March 30, 2014
On Sunday, more than 120 homebrewers from across Virginia gathered at Devils Backbone Brewing Company for a rally.
The event was organized by the American Homebrewers Association (AHA), which has more than 40,000 members in the U.S.
"Virginia is actually one of our most popular states in terms of AHA membership. This AHA rally program has been around for about 10 years, and we're really happy to bring it to Virginia for the first time today," said Matt Bolling, events and membership coordinator for AHA.
Attendees got a behind-the-scenes tour of the brewery, drinks and took part in a raffle.
"It's an old hobby, but growing in popularity. I think with the craft beer movement, they've sort of symbiotically both grown greatly in the last five to ten years," said Warren Haskell, craft adventure coordinator for Devils Backbone.
Haskell says there are an estimated 1.2 million homebrewers in the country, but at least 60 percent of them have been brewing for less than ten years.
Though he works for a professional brewery, Haskell has been brewing at his home for more than 15 years.
"In the end, the biggest difference is scale -- the size of what you're doing. I brew ten gallons at home, we brew 250 gallons here, we brew 30 barrels at our brewery down in Lexington," he said.
Homebrewing allows beer drinkers to experiment with their own recipes.
"The beauty of homebrewing is that if you find a beer that you like, you can make it to your own taste," said Bolling.
Organizers say a lot of well-known brewers come from a homebrewing background, forming a natural relationship between the professionals and amateurs.
"The craft brewers are reaching out to their quintessential audience," said Bolling. "Homebrewers are the kind of people who are really going to be out there promoting their brand because they know how much work it takes to make a quality product and making a quality beer because they've done it before."
The group hopes to expand the rally program, hosting about 30 events across the country this year.