Every homebrewer remembers their first. For Julia Herz, the year was 1991, and the brew was a Scotch ale.
“It was just the best thing I had ever tasted,” she says. “Even though we put too much corn sugar in.”
For Herz, it was only the beginning. Four years later, she started getting Zymurgy—the journal of the American Homebrewers Association (AHA)—“When Charlie Papazian picked my name out of a top hat at the Beaver Creek Beer Festival.” It wasn’t much longer until Herz joined the Association of Brewers, which merged with the Brewers Association of America in 2005 to create the Brewers Association (BA), first as a sales manager, then as the craft beer program director. Under her tenure, Herz helped create and publish craftbeer.com, advocated for small and independent breweries with the craft beer seal, and promoted national beer holidays. If you ever attended a beer festival in the region, there was a good chance you ran into Herz. Beer rarely had a better champion.
Then came 2020, the arrival of COVID-19, and the cancellation of every major beer event. The BA went through two rounds of layoffs, and Herz was not immune. The future of craft beer suddenly seemed questionable.
Thankfully, that’s beginning to change. And as of Dec. 1, 2021, Herz once again joins the BA, this time as the executive director of the AHA. As Herz says, “You can’t script that kind of stuff.”
“On a day to day basis, I will be an advocate for the hobby of homebrewing, making people aware of the multitude of world-class resources available through the [AHA], presenting on issues that face homebrewing, interfacing with clubs and shops, and supporting the strategic direction of the content of the [AHA],” Herz explains.
Established in 1978 by Papazian and Charlie Matzen, the AHA gave rise to the craft beer revolution, partly in the sheer number of homebrewers who went pro after hearing “Your homebrews pretty good” enough times.
But homebrewing is not just for the novice. Already work at a brewery and want to advance your position? “Homebrewing,” Herz says. There’s no better way.”
Herz hopes to welcome more into the homebrewing fold—be they newly of age to enjoy homebrew or those who have historically felt left out.
“No matter what, we want to take the intimidation factor out,” she says. “And there’s the intimidation of the how-to homebrew, and there’s also the intimidation of who homebrews. We each want to learn from people that identify with us, understand us, and meet us where we are at.”
And Herz plans to foster those connections by encouraging homebrew geeks to share, share, share.
“To remember that everyone needs somebody they can relate to,” she says. “Find ways that you can get new hobbyists to relate to you, no matter what walk of life you come from and what walk of life they come from.”
Herz is one of those self-proclaimed beer geeks. Not only has she been homebrewing since ’91, but Herz also won a silver medal in the Old Ale category at the National Homebrewers Convention (Homebrew Con) in 2003. Homebrew Con is one of the beer highlights of any year, and in 2022, Homebrew Con returns June 23 to 25 in Pittsburg, Pennsylvania.
“An incredible event that has been around for 40-plus years, and we will be gathering in-person,” Herz says. “Full steam ahead for that.”
There’s also Big Brew (May 2), “one of the most, if not the most participated in, batches of beer made on the same day at the same time,” National Mead Day (August 6), and Learn to Homebrew Day (November 5).
“Stay tuned for more localized and regionalized events,” Herz says, adding that most events will also have virtual components for those who aren’t comfortable or capable of joining in person.
Herz is excited for 2022. A new challenge is always exciting. But for Herz, her position is a chance to return to the roots of the craft beer revolution and spur the next generation.
“If anyone’s actually thinking of the concept of homebrewing, they shouldn’t stop there,” Herz says. “They should go further and actually roll up their sleeves and start to practice the hobby.
“And don’t feel alone,” she continues. “There’s a huge community of people. . . that are ready just to geek out, support you, and mentor you along.”
Visit homebrewersassociation.org for updates on future events, brew days, tips, and where to find homebrew clubs near you.