Weekly dose of Beer Nut

Younger home brewers on the rise

Published: Wednesday, July 27, 2011, 1:18 PM

clip_image002By George Lenkermasslive.com

I have two pieces of news today: one national and one regional.

On the national front, the American Homebrewers Association (AHA) reports that it recently conducted its second annual survey of homebrew supply shops. The 2011 survey, conducted in the spring, saw a huge leap in several areas, including a whopping 67 percent increase of respondents over 2010’s survey. But more importantly, the results indicate that homebrewing is growing across the board.

As far as sales, home brew supply shops grew 16 percent in gross revenue in 2010, which matches the previous year’s growth rate. What really shows an uptick in the overall interest in home brewing, however is that 82 percent of shops saw an increase in sales of beginner kits in 2010. If even half of these new home brewers stick with the hobby, that will bode well for the growing trend in years to come.

Along those same lines, another positive trend that looks to home brewing’s bright future is thay 43 percent of retailers polled indicated that the most common age group for beginner equipment purchasers is the under-30 crowd.

"Traditionally a hobby dominated by middle-aged males, the influx of younger homebrewers bodes well for the future of the pastime," said AHA Director Gary Glass.

And while the next item was more anecdotal than empirical, many shops surveyed believed that they saw the number of female homebrewers on the rise as well.

This new demand is also shown in the number of newer home-brew retailers. In 2010, 25 percent of shops indicated they’d been open for three years or fewer, showing that many new shops are springing up to meet the needs of home brewers across the nation.

As far as local/regional news for Massachusetts/New England, I received an e-mail announcing the opening of Jack’s Abby Brewing in Framingham. I will be following up on this new place in a future column, but wanted to get some initial information out to readers now.

What intrigues me about this new brewery is that it will be focusing on lagers, not ales. Lagers are a bit harder for breweries to make, not so much because of the process, but because they take so much longer to make. As the name implies (lager is German for "store" or "put away") lagers have to be, well, lagered, or stored for a while after being brewed to allow some off the wilder and rougher flavors found in ales to smooth out a bit. But this takes time, and time is money, so many small brewers can’t afford to brew a lot of lagers. Lagering also takes space, as you need a place to store these beers, and in practical terms, space = real estate = money.

Jack Abby will initially make three lagers: Saxon Sons Pilsner, Hoponius Union, and Smoke & Dagger. The first is a traditional Pilsner coming in at 5.4 percent, alcohol by volume; the second is a India Pale Lager—a twist on the popular IPA style that comes in at 6.7 alcohol by volume; the third is a dark lager with smoky and cocoa notes that is almost all malt and is 6 percent alcohol by volume.

The beers should be available soon in bars and restaurants, with 12-ounce bottles coming in 2012. More to come on this new brewery in coming weeks.

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