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A Few Words with Charlie Papazian
by Rich Rabassa

Charlie Papazian is considered the father of the modern homebrew movement in the United States. His book, “The Complete Joy of Homebrewing” has had over 25 reprints and has sold over 900,000 copies worldwide since it hit the bookshelves back in 1984. Charlie is currently the president of the Association of Brewers which is the parent company of various other divisions including the American Homebrewers Association and the Institute for Brewing Studies.
HBA had an opportunity to catch up with Charlie...

Tell us a bit about the Association of Brewers (AOB).

The American Homebrewers Association (AHA) was restructured to accommodate the different levels of interest among its members and so the AOB was formed as a parent company to house a variety of different divisions including the AHA.... This was to help each divisions’ interests get the focus it deserved without getting diluted in one large unwieldy corporation.

Tell us a bit about your book, “Joy of Homebrewing”.

Hit the shelf in 1984 and did pretty good considering that homebrewing was nowhere. The AHA at the time only had a handful of members, but slowly the book took off. It did really well in the bookstore, but in the trade, shop owners were hesitant to sell it. It was considerably more expensive at $9 than the books that were traditionally being sold. But it was selling so well in the bookstores that the trade stores finally came around and began to promote the book heavily.

Charlie Papazian

How has the art and the industry of homebrewing changed in recent years, in your opinion?

The homebrewing hobby is not as popular as it once was four or five years ago and there are a number of reasons why. For example, there are certainly a lot of good beers available these days and the economy is doing well right now that the public has much more leisure money to spend on craft microbrews whenever they like.

But I think essentially why the hobby has taken a down turn is that the hobby has not been promoted as being the fun hobby that it really is. Homebrewing is a hobby and people come and go within it. I don’t think we’ve done a really good job in presenting the hobby to potentially new hobbyist. All of us in the industry (including the AHA, AOB, etc...) need to make a better effort to make the hobby more attractive to new people.

What about the international Homebrew scene?

Developing beer enthusiasts in other countries see what we’ve done here in the US and are really jealous. They would like to do what we do in their own countries, but there’s no infrastructure to support the hobby. There are no easy way to get equipment and ingredients, and of course there’s no reliable local information.

What are your thoughts on the Microbrewery rage?

Consumers have never had the kind of choice that they currently have in the US in the history of the world. There are so many beer styles and beer types that have aided in the development of the American palette.

The American palette has definitely improved for the existing beer drinkers. But then again, there are so many new beer drinkers reaching the legal drinking age each year that there still needs to be a continuing effort to educate the beer palette. The education of the palette is a continuing process.

Big breweries in the specialty market.

Well, 20 years ago homebrewers and beer enthusiast used to rag, rag rag on the big brewers and lament “Why can’t the big brewers produce a decent beer? When are they going to get their act together?”... And interestingly these same types of people today are ragging on the large brewers because they are making decent beer...

The question becomes “What’s the real issue with the big brewers, the company or the beer?”. If its a matter of availability of good beer, I personally welcome all kinds of good beer whether its made by the largest brewer in the world of the smallest homebrewer. Good beer is good beer!

If its a matter of the companies producing these beers, each of us has our own approach and philosophy about which kind of company we want to support and we can do that with our dollars.

Do you homebrew still?

Yes. I probably brew about 15 or 18 times in the year. Sometimes 2 to 4 batches a month, and then I’ll go 1 ot 2 months without brewing because of my travels. But I always like to have some on hand.

What effects has the Web had on Homebrewing?

The effect of the web, I think, has two aspects. First, information is easily accessible. A beginner can find out about homebrewing very easily and quickly.

But secondly there are many forums that present a very negative impression of the hobby where rivals bash each other over trivial things such as their personal brewing techniques. A first timer that comes across such negative communications may ask him/herself “Why would I want to be involved in this kind of hobby and with these kind of people?

What’s next for homebrewing?

I think that a stabilization of the hobby is next. Along with people cooperating for a common goal of promoting the hobby in a positive way. Help to continue the great tradition of homebrewing and craft brewing that we all started in this country.

What about Legalizing Homebrew?

The AHA, directed by Paul Gatza, has been actively involved in changing the laws in a good 18 or so states over the past four years. Many states still have a gray area when it comes to homebrewing. The laws are not that specific and the AHA has been really active in helping to legalize homebrewing by providing good and accurate information to those trying to lobby changes within their own states. We run into the danger that the facts about this hobby could get corrupted or distorted and eventually cause more damage than good.

What’s next for Charlie Papazian?

Possibly another book. A book on my beer related travels and perspectives on homebrewing. And, of course, continue to make beer... I still enjoy the hobby very much. I see homebrewing and craft beers being more integrated into American lifestyles, and I’d like to continue to help and be involved to promote this.

Any tips for our readers?

Don’t lose sight of the simplicity of homebrewing. Also, to keep the hobby alive you need to support your local homebrew shop!

HBA Recommendations :

click here to order now!

The New Complete Joy of Homebrewing - Papazian

The Homebrewer's Bible. Written by one of the founding fathers of American homebrewing, this book has been acclaimed as the best and most authoritative guide for anyone beginning the adventure. Includes 10 easy lessons to making your first batch, with later chapters devoted to advanced techniques and beer lore. - Papazian

click here to order now!

"The Homebrewer's Companion" - Papazian

The "Companion" is like a volume 2 of "The Complete Joy..."
Many ask me, "What's different about "The Home Brewers Companion?" It's a book that I might have titled "The New Complete Joy of Home Brewing, Volume 2." The information is 98% new information, improved procedures for beginning and malt extract brewers as well as advanced and veteran brewers. Loads of new recipes and useful charts and data that I, myself continually refer to in my own current homebrew recipe formulation (I still homebrew about 20 batches a year). My theme throughout is "Keep it practical. Keep it useful." I wanted to answer 10 years worth of questions in this one volume. I did...and I had fun doing it.

- Charlie Papazian,, March 11, 1999

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Basic Brewing System

Our Basic Brewing System is anything but basic! Compare the items we include with those included in our competition's systems. With a 6.5 gallon primary fermenter you have the benefits of a glass primary combined with the ease of a non-blowoff brewing system. Includes: 6.5 gallon Glass Carboy, Carboy Brush, 6.5 gallon plastic bucket w/lid and spigot, "Emily" Double Lever Capper, #6.5 Drilled Stopper, 1# "Real Beer" Crown Caps (~ 220 Ct.), #2 Drilled Stopper, 24" Racking Cane, 5' Section 3/8" Tubing, Bottle Filler, 3' Section 3/8" Tubing , Airlock (Fermentation Lock ), 8" Filter Funnel, Tub "B-Brite"(Sanitizer/Cleaner), Triple Scale Hydrometer, Laboratory Grade Thermometer, "Complete Joy of Homebrewing" (Papazian) (The Homebrewer's Bible).

Who is Richard Rabassa?

e-mail: Rich
  • New Media Developer/Designer
  • Homebrewer of 10+ years
  • One of the Owners of HBA

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