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Advice on starting a home brewers club

I have had a few friends that i have introduced to brewing ask me if I would start a home brewers club. They seem to think there would be a lot of interest in our area.

When I first got into the brewing I joined a club but only attended a couple meetings. The meetings were held at a local bar that allowed member to bring in growlers so others could sample their beverages. They had a short agenda and took minutes. I believe they also had a president and treasurer. I believe they charged $20 per year dues. You received a membership card which also gave you a 10% discount at some of the brewing supply stores in MN. At the end of the meetings they had drawings for prizes that were donated from LHBS such as kits, bottle caps, capper, or other brewing items. This seems to be the model I would follow as it is my only experience.

I have also talked to others who are in clubs that only get together on a weekend to brew together.

For those that belong to a club, or have started one, how formal are your meetings? How often do you meet. Any suggestions on format, ideas, etc would be appreciated.

I haven’t been active with my club since we moved to Rochester (NY), but I was a member of 2 clubs in Baltimore, Baltibrew and Cross Street Irregulars.

Baltibrew is very similar to what you are describing, but also have a few annual events they put on, sometimes in partnership with other organizations (Chili/Homebrew cookoff, unsanctioned comps, etc). Great group of guys and I miss them and the meetings!

CSI is as you describe, but as opposed to an informal drinking session after the club centered content (which sometimes included guest speakers, etc.), they do an unsanctioned and social competition, with a theme each month, based on the broad BJCP categories.

For example, at the “Pale Ale” month club meeting, a beer would be poured into pitchers by one of the admins, circulated introduced (without naming the brewer) by the admin/president, evaluated and scored on a simplified scoresheet with (almost ALWAYS constructive) feedback by all the members (usually while socializing and discussing). Then, once the scoresheets were collected, the admin would reveal the brewer and have him/her speak briefly about the beer. At the end of the tasting, a “theme” and “non-theme” (in the event someone entered a weizenbock in Pale Ale Month) winner was announced. Then at the end of the year, there were “Brewers of the Year”. It took a bit more organization, but it was a really fun way to meet people, get unbiased feedback (this is a big seller for most homebrewers), and drink some great beer in the process. As an aside, the original reason I joined the club was to get some practice in evaluating beer as prep for my BJCP exam. I ended up having a blast and making some great friends.

The club also has events and the like.

Your first paragraph describes pretty much how my club works. However, we are also different from a lot of other clubs in that we are a little more casual. We take meeting minutes, we have officers and dues, and we vote on stuff, but we try to keep the business portion of our meetings brief (about 20 minutes or so). I have seen meetings in other clubs where there are like 100 people and they are all sitting absolutely silent, paying respect to whomever had the floor at the time, and the meeting went pretty long for almost an hour. This “church”-like requirement to sit silently and respectful for a full hour is, in my opinion, inappropriate for a club that is supposed to be celebrating BEER!!! If you’ve got that much business to cover, it should be done in committees, or meetings should be more frequent for the officers or something like that. So anyway… while some little amount of business is important and needs discussion and voting, I also think it’s important to keep it brief and somewhat casual. Get through what business you must, but then quickly move on to the most important business of all, which is sampling each others’ homebrews and socializing!!! My humble opinions.

We do have brew days at members’ homes, at festivals and community events, etc. These are not on any regular schedule but more impromptu or with only a month or two warning in a lot of cases. More advance notice is better, but not always possible.

One thing that might be a little unusual that we love to do in my club is that we very often (2 or 3 times a year) conduct tasting experiments/competitions where we all brew the same or similar recipes and then judge them all informally and give and receive feedback, and award medals, etc. Just for fun. Nothing real serious. We usually do NOT pull out the BJCP guidelines, although we might go over them very briefly before the tasting if style is important. I think a lot of members find this a very attractive and educational part of our club. It’s one thing to sit around and chat about beer. It’s another thing to compare your beer side by side with everyone else’s when they’ve all made the same or similar recipe. We learn a ton from doing this, and it’s just lots of fun.

Another thing is that we always brew for the local beer fest. All the beer at the fest is commercial, with the exception of ours and another club and homebrew shop, and that’s it. It gets really exciting when people come up to the homebrew table and tell you that your beer is better than any of the other stuff at the fest… and then someone in your club wins the title of Best Of The Fest as voted by the largely BudMillOors drinking public!! The word is out there, at least around here, that homebrewers are making awesome beer, some of which is even better than what you can buy at the store!! We’ve done really well at these festivals and picked up new members this way.

We also brew at the local historical village a few times a year. We find that people who visit historical villages often have a real keen interest in seeing how beer is made, even with current technology, which to their surprise isn’t much more complicated than mashing in a big blue cooler or in a big grain bag! We’ve gained a couple of members this way as well.

My club is kind of small, about 15-20 people, but I really love it that way, as those who are in the club now are fairly hardcore beer geeks, with a couple of newbies, but we enjoy educating the newbies. I don’t want 100 members in our club, it just gets way too clicky at that point. The small 15 or so member club seems sustainable as well. Some members will eventually leave or move away or get busy and do other things, but this is okay because meanwhile other people in the community see what you’re doing as a club, get excited and want to join in. If you get your club name out there by participating in a few local festivals and competitions, etc., the public will automatically be drawn into your club, keeping the number at sustainable levels.

I am Vice-President of the Manty Malters, Manitowoc, Wisconsin, through the end of 2014. I don’t really serve any particular function, it’s more just a title than anything, because our President, Brian Lesperance, is pretty dang awesome. But then, so is the whole club. We’re all pretty dang awesome.

Form a club. Get your buddies together, once a month, for a year or two, and just watch what happens. Begin very casual. It can take some time just to get to know each other, and that’s okay. Don’t try to overdo it. Just let it happen. When you find regular members who are showing up to every meeting, then you can start to discuss more of the business end, vote for a President and Treasurer, etc. That’s how our club formed. We started meeting very casually for a year or so, then eventually we said, okay, it’s time to make this into a real club. So we did. And we saw that it was good. And we said now be fruitful and multiply. And it has. It’s great.

:cheers:

As a Bloatarian in Cincinnati, I can say our meetings are educational, social and fun!
Have a relevant meeting topic, a lot of the Bloatarian topics involve a BJCP style, how to brew it, etc.
Have active assignments and/or group brews. This encourages communication and group involvement.
Serve food at your meetings. Paid for by member dues. We Bloats aren’t eating chips… we grill some good grub.
Host an event, like one of the biggest, if not THE biggest keg only homebrew competition in the states, Beer and Sweat!

There is a lot of good info on clubs at AHA, including resources to help people who want to set up a club:

http://ahaclubs.homebrewersassociation.org/

There is also a listing of clubs with contact info if you want to join one in your area. Unfortunately, none near me :frowning:

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