All hobbies die. It's a fact that all of us may be facing in the coming decade. There was a time when children played in the streets hitting a hoop with a stick. That's gone. Fifteen years ago, children for the most part, played outside. Neither of those things really happen any more. Even our beloved hobby homebrewing has declined over the last couple years. So we must ask ourselves, is homebrew dying, and if so, what do we do about it?
Is Homebrew Dying?
The interest in homebrew began to grow rapidly around 2006. It continued to grow steadily all the way to around 2009. According to Google Trends, homebrewing has been slowly, but steadily declining since 2011 (based on the terms "homebrew and homebrewing".
That's a rather alarming drop over the last half-decade, but there is some important things to consider here:
- The drop off begins at the end of the recent recession (2010-2011). When times are tough, people turn to homebrewing. Whether that is a mix of increased depression-driven drinking, or a desire to save a penny or two on beer, who knows, but the numbers don't lie.
- The drop off has leveled itself out. After the recession ended, and interest in homebrew dropped off, it did level out close to or a little higher than per-recession numbers. The sample of data here also doesn't show too far before the recession, or too far after it. So it will be interesting to see if the interest rises again, stays the same, or continues a slow drop off.
- You can always count on December. Lastly, like most retail environments, there is a big boost in sales around the holidays. If you look at the chart above, all of the significant growth spikes that took place, starting at 2010 and going forward, took place in December.
Now let's look at some information from the AHA First Quarter Revenue Survey of 2016. Here are some noteworthy numbers:
- Among shops who sold homebrewing supplies & equipment as their primary source of income, revenue decreased 6.5% over Q1 2015.
- Shops that haven been open for over 5 years and have less than 70% of their sales coming from online patronage saw an 11.3% decrease over last year's Q1 numbers.
Another thing to consider is the rapid growth of the craft beer industry. In 2011 the craft beer industry held 5.7% volume share in the beer market. Over the past 4 years, that number nearly doubled to 12.2% and craft beer now owns 22.3 billion (21%) of the 105.9 billion dollar beer market. This doesn't include craft brewers owned by macro breweries, so there is even more craft beer around. While the growing amount of quality craft beer hurts far less than not being in a recession, readily available craft beer in more vendors around the country means there is less of a need to make your own.
Keeping Homebrew Alive and Well
So after facing the facts above, us brewers have to ask ourselves. Ask not what homebrewing can do for us, but ask what we can do for homebrewing. Personally, I'd like to brew until they dig a hole for me in the ground, and that's a ways away, so it's up to everyone, homebrew shops and homebrewers to keep the hobby alive and well.
Convert Convert Convert!
The best way to get more people interested in brewing their own beer is to take on an apprentice. If you give out homebrew samples at work, and some people really like it, invite them over for a brew session or two to get them going. Or bring a friend to a homebrew club meeting so they can see what it's all about.
Buying gifts for in-laws always stinks! Especially if they're one of those "hard to buy for" kinds of people. But it's likely your in laws, or even significant other's parents have tried your beer, and if they like it, three words should come into your head. Homebrew starter kit. It's also important make sure you keep them interested. This means helping them on brew day, answering their questions, and getting them a recipe kit when Father's or Mother's day rolls around. After a few batches, they should have enough steam to continue on their way. Hopefully one day they too will bring someone new into the hobby.
Homebrew Supply is Doing Its Part
First and foremost Homebrew Supply was started by brewers, for brewers. It works hard to keep the hobby going.
Homebrew Supply fosters new brands, and expands existing ones, like its recent partnership with Spike Brewing. The rise of one gallon brewing kits should also increase accessibility to new brewers. This is because the upfront startup cost for small batch kits is smaller than that of larger setups.
The learning center provides information and DIY projects for brewers of all experience levels. Whether you want to jump from extract to all grain, build your own sight glass, or simply just browse the wealth of information, the Learning Center is constantly updating with new content.
An Up Front Social Presence keeps the hobby on the front page of google in searches. Being active in forums and other brewing communities provide a wealth of information to new brewers, which is key to those new brewers staying with the hobby. So for every forum post, tweet, and article reply you make, Homebrew Supply and the brewing community thank you dearly.