As the holidays approach, many Americans are turning to their own homes for the latest seasonal brew.
Stephan Crump typically spends half the year on the road as a jazz musician, but with COVID forcing him to stay at home, he has a different kind of composition brewing. “So many people are at home right now. And it’s something I had always wanted to do, or long wanted to do, but put off mostly because I’m always traveling,” says Crump.
The Brooklyn father started his first batch of beer at home in April. He quickly became a devoted brewer, even taking over a spare bathroom.
Homebrewing supplies have been in high demand nationwide since the pandemic. Starter kits begin around $35 at Bitter and Esters in New York, where owner John LaPolla says his business doubled in late March before leveling out at about 15% higher than last year. “I have never seen anything quite like it. We’ve seen an increase in new people brewing and people getting really into the hobby,” he says.
The American Homebrewers Association says there are more than a million homebrewers in the U.S., with 40% of them starting in just the past four years. And the group says interest is growing during the pandemic.
The appeal for many customers is being able to devote time and patience to a new project, according to Todd Jackson, director of retail and customer service at Northern Brewer in Minnesota. “Almost immediately once shutdowns started happening and people started staying at home more, just the sales started rising,” he says.
The precise process can take about four weeks from starting a brew to enjoying a bottle, giving beginners an attainable goal. “I can’t make plans right now. Whereas the brewing, it also requires planning and patience, because it’s about, at least a one-month process from start to tasting, but it is something tangible that I can accomplish,” says Crump.
Crump says he’ll be toasting to that idea with a bottle of his own, for a long time to come.