For anyone who’s spent any amount of time fiddling with a fermentor or enjoying a nice cold homebrew on a summer evening, Charlie Papazian is a man that needs no introduction.

His continued and untiring efforts since the late 1970’s to promote homebrewing and craft beer in this country — which include founding the American Homebrewers Association in 1978, the Brewers Association in 1979, creating the Great American Beer Festival and World Beer Cup, and writing the seminal book on homebrewing in 1984 — have unquestionably made him one of the most important figures in the industry.

With the American Homebrewers Association’s National Conference hitting the Twin Cities this coming June, I recently had the opportunity to connect with Charlie about his perspectives on the growth in homebrewing, and how the craft beer industry has changed over the last several decades:

TC: The craft beer industry has undergone monumental growth since the early 1980’s. How has homebrewing played a role in this shift since you founded the American Homebrewers Association in 1978 and Brewers Association in 1979? 

CP: Homebrewers were and still are the foundation of the craft brewing community. Nearly all of the cutting edge and traditional styles of beer were elevated and championed by homebrewers.  They still are the vanguard of experimentation.

TC: What are your perspectives on how the Twin Cities – compared to other beer destinations on the coasts – has evolved as a beer culture the past couple decades?  

CP: I don’t have recent perspective on the Twin Cities beer community.  But I’m looking forward to the visit in June.

TC: Your book, The Complete Joy of Homebrewing, is considered by many to be the bible of homebrewers around the world. Since it was first published in 1984, how has homebrewing grown and changed in this country? What challenges or obstacles still exist in expanding homebrewing?

CP: Used to be you brewed because you couldn’t get a variety.  Now homebrewing is even more about the enjoyment of the hobby, and then going beyond that to make exactly the kind of beer you want to enjoy, as well as beer types you can’t get fresh otherwise.  Also, it’s damned fun!

TC: What’s been the most significant innovation in homebrewing equipment/technology/ingredients since you started? What kinds of innovations do you see having an impact over the next 20 years? 

CP: Quality yeast accessibility, no doubt.  Fresh hops and variety second, with variety in malt third.

TC: The Great American Beer Festival celebrated its 28th consecutive year this past September. How was your GABF experience this year? And what trends stood out in your mind?   

CP: It was fun. How can you really describe the Great American Beer Festival without actually being there! The biggest trend seems to be that increasingly more attendees are really serious about tasting all kinds of beer – and having fun.

TC: What have been some of your favorite, go-to recipes you’ve developed over the years?  

CP: Ordinary bitter a la Brakspears, Czech dark Lager a la U Flecku, Czech old style golden lager, imperial porter, cherrywood smoked malt lager, oatmeal stout, and a juniper chokecherry ale.

TC: What’s in the fermentor right now?   

CP: Lagering now, I have my Rogerfest cherrywood smoked lager #2, imperial porter, a Maerzen old style, and a Czech golden lager. 

TC: What advice would you give folks just starting out with their first batch of beer? 

CP: Relax, don’t worry, have a homebrew!

For more information and to register for the 2010 AHA National Conference, visit the American Homebrewers Association website.

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