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Q&A: The American Homebrewers Association and Retail

Steve Parr is the assistant director of the American Homebrewers Association. In this Q&A, he shares how retailers can best serve as a destination for local homebrewers.

The homebrewing hobby is very popular among consumers. As a retailer, offering the products a homebrewer will need can drive a new customer base to your business.

In order to best attract, educate and sell products to homebrewers in your community, the American Association of Homebrewers (AHA) has the tools to help. Steve Parr, assistant director of the AHA, took questions from Hardware Retailing about the association and how it can support hardware retailers involved in the homebrew hobby.

Hardware Retailing (HR): Can you tell us a little about the American Homebrewers Association?

Steve Parr (SP): The American Homebrewers Association has been around since 1978. We were founded in Boulder, Colorado, through a small newsletter sent to out to local homebrewers and we’ve grown quite a bit since then. Really what we do is we advocate for the hobby of homebrewing. We’re a membership organization and we have more than 46,000 members nationwide.

We provide educational resources for homebrewing through our website, homebrewersassociation.org, as well as our magazine, Zymurgy Magazine, which is published every two months. We also promote the activity through our events. We have the National Homebrew Competition; it’s the world’s largest beer competition with almost 8,000 entries every year from around the world. We do an annual conference, Homebrew Con, which is happening in June in Minneapolis. We’re also involved with homebrew legislation around the country. As homebrewing has grown in popularity, we’ve seen some local issues where it’s becoming difficult for people to make their own beer and share it with others through competitions or homebrew club meetings. We work with them to change some of those laws to make it easier for homebrewers to participate in these activities that make homebrewing so much fun.

HR: Can you tell us what you know about the homebrewing industry and any information on how many consumers are trying the hobby out?

SP: We estimate there are more than 1.2 million people in the United States that make their own beer at home. Homebrewing has seen some pretty incredible growth in just the last 10 years, though recent years have started to show that’s started to level off.

In 2013, we surveyed homebrewers and winemakers through our homebrew supply shop network and we ended up surveying more than 20,000 people. More than 50 percent of those folks started homebrewing sometime after 2008. In addition to greater access to information, quality brewing ingredients, and just generally better quality beer through the growth of craft beer, people can make better beer at home now more than ever.

HR: How can a retailer work with the AHA and what are the benefits of partnering with the AHA?

SP: Our online directory features all retailers carrying home beverage supplies and products; there is no cost for that. However, we do offer a membership option for businesses, which combines benefits of a business membership with the American Homebrewers Association with access to industry data and conference seminar recordings. Member shops are more prominently listed on our website and in Zymurgy magazine. Shop ownership and staff also enjoy their own individual memberships that come with their AHA Member Shop membership.

HR: How can a retailer excel in the homebrew category and distinguish himself or herself from the competition?

SP: Many homebrewers enjoy the process and chance to build their own systems at home using equipment and materials that are commonly found at hardware stores, so hardware stores would have a leg up already. Your business would be a one-stop shop for picking up ingredients for that next batch as well as picking up other needed equipment. It’s just about providing them with an overall quality experience, from picking up ingredients to the first sip of their beer, and that’s something shops can struggle with, like cleanliness, having a well-thought out display, welcoming newcomers and fresh ingredients.

HR: What advice would you give to a retailer who is considering adding a homebrew product selection to their business?

SP: Take some time to educate yourself and take advantage of all the resources and people available. At first, the thought of carrying homebrewing supplies may be daunting, especially if you’ve never homebrewed before. Take advantage of the knowledge made available from your sales reps you worked with to secure ingredients. These wholesalers can help guide you in securing what you need to get started.

Get involved. There is an opportunity to be involved in your local homebrew community. Working with a local homebrew club is a great way to stay on top of trends and keep your business top of mind amongst local homebrewers.

The last thing I’d say is keep it simple (at least when getting new homebrewers started). Homebrewing can be as simple or complex as you want it to be. We’re fortunate to have an incredible amount of research and innovation in equipment and ingredients these days, but all the new equipment and toys available can be intimidating to new homebrewers. As educators, we want the first batch to be an easy and positive experience that results in great tasting beer. Even the most basic of starter kits can accomplish this.

HR: How can a retailer best educate themselves and their employees on homebrewing?

SP: Try brewing a batch of beer yourself or even have a staff brew day. First-hand experience is the best way to educate yourself and your staff.

We also have a number of free resources on our website, homebrewersassociation.org, including instructional videos, articles and even an introduction to homebrewing guide, which is available for free as a PDF or physical magazine sent to the store. We like to recommend this because it breaks down the homebrewing process in an easy to understand manner along with some suggested recipes.

HR: What knowledge and advice should a retailer be able to offer their customers?

SP: For new homebrewers, make sure their first batch of beers is easy and enjoyable. If they have a positive experience that results in quality beer the first time around, that’s what will keep them coming back. Having a dedicated staff member with knowledge of the brewing process, equipment and ingredients is important for new and experienced homebrewers alike.

HR: Would you recommend retailer’s host events and educational sessions?

SP: I think offering classes or homebrewing demonstrations are a proven way to bring in new as well as returning customers and get them excited about the hobby. In addition to growing your customer base, you’re helping customers make better beer. It’s also a chance to promote the activity and your business.

HR: Is there anything else our readers should know?

SP: Beer is in. Offering home beverage making supplies can be a great way to promote your business to a wider audience. Plus, there is a lot of synergy between hardware supplies and homebrew supplies. We want retailers to know that we’re here as a resource for them to gain exposure to bring in new customers, connect them with suppliers or even as a source for educational materials they can use in their stores.

About Renee Changnon

Renee Changnon is the retail outreach coordinator for NRHA. She meets with retailers in their stores and at industry events and introduces them to the services NRHA provides. Renee previously worked as a member of the NRHA communications team. She earned a degree in visual journalism from Illinois State University, where she served as the features editor for the school newspaper. After college, she implemented marketing and promotions initiatives at Jimmy John’s franchise locations across the country. She enjoys exploring books with her book club, Netflix marathons and hosting goat yoga at her apartment complex. Renee Changnon 317-275-9442 rchangnon@nrha.org

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