation.