Homebrewing offers some a hobby, others a career

GRAND RAPIDS, Mich. (WZZM) -- The American Homebrewers Association hosts its national conference in Grand Rapids through Saturday, and some attendees dream of making a living through their craft.

In the beer business, Bells Brewery president Larry Bell is now a celebrity -- and he started by brewing a few gallons at home.

"When I opened in '85, I was a commercial home-brewer -- you know, it was a 15-gallon soup pot and some plastic garbage pails," he said. "For five years, we brewed on a one-barrel system. We made beer, one barrel at a time."

And they washed the bottles by hand.

From those humble beginnings, Bells Brewery now produces half a million barrels of beer annually and has over 200 employees.

It's an accomplishment some other home brewers admire and would like to copy.

But even with hard work, Larry Bell doesn't know how easy it would be for home-brewers today to follow his path to success -- in part because there are so many breweries now. That path also takes a long time.

After they think about it for a while, many home-brewers decide beer is a better hobby than a business.

As one conference attendee said, "My father was a wise man, and he told me the best way to ruin a good hobby is try to make a living doing it. I'm glad Larry makes a living doing it, because I love his beer."


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