Is Homebrew Dying?

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".

is homebrew dying chart

That's a rather alarming drop over the last half-decade, but there is some important things to consider here:

  1. 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.
  2. 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.
  3. 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:

  1. Among shops who sold homebrewing supplies & equipment as their primary source of income, revenue decreased 6.5% over Q1 2015.
  2. 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.

homebrew club

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.Shop All Grain kits

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.

by David Doucette
David is a full blown fermentation enthusiast who has dedicated much of his free time to learning and sharing the art of homebrewing. He's spent several years documenting and writing homebrewing information on his blog Hive Mind Mead. He's written over 60 articles between Homebrew Talk and Homebrew Supply.

Photo credits:

Lead image - Cal Evans

Braukline Homebrew Club - Brookline, MA

written by David Doucette

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15 comments on “Is Homebrew Dying?”

  • no matter how much the commercial brewers raise their game, as long as I can source good quality ingredients as a reasonable price i'll continue to homebrew.

    my brews are tuned for me, only the odd beer or two on supermarket shelves hits the spot for me and they cost double the price of mine.

    Reply
  • Push good content on YouTube. I got interested from a brewer, but started because of Michael Dawson's videos made by Chip Walton. There needs to be more quality videos that show technique and passion for the culture.

    Reply
    • There is a new Homebrew video channel on the Youtubes / Facebook - It's a husband & wife team. So far they have posted their first two brews, and say that they have filmed 12 brews total at this point.

      They are 'recruiting' homebrewers and commercial brewers to come in brew with them and share their knowledge. So far several people from the clubs in Toronto have gone in, I'm going in September.

      Quality looks good - It's called Le Gourmet TV BrewHouse

      Reply
  • Matthew Weatherford August 11, 2016 at 3:46 pm

    and the chart doesn't go back to the 90's when there was nothing. Barely any stores at all. It might be coming back to norm after a high, but it's not going away

    Reply
  • It got super trendy for a while and is now settling back to where it was. It's not for everyone, but there will always be a group who do this.

    Reply
  • I doubt homebrewing will go away. And judging from the record entries in many major competitions, there is no lack of serious homebrewers.

    Reply
  • BlackIslandBrewer August 13, 2016 at 9:13 pm

    I started brewing at a "peak" time,1996. It dropped off a lot, then came back. Most brewers are men, and most men have short attention spans for hobbies. It will peak again.

    Reply
  • We see the same thing in the shooting sports. Shooting and brewing both take time and money. When money gets tight, we slow down our hobbies to save cash....there is simply no way to save money if you are spending money, in spite of what Washington thinks!

    I think money is tighter than folks want us to think. Have you gotten a huge raise lately? Naw, me either. My business is still not back up to where it was in 2008..."it is the economy stupid or the stupid economy" as someone once said.

    Frankly, your graph looks just like my business graph, flat...it's there, but flat.

    Money is never an object, until it is...it's always about the money.

    Reply
    • Graphs and stats are only part of the problem. Just adding the word 'homebrew' can double the price of a funnel. I understand making a profit, but if homebrew stores want to compete with Walmart, lotssa luck!
      Anything that is a hobby is considered optional- thus not a necessity, and if cuts in a budget have to be made, well, hobby brewing suffers. Folks need to understand that homebrew saves them money. I can make craft quality beer for less than $.40 a pint, a comparable beer in a restaurant or bar would be $4-5 a pint. I also drink less homebrew than store bought because I determine the ABV of my beers, not to mention pride of making some really good beers.
      Is it a trend? Yea, like Texas Holdem- but there will always be folks looking for a game. Happy Brewing & 17!

      Reply
  • Has the Google trend been verified not to include "homebrew" as in homebrew games? These were particularly popular with the the Nintendo ds and Xbox, which were end of life come the end of 00s.

    The popularity of this subsection of gaming is also on the wane since the big console providers have launched marketplaces for independents...

    On a side note and probably much like the gaming industry I'd imagine a lot of people have their big ticket equipment already if there has been a boom. Maybe people are now switching to maintaining (I.e. Ingredients and consumables)

    Reply
  • Some pretty weak AHA "numbers" ...
    For starters HBC / Home Brew Con has steadily grown over the last 5 years +.
    You answer your own stat in all probability,the reason that shops sales are down is because the online market is there,people don't go out of their house any more.
    There are also more Home brew shops opening up and competing and hopefully forcing out inferior business.

    Reply
  • You will always have people enter a hobby only to later be disinterested with that hobby and they fade away. Or they have a lull in their participation. The steady pre and post numbers show that there is a passionate group of people that enjoy home brewing as is evidenced by the activity on HBT forums. I've been brewing since 1987 and have had times of inactivity but by no means have lost interest. What you have in the chart is people that where curious and tried home brewing but weren't dedicated or interested enough to continue. To those that dedicated to advancing our craft I say BrewOn!

    Reply
  • I live streamed the last extract batch I did over periscope. Got lots of questions while I did it and even a few people saying they should check it out.

    Reply
  • Bryant Dellarocco November 11, 2016 at 5:56 pm

    Thanks for the great post keep up the amazing work.

    Reply
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