hat do you think of when you think about homebrew clubs? If you aren’t a member of one, homebrew clubs aren’t always what you expect. When I first started brewing, I really wanted to join the local Tucson Homebrew Club (THC). I imagined a place where you’d find out what the best grain was and the perfect water profile to use, a place where homebrewers shared the secrets of brewing flawless beer; back then I thought about brewing in absolutes. I imagined every homebrewer wanting to be a part of a club. Why not? Dues are a small price to pay for the secrets of beer nirvana.
However, I was new to brewing and didn’t know any club members. All I knew about them was what I heard while at my local homebrew shop. I quickly got the impression clubs were groups of elitist brewers, a waste of time, and nothing more than an excuse to get drunk. I almost let all of the negativity dissuade me from ever going to a meeting. It took months for me to make the time, and work up the courage, to go.
My first meeting was a shock. I found a small group of brewers in the taproom of a local craft brewer, Dragoon Brewing Company. An officer of the club came over and welcomed me. The homebrewers ranged from flat out beginners to a professional brewer who was the education officer. They were open, they were friendly, and they didn’t have the secrets I was hoping for. Instead, they had opinions. Each brewer had unique tastes and preferences. Thankfully, many of them brought in their creations to share. It changed my view of brewing. I learned what different grains, hops, and yeasts contribute to a beer, not through a supplier’s description, but from tasting it for myself. My brewing and palate evolved so much faster than it ever would have on my own. That was almost three years ago.
Today, I’m the President of THC and I want every homebrewer to have the same opportunity I did. If you’ve never gone to a club meeting, check it out; if your club isn’t what you want it to be, neither was ours. Without the tireless determination of Michael Fry, our events coordinator godsend, pushing the club to be better than it was, and the generosity of Dragoon’s founders Eric Greene and Tristan White (two former THC members by the way), we wouldn’t be where we are today.
Today we’re a much larger group of homebrewers ready to party. THC turns 21 next near — a big year for a group of beer drinkers. On January 23, 2016, THC will take over Dragoon. An anniversary ale (recipe available at http://byo.com/story3279) was chosen from our club competition to headline the event and will be brewed on Dragoon’s 15-barrel system. This, in itself, is a homebrewer’s dream, but we aren’t stopping there. Among other things, we’ll do brewery tours, homebrew demonstrations, and hold a raffle, the top prize being a chance to brew at Dragoon. We want to open up the world of homebrew to as many people as possible. The best part, though, is that we get to give back to a community larger than ourselves. Proceeds from the raffle and sales from our anniversary ale are going to Easter Seals, a nonprofit group that assists people with autism and other disabilities.
This is what homebrew clubs have come to mean to me: Camaraderie and community. The beer is nice and talking brewing technique is awesome, but it’s the people that make clubs a truly special place to belong.