After more than 40 years of doing everything he could to promote and evangelize for the continued success of the craft beer revolution in America, the godfather of American homebrewing is finally stepping down. The Boulder, CO-based Brewers Association announced Tuesday morning that Charlie Papazian, founder of the American Homebrewers Association (AHA) and the Association of Brewers, would be stepping down in January of 2019, marking his 70th birthday and 40 years with the organization.
“We are all here today because of Charlie Papazian,” said Bob Pease, president and CEO of the Brewers Association, in a statement. “His influence on the homebrewing and craft brewing community is immeasurable. Who could have predicted that a simple wooden spoon, ingenuity and passion would spawn a community of more than one million homebrewers and 6,000 small and independent U.S. craft breweries.”
It was 1978 when Papazian (along with Charlie Matzen) founded the American Homebrewers Association in Boulder, which has grown over the decades into the country’s most recognizable source of homebrewing information and competitions. At the same time, he authored one of the original homebrewing bibles, The Complete Joy of Homebrewing, which is still in print today, several editions later. When I first picked up a mash paddle myself in 2007 as a college junior, it was The Complete Joy of Homebrewing that guided me, along with Papazian’s simple, reassuring motto: “Relax. Don’t worry. Have a homebrew.” Those same words inspired generations of new brewers, both hobbyists and professionals, and he leaves the organization today with almost 50,000 paying members.
Papazian was also an initial founder of the Great American Beer Festival (GABF) in 1982, which has now grown into the continent’s largest ticketed beer festival 37 years later. Papazian has been a permanent fixture at the event over those years, handing out awards and distributing his patented “Papazian fist bump” to winners. Anyone who has been to a GABF awards ceremony knows that the fist bump is just as big a part of any brewery’s win as the medal they’re taking home, and photos of brewers posing with a grinning Papazian tend to proliferate on social media in the days following the festival.
The statement from the Brewers Association includes the following quote from Papazian, on how the growth of the beer industry has exceeded any kind of expectation he could have possibly set:
“I had a playful vision that there would be a homebrewer in every neighborhood and a brewery in every town. But what I did not imagine, couldn’t imagine, never considered, was the impact that craft brewing would have on our culture, economy and American life.”
According to the release, Papazian will spend his final year with the BA working on several projects, most notably a brewing history archive project. To quote the release: “The archive will house 40 years of craft beer history in the form of more than 100,000 publications, photographs, audiotapes, films, videos, and documents—including 140 video interviews of the pioneers of American craft brewing—and will be accessible to researchers via the BA.”
There will likely never be another single individual so identified with homebrewing as a hobby than Charlie Papazian. We wish him the best, and many delicious brews, in whatever project comes next.