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Whole Foods gets crafty with beer

About 1.2 million people in the U.S. brew their own ales and lagers at home, according to the American Homebrewers Association, Boulder, Colo., a division of the Brewers Association, a craft beer trade group.

Most of these novice brewers purchase the necessary equipment and ingredients at home-brewing supply stores.

But in certain markets, they can head to their favorite food store for all their home-brewing needs. For instance, Whole Food Market’s Coddingtown store in Santa Rosa, Calif., is a fully stocked brewing supply store. Not only does it sell brewing equipment, but also bulk grains, yeast and other ingredients. It also hosts homebrewer how-to classes. Other Whole Foods stores have similar offerings.

The Whole Foods website even includes a video of the founders of the Brooklyn Brew Shop, which markets home-brewing kits:


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Meanwhile, the Austin, Texas-based chain operates its own microbrewers on site at two stores: one in Houston and another in San Jose, Calif.

In Houston, the Whole Foods Market Brewing Company has a five-barrel, two-vessel brewing system with the ability to produce about 400-500 barrels annually. Its on-site bar includes windows overlooking the tanks:


Here, the Whole Foods Market Brewing Company's Facebook page announces new flavors:


WFM's efforts come at a time when the home brewing market is on the upswing. The AHA saw a 20% growth in membership between 2005 and 2015 to 40,000 members.

I spoke with Steve Parr, the AHA’s assistant director. He told me that home brewers like experimenting with recipes to create the flavor and style of their choice.

“There’s a trend of do-it-yourself,” he said.

A demographic shift is aiding the home-brewing market, according to Parr. Once dominated by the over-30 set, there’s now significant growth among Millennials. Millennials have jumped on the home-brewing bandwagon because they like to save money, and create unique food and beverage offerings for their friends.

“Home brewing is an art form,” Parr said.

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