First Draft Follies: Early History of the American Homebrewers Association and the Brewers Association, Part 3

Part One --- Part Two --- Part Three --- Part Four Part Five --- Part Six --- Part Seven --- Part Eight --- Part Nine

Welcome to this edition of First Draft Follies, an ongoing series here at the blog. The material is presented “as is” from the first draft of the manuscript that became the book Ambitious Brew. In a few places I added one or two words in brackets — [like this] — for clarification. As always, when the excerpt is lengthy, and this one is, I break it into manageable bits and post those bits over the course of several days.

This edition of FDF concerns the early years of the American Homebrewers Association and what is now the Brewers Association, the craft brewing trade group. Much of my research into the topic fell into “insider baseball” information: interesting to those who were involved, and to people with a serious interest in brewing history, but dull as rocks to a more general audience. As a result, almost none of what follows ended up in the book, which was intended for a general audience.

On the other hand, the groups' early histories provide fascinating insight into the creation of a organization from the ground up, particularly the conflicts that ensued between and among the participants. As a result, I think it’s worth posting this (long) series in full.

For more about the founding of the AHA, see my earlier string of First Draft Follies entries on that topic. (The link takes you to part six of the six-part series; it contains links to parts one through five.)


For Charlie Papazian's commentary on Part 3, see here and here.

Bradford entered the Boulder circle almost by accident. He had grown up in New England, where his family had lived for sixteen generations, being descendants of William Bradford, Mayflower passenger and first governor of Plymouth colony. That ancestry endowed him with an intuitive sense that his own life and the present were but small parts of a past much larger than himself. It also left him with a strong desire to break free of his New England roots and make his way in the world as unimpeded by the Bradford name as possible.

In 1968, he graduated from high school and headed to Boulder to attend the University of Colorado. There the maelstrom that was the United States in 1968 “descended upon” him starting with his dormitory: His roommate was a Japanese-American kid whose best friend was a black kid whose own best friend was a member of the SDS. (*1) Bradford plunged into campus politics--the demonstrations and shut-downs that were normal for that time--studying history in the classroom and hanging out with graduate students and professors during his free time. I

n 1977, BA and MA in hand, he headed for Ann Arbor with the idea of getting a PHD in history and entering the academy. Sadly, like all too many graduate students, he collided immediately with the reality of academia: infighting, back stabbing, bitching, whining, and complaining. This was not the rarefied world of ideas he had imagined when he’d manned the barricades back in Boulder and dreamed of changing the world.

Distraught to the point of breakdown, Bradford embarked on a two-year trek through his own soul and most of Europe. Eventually he returned to Boulder, at loose ends and no more certain of what he wanted to do than when he had left.

A friend who worked at a Denver publishing company suggested that Bradford become a literary agent. She knew a homebrewer who was trying to publish a book on the subject and needed an agent. He was, by his own admission, “clueless” about what agents did or who they were, but it sounded as good as anything else.

The author was, of course, Papazian, who wanted to push Joy of Brewing to the next level. Bradford compiled a list of publishers, headed for New York, and, after a daunting number of rejections and almost to his own surprise, succeeded in selling the work to a major publisher.

His energy impressed Papazian, who decided he was just what the AHA needed, especially if the organization hoped to host a national beer festival, which was how the New Englander ended up on the payroll early 1982 as the organization’s first employee.

Bradford was a good choice. Like Papazian, he loved “getting people in a room and having a good time”; loved the idea of providing ways for others to “express their own passions.” He was also, and perhaps more importantly, the “kind of guy who didn’t understand ‘no.’” And last but not least, Bradford knew nothing about beer or brewing and so had no turf to protect and no agenda to promote except whatever the AHA happened to need at the moment.



*1: Daniel Bradford, interview with Maureen Ogle, April 28, 2005. All quotations in the entry are from the interview. Bradford is publisher of All About Beer.