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While many homebrewers dream of opening their own craft breweries, few are actually able to abandon their day job to turn a basement hobby into a full-fledged career—although, according to Julia Herz of the Brewers Association, that’s where many craft brewers get their start. “At least half of the brewers you talk with will say they started homebrewing first,” she says. Here are some former homebrewers who’ve made it to the big leagues.
AleSmith San Diego, California
All employees of this Southern Californian microbrewery are also award-winning homebrewers.
Bell’s Brewing Galesburg, Michigan
Originally a homebrewing supply shop, Bell’s Brewing, formerly known as Kalamazoo Brewing Company, bottled its first beer in 1985. Owner Larry Bell has since expanded this oldest surviving microbrewery east of Colorado into production of over 90,000 barrels a year.
Boulder Beer Co. Boulder, Colorado
Colorado’s first microbrewery launched in 1979, when two former homebrewers moved their operation to a goat shed on a small Colorado farm. Almost 30 years later, Boulder Beer Co. has the capacity to brew up to 43,000 barrels of beer annually.
Brooklyn Brewery Brooklyn, New York
Steve Hindy experimented with homebrewing while working as a journalist in the Middle East, and upon returning to the States in 1988, he opened Brooklyn Brewery with former banker and neighbor, Tom Potter.
Dogfish Head Milton, Delaware
Homebrewer Sam Calagione founded Delaware’s first brewpub in 1995, and in 2002 moved brewing operations to a 100,000-square-foot converted cannery.
New Belgium Fort Collins, Colorado
After touring Belgium by bike in 1989, homebrewer Jeff Lebesch returned to Colorado where, after a two years of experimenting, he and his wife, Kim Jordan, launched New Belgium with their flagship ale, Fat Tire.
Rogue Newport, Oregon
Accountant and homebrewer Jeff Schultz launched Rogue Ales with three friends in an Ashland, Oregon basement in 1988. It has since found a permanent home in a multi-level warehouse on the Oregon Coast.
Sierra Nevada Chico, California
After studying chemistry and physics in college and opening a homebrew shop in 1976, homebrewer Ken Grossman met with Paul Camusi to discuss opening Chico’s first micobrewery. Their flagship beer, Sierra Nevada Pale Ale, launched in 1981.
Surly Brewing Co. Brooklyn Center, Minnesota
In 2005, after 11 years of homebrewing and an apprenticeship with New Holland, owner Omar Ansari opened the doors of Surly Brewing Co.
Widmer Brothers Brewing Portland, Oregon
Homebrewing brothers Kurt and Rob Widmer quit their day jobs in 1984 to open Widmer Brothers Brewing. Their flagship Hefeweizen helped make Widmer the largest brewery in Oregon.
For in-depth profiles of three up-and-coming homebrewers, check out the January/February 2009 issue.