Beer Man

Craft-Beer Evangelist Julia Herz Returns to Lead the American Homebrewers Association

Julia Herz returns to lead the AHA.
Julia Herz returns to lead the AHA. Brewers Association
You can't brew beer without barley, hops, yeast and water, and you certainly can't run a national craft beer organization without Julia Herz. Nearly a year and a half after she was laid off by the Brewers Association during the height of the coronavirus pandemic, Herz has returned in a new role with the Boulder-based trade group as the executive director of its American Homebrewers Association division.

There, she'll oversee the 43-year old nonprofit, which promotes home brewing as a hobby, provides educational resources and advocacy, and hosts events, including an annual conference called Homebrew Con and the world’s largest amateur beer competition, the National Homebrew Competition.

"I was certainly surprised when I was laid off," she says. "I missed [the job] the day the layoffs happened, and I definitely felt loss and grief over it. So this is cathartic in a way, and a chance for me to come back in."

As the BA's craft-beer program director for more than a decade, Herz was an omnipresent force behind craft brewing’s growth from 1,800 breweries in 2010 to more than 8,300 in 2020. Known for her fiery presentations, her support of small, independent breweries and her love of beer and food pairings, she became instantly recognizable to almost every craft brewery owner in the country. But in the aftermath of the pandemic — which forced the cancelation of BA events that totaled 70 percent of its annual revenue — 24 BA staffers lost their jobs in June 2020, nearly 40 percent of its workforce.

Herz has been a home brewer since 1991, when she brewed her first beer — a Scotch ale — with a friend, and she's been a member of the AHA since 1995. Just two years ago, she brewed a hybrid Baltic porter/red ale with chokecherries for the documentary Beer! A Love Story, and she has two brews coming up. The first is a hoppy lager that was designed by AHA founder Charlie Papazian, and the second is a home brewer's version of Brave Noise, a collaborative pale ale that was designed last year after numerous allegations of sexual assault and harassment shook the craft-brewing world across the country.
click to enlarge There are more than 1.1 million home brewers in the United States. - AMERICAN HOMEBREWERS ASSOCIATION
There are more than 1.1 million home brewers in the United States.
American Homebrewers Association
"It's a different organization now; it's smaller," she says. But as the head of the AHA, Herz is looking forward to interacting with home brewers and growing the membership. "People in craft beer really benefit from home brewers...and I'd like to move on to a new version of home brewing so that the perception isn't just geeks. ... I want people who are at a more beginner level to step in." Part of that effort is diversifying the ranks of the nation's home brewers in all directions, she adds.

Herz also hopes to get some counsel from Gary Glass, her predecessor at the AHA. Glass, who held that job for twenty years, was also laid off last year, along with Herz and several other high-profile or longtime employees like state guilds manager Acacia Coast, event association director Kathryn Porter Drapeau and digital content editor Andy Sparhawk.

Glass, whose wife, Erin, also worked at the AHA, as the membership coordinator, is now a lead brewer at Left Hand Brewing in Longmont, where Herz serves on the board of directors.

Bob Pease, the president and CEO of the BA, said in a statement that he is “pleased" to welcome Herz back, calling her "an accomplished home brewer, beer educator and evangelist whose exuberance has had a positive impact throughout the craft-brewing community.

"Julia has been integral to the success of the BA in her past role as the craft-beer program director, contributing to the elevation of craft beer and the advancement of the community. We’re confident that her energy and passion will drive growth for the AHA and the hobby of home brewing," he added.
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Jonathan Shikes is a Denver native who writes about business and beer for Westword.
Contact: Jonathan Shikes