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Decline Of The "Homebrewing Lifestyle"

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JohnSand

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I will no more stop brewing to buy local craft beer than I would stop cooking to buy from restaurants. It costs too much, and I enjoy producing something enjoyable.
I shopped at the Hoptron HBS, it was small and open only a few hours a day. Twelve miles west there is a much more comprehensive HBS.
I think the article failed to address a number of reasons that HBS sales may be down:
1. Hobbies are cyclical. People brew for a few years, then move on to something else.
2. Much of the equipment lasts forever. While we have probably all bought a bigger kettle or a kegorator, at some point equipment purchases taper off.
3. Simpler methods. BIAB requires far less equipment than three vessel. Small batch kits can be done on the stove.
4. The above mentioned online shopping.
 

triethylborane

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Online is only one aspect. The real problem is stores not carrying what people want, lack of inventory and bad service. Online has a hard time competing if a local store has their bases covered. Friendly & knowledgeable. Good selection. Price competitive. I wish I had a homebrew shop.
Yes, quite right. I should have been more specific that my comment on brick and mortar regarded retail in general, not just homebrew shops.

For years the closest homebrew shop to me in CO was owned by a guy who was never at the shop and had a crew of employees/volunteers that would basically be at the shop and brew beer, then drink. There was one guy who knew how to brew and was helpful, but the rest were there to brew and drink. And run the register when you were able to wrangle them away from whatever they were doing. Inventory was pretty good, sometimes they would blow it on ordering yeast, and the grain selection was good, but it was clean nor orderly. It wasn't gross, but it wasn't cared for.

Anyway, come to find out the business was clearing 500k a year yet could not turn a profit. Credit lines were being extended, payroll not met, secured creditors throwing down liens, etc. Well, that owner went out of business, sold. 500k and couldn't turn a profit, just from bad biz prac. New owner says he's within 5% of projected profits each month, store is clean, staff is attentive, great inventory, competitive prices from grain to yeast to keg stuff.

Its a hell of a lot easier and for me to go there than to shop online, but in the end it comes down to competitiveness. Maybe at some point that will change, but right now I am grateful to have a good local brick and mortar.
 

brewcat

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^^^ Exactly this. Online is only one part.

Believe it or not you can also compete with online sales. If you have a brick and mortar shop you better also sell online. You just need a well thought out plan and strong marketing. There is plenty of cash flow to go around.

Even though online sales are strong there are plenty of brewers who like to roll into a shop, shoot the stuff, mill their own grains and generally enjoy a LHBS visit.
Even then I would caution any brick and mortar wanting to sell online if it takes away from their current location. An online shop should be considered & utilized as a 2nd store. That is more inventory and more time to manage. Anymore, I don't believe you can just put up an online store and expect sales. First make sure the store info is found online and go from there. People are pretty good at searching for shops in areas.
 

Dadof5

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I certainly can see how the exploded craft beer industry would make a would be brewer shy away from the challenges of crafting their own treasures. The availability of delicious brew is amazing. Thanks to many adventurous homebrewers no doubt! I think lately though, as pointed out earlier, there is so much variety to choose from that what's the point in making it? i believe its a lack of time issue to an extent, but also a generational issue. I'm 40 something and having a hell of a time making good beer... but having one good hell of a time trying! Cheers!:mug:
 

seatazzz

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I personally think it comes down to cycles..bear with me here. You're going to get people who find the Mr Beer kits, suddenly think "hey I can do this!", brew a couple of batches, then get a wild hair and go crazy on equipment. Suddenly this hobby requires a LOT more than just watching the stove, and they're done. But then you also get the people who try the mr beer, make something good, take the time to do the research on how to do it better, and shazam they're here on HBT every other day making great beer and helping the noobs. it's cyclical, I tell you.
 

Dadof5

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I personally think it comes down to cycles..bear with me here. You're going to get people who find the Mr Beer kits, suddenly think "hey I can do this!", brew a couple of batches, then get a wild hair and go crazy on equipment. Suddenly this hobby requires a LOT more than just watching the stove, and they're done. But then you also get the people who try the mr beer, make something good, take the time to do the research on how to do it better, and shazam they're here on HBT every other day making great beer and helping the noobs. it's cyclical, I tell you.
Tru dat!
 

Mirilis

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I like the process control, and engineering my own equipment. I dont make many fancy beers (ex: habanero honey infused coffee porter), but I do try to make classic styles and make them well. For me the joy beyond the engineering aspect of it is the fellowship with people who share the same passion for making good beer. Ive been doing it now for about 10 years so i see no reason to stop now.. i have had times where it was hard to find time (working on my MBA with 3 small kids) but I managed.
 

david_42

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I admit I haven't brewed much in the last year, but I have been brewing beers I can't get locally. Hard to believe, since I live in Beervana. However, try to find a Mild, a Brown, a real (not robust) porter or a low-gravity stout at your local. It's tough to impossible. Ditto, cream ales, unhoppy reds, ambers, etc. etc.

Looks like I will be making a couple batches of wine soon, since the Golden Muscat is doing very well and I have about 50 lbs of table grapes in the freezer leftover from last year.
 

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Hoho!

First post. I´m an aspiring homebrewer from Germany. Just startet christmas last year.

Over here "craft beer" doesn´t canibalize homebrewing. Beer prices are just very different. For a halfway decent Pilsener you pay about 1 € 0,5l/pint and for craft beer it´s an average of 4 € for 0,5l/pint ! (grocery store prices)

When I brew I can make simple hopped beer at 12° Plato for about 0,80 €/pint. Hoppy beers like an IPA cost me 1,30 €/pint. Just raw materials, no work calculated. But it´s a hobby so that´s ok.

So when I buy an IPA it costs me 3 times more than a homebrewed version and if it´s imported from the US in a bottle it´s 100% skunked.
What kind of beers are you making? American IPAs?
 

FelixGER

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I did one once but don´t really like the style. Too heavy. I´m more into regular Pale Ales (~5% ABV, 35-40 IBUs) often combining american hops with the new german ones like callista or huell melon.
 

65C

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The article makes a strong suggestion towards many brewers stopping this hobby because they can now buy 'craft beers' they couldn't buy before.
I've been pretty much drinking nothing but my brews now for 3 months

now I like the odd pub pint - if it's a really good pub (Smithfield Tavern Manchester) - but there are still few pubs that have *really* good beer on - more often than not it's mediocre even if it's a decent brewery - and too often it's something a bit whacky like coffee porter

I got some craft brew cans for the train the other day - they were good and interesting - but it was still great to get back home and crack open one of mine - I can't quite put my finger on the difference - maybe I'm only doing malt/flavour I know I really like, maybe they are more yeasty and fresh, maybe they are more bitter than a brewery would do - either way I prefer them and it's worth the effort
 

Syke

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I'm seeing an abundance of homebrew hardware. Grainfather, SSBrew, Robobrew, PicoBrew, etc. The homebrew community is obviously doing extremely well.
 

chickypad

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Seems more plausible that the popularity of craft brew caused an unnatural surge in the number of people trying homebrewing (as they point out from 2009-2012) and now there is a correcting decline as those folks who don't really love it or didn't really take to it drop out. I think they are completely misinterpreting the data to say that all these established homebrewers are dropping the hobby now because they can just buy the beer commercially. Seems like the only ones they've documented actually quitting are those who have gone pro.
 

65C

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Also - I don't think many people can afford to drink 4 pints of commercial craft beer a night at £4 or £5 a pint - when you can brew for a quarter of the price
 

MapleGroveAleworks

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Yeah I have no interest in retail beer really. I'll buy a pint if I'm out somewhere but I rely mostly on my own beer...and we have great local breweries. I just have no interest because I make my own beer.
 
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ericbw

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We cook steaks at home, but I'll still get a steak at a restaurant sometimes. To be fair, it is usually at a dinner when someone else is buying.
 

Spartan1979

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When I started brewing in the early nineties it was because I couldn't get much of anything. Now I pretty much brew German style because it's still hard to get good fresh examples of these. If I want an IPA I just go buy it.
 

Arbe0

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jez ..In tasting some of the beer I can get in stores, it is had to figure out what tastes good and what doesn't. I have bought some that were just really bad and some that were ok.
The solution to this is to brew your own beer that you like and the way you like. That way your not standing there looking at a bottle that has very little information for brewers and wandering if it is any good.
 
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I don't think the emergence of craft beers had that much to do with homebrew's recent decline. I think that most people who homebrew are still buying commercial beers pretty regularly.

I think the homebrew thing was a bit of a fad. I know quite a few people who jumped in, made a few batches, then just stopped.The hardcore people will keep going.

A brick-and-mortar LHBS in my area recently shut down after only 2 years in business. Several of my go to online locations are gone as well. The owner of another LHBS said his business is down over 20% from the prior year. Most of them showed up about half way through the boom and quickly folded. The older businesses seem to be hanging in there. They know how to handle the ups and downs of the market.

I think the same thing will happen in the brewery world in the near future. There are way too many local breweries out there right now.

Hopefully, as a result of the contraction, hops prices will go down some day. That'd be nice. :D
 

MapleGroveAleworks

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There's something about pulling a pint or popping a bottle of your own beer that local breweries cannot replicate for you. That's why I brew.
 

bwarbiany

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I don't know. Maybe a beer store isn't the right place to sell brewing ingredients. Like a bakery selling flour.
I will take a different tack on that, though...

A homebrew store selling beer is a great idea.

Locally two of my nearby stores [O'Shea Brewing and Windsor Homebrew Supply] also sell craft beer. O'Shea has been doing so for as long as I've known of them, they're the place to get special kegs of craft beer, and they sell a lot of rare and hard-to-find craft beer. Windsor is newer (recently celebrated 2nd anniversary), just expanded their store and added commercial beer. Again, it's more of the rare and hard-to-find stuff.

The LHBS business isn't easy. Margins are thin, there's a lot of competition online, and in highly populated areas like where I live, the LHBS actually are also in competition with each other.

Adding a second revenue stream (craft beer) is helpful to the bottom line. Having that as an additional reason for people to come to the store--where they might decide they need something brewing-related--keeps you more relevant to your customers.

Another local store to me just changed management because the owner was forced to get a 9-5 job. I just met the new owners and they were saying they "hope" it picks up. While the store is w/in 2 miles of my house, I fear they're not going to survive unless they do more than "hope". If they sold craft beer I might go in there more often than I do now, and there are times that I might go to one of the other stores if convenient because they have supplies *and* craft beer.
 

beernutz

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The author of the Forbes article decided to write about what she perceived as a decline in the number of homebrewers and then looked for evidence to support her claim and then finally came up with a straw man reason (increasing craft beer sales) she believed was the cause for the decline.

She ignored that there is no proven correlation between the number of brick and mortar homebrew stores and the number of homebrewers. It doesn't appear she tried to determine how much homebrew supplies were being sold online.

She relied heavily on data provided by the AHA about homebrew supplies sales volume from B&M homebrew stores when not all LHBS, in fact I would suspect only a small percentage of them, even report sales data to the AHA.

She didn't take into account data such as the increasing membership in the AHA or the number of participants and entries in the NHBC or other evidence to suggest that the number of homebrewers is not in decline.

I think it was a well-written but poorly researched article.
 

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I stumbled onto the article listed below. And it got my brain (what's left) working a bit. So I thought I would bring it up in this forum and see what ya' chaps thought.

https://www.forbes.com/sites/taranu...d-heres-why-you-may-be-to-blame/#a292dbe51fd8

I myself brew beer because I enjoy it. I enjoy the smells, the process, the idea of creating something and later being rewarded for it. I basically do it for me.

The article makes a strong suggestion towards many brewers stopping this hobby because they can now buy 'craft beers' they couldn't buy before.

I thought we do this because we love it? Sure I can go to Publix and buy a 6 pack of Jai Alai but that takes away from the fun of me trying to make my own awesome beer.

What do you guys think? Are we losing brewers because we can easily buy great craft beer?
There are very few beers I can buy that I like better than mine.
 

z-bob

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I dislike the word "lifestyle", because I think the emphasis is on the style rather than the life.

I like the process of brewing beer. And when I'm done, I (usually) have cheap beer that's better than anything I can buy for $1 a bottle. I also buy a lot of dollar a bottle beer because I don't get to brew as often as I'd like.

I generally buy hoppy beers like IPAs, and brew more malty ones.
 

Lefou

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But then you also get the people who try the Mr Beer, make something moderately tolerable, take the time to do the research on how to do it better, and shazam! they're here on HBT every other day making better and more tolerable beer and helping the noobs. It's cyclical, I tell you.
*takes a bow*

As long as I can make better, cheaper beer from the LBHS than the mass-produced commercials can, I'm a happy guy. That isn't going to stop me from trying - or buying - better examples I haven't learned to brew or appreciate myself.
 

JONNYROTTEN

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I like the fact that I can fill a 20 gallon pot full of tap water and turn it into beer. Its the cool factor and knowing how that I like. I also like saving sh*t tons of money brewing my own beer.

I started out with a simple electric system and kegerator to make things as easy and quick as possible. I already have the equipment and knowledge for making beer so why would I possibly stop brewing..its easy at this point.....being able to buy craft beer or not has never been the reason for my brewing.
 

k1ngl1ves

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The "Homebrewer Bubble" has popped. Norther Brewer sold at just the right time. :ban:


We're already seeing it, but expect more lhbs and websites to go out of business. There's just too many options, and many are too expensive to keep competing.


In the For Sale section here, and my local cl, I see people selling it all off much too frequently as well. The "bubble" has popped. We should start to see some fantastic deals in the near future...
 

JONNYROTTEN

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It seems odd the "bubble has popped" when homebrewing has gotten easier than ever. Equipment is cheaper (BIAB) Online shopping has made it easy for EVERYONE to get ingredients/supplies if they have no LHBS

Its become known you don't need to brain surgeon to make good beer...its really pretty easy.

I find it hard to believe Inbev with there millions of dollars in research would buy out NB on a downward trend
 

atoughram

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(ex: habanero honey infused coffee porter
Where can I find a recipe?? :ban:

I've been brewing since around 1992 or 1993 - I don't remember. I do remember my grandfather having a taste of my first batch and he died in early 1994. (No - not from trying my first batch...)

I started because I liked what a buddy of mine was brewing.

I took a few years off during a busy time of life.

I think the hobby is doing better than it ever has. Back in 1993 it was seen as a backwoods redneck thing to do. It sure has evolved over the years. It's still evolving - maybe it's not the "in" thing anymore. And that's ok - the fanboys were starting to drive me nuts. :tank:
 

k1ngl1ves

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It seems odd the "bubble has popped" when homebrewing has gotten easier than ever. Equipment is cheaper (BIAB) Online shopping has made it easy for EVERYONE to get ingredients/supplies if they have no LHBS

Its become known you don't need to brain surgeon to make good beer...its really pretty easy.

I find it hard to believe Inbev with there millions of dollars in research would buy out NB on a downward trend
Just like any hobby, people come and go. I know at least 10 guys who were brewing and have stopped. Life gets in the way of brewing, or it was more than they anticipated, or they decided they'd rather just buy their beer, or they decided they now drink way too much. Lol!

There will always be fair-weather hobbyists. The number of them in homebrewing is large. For some, it was just a fad and they're moving on to the next. There will always be hard core brewers though, but the numbers can't keep this giant market afloat. We have most of the gear we need. We watch costs and buy in bulk. We make our own recipes instead of being overcharged for kits. We DIY equipment a lot.

The homebrewing community is shrinking. There's no doubt about it, and there are numbers proving it from large homebrewing organizations. I can't find the links (although I half-assed it), but it's around here on this website. Less equipment and ingredients/kits are bought when there's less new brewers, and some veteran brewers are walking away.


As for Inbev.... didn't they spend over a billion dollars for Ballast? I'm sure everyone in the business was flabbergasted by that amount. Good for the BP guys! It made the Goose acquisition look like a steal.

NB isn't going anywhere any time soon. My comment was meant to be a joke (hence the dancing banana). IMO, they've got the market cornered and are killing the competitors with their marketing strategies. I don't buy from them because they are way overpriced. I could care less that they're owned by Inbev.




This is all just ramblings from one individual. It's just the way I see it. Only time will tell...
 
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Based on the experiences of myself and others I know, it's been the boom in craft beer that has given a lot of people inspiration for actually trying home brewing. For a long time, the only people I knew who were home brewing were buying those $15 kits at grocery stores, and the beer was awful, but it was a very very cheap way to have an "endless" supply of beer kicking around.

Now that people know that there are more tastes out there besides mass produced lagers and pilsners, I think people like to think "hey, I can probably do this!"
 

ericbw

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A good guide would be how many people on average are on this site at a given time....is it up or down for the same time other years?

That's one element. But not all brewers are on here or active. I think the beginning brewing threads would be the most telling.

I've noticed that activity here *seemed* to go down after they did a major update.
 

DromJohn

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I planned to start homebrewing in 1991. I walked into the homebrew store, started filling my cart, turned the corner and saw a wall of refrigerators. I put up the homebrew items and left with 3 cases of singles (mostly foreign and some craft) and one case of Anchor Christmas Ale. Why start homebrewing when I could buy good stuff off the shelf?

Now, I love to homebrew. But every other beer I drink is commercial.

That said, I lost my regional homebrew store, December 31st, when they chose not to re-up their lease. Most of my online purchases are from Northern Brewer because of organic LME. But then, NB doesn't carry spelt, which will get me to Chicago Brew Werks in two brews. It is hard to stock everything.
 

SlitheryDee

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I never much cared about the money aspect. Commercial beer is more than cheap enough for me. Brewing just hooked me in the way any deep hobby can. I feel like I've learned something on every brew. Every beer I make incorporates something to make it better that occurred to me on a previous brew. I think I could probably go on making incremental improvements and drinking better and better beer as a result for years without getting to the end of what I can learn about making beer. I'm just in it for the long haul. I love the process, the alchemy of taking a bunch of grains and turning them into an alcoholic beverage that I've tailored to my tastes fascinates me. I've got so many plans for things that I want to do in my head. Stuff that I just want to try to see how it works out. I'd brew every weekend if my SO would let me.
 

ericbw

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Brewing and drinking are two different things.
 
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Even then I would caution any brick and mortar wanting to sell online if it takes away from their current location. An online shop should be considered & utilized as a 2nd store. That is more inventory and more time to manage. Anymore, I don't believe you can just put up an online store and expect sales. First make sure the store info is found online and go from there. People are pretty good at searching for shops in areas.
Well my current business is building websites and doing SEO (finding your business online).

So pretty sure people will find my shop when they search :)
 
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