Wednesday, October 23, 2013

We call it Brew Club: A Story

I still refer to it as new.  In fact it's not much more than an infant yet.  But we've had good times with the three monthly meetings and two group brew days.  Our first upcoming "public" events (totaling three in the next two months) are sure to be fantastic.  Yes, I'm talking about the Brew Club of Seminole County.  It's the real deal.

In good company on the patio wall at Buster's Bistro in Sanford.
If you are local to the Orlando area, I invite you to check it out.  if not, then you are wondering why you even care about this post.  Don't go away yet!

This is a story about starting something new.

A few of us knew a few of each other.  Now most of us know a good number of each other.  As homebrewers we'd stop at the fairly new Sanford Homebrew Shop to pick up supplies, talk about our brewing experiences and ask questions.  There are often a few other homebrewers in the shop with whom you can strike up a conversation.  I would plan on spending 10 minutes there and leave after about 40, always learning something new from the experience.

I'd come back home with my new stuff and prepare to set up for brewday.  Just me in the back yard (or kitchen for the first several batches) brewing away, hoping some friends (or my wife) would be interested one day in drinking the latest concoction in creation.

There was a time when I became tired of being a 'lone brewer" and decided to check out a Homebrew Club.  There is a large group that meets in Orlando (about 40 minutes from my house to the location) and one in the opposite direction (north) that meets in Deland (about 35 minutes and an easier drive).  I met a guy from the Volusia County Homebrewers Guild (VCHBG), as it's called, at a beer festival that prior February, and he was nice enough.  I decided to sign up on their Facebook Group and attend my first meeting.  It's amazing what you can learn by just hanging out with other brewers and tasting other homebrewed beer.  It was a good time, and I continue to be part of those meetings today.  It's a smaller group, with a geographical divide which makes it a challenge (I never knew there was such a division between East and West Volusia County).

I found a brewing home, of sorts.  But what about the other lost souls I see frequent the Brew Shop?  I haven't myself made the journey to the Orlando group, but have heard it may be overwhelming for a newbie brewer.  An established large group with many talented and seasoned brewers.  Those lost souls had no place to call home.  "Yeah, people have mentioned interest another club here in Seminole County, but no one has seemed willing to coordinate one," said Gary at the Sanford Homebrew Shop one day.  Ding! Ding!

How hard could it possibly be?  A little time and a little effort.  I'm already spending time and  effort on social media and blogging.  What's a little more time?

First Brew Club meeting, Aug 1, 2013
So a name was selected.  I designed a logo for the club.  (Every good club needs a logo.)  I printed a few fliers.  Prior to that I got a friend of mine and brewer who manages at Buster's Bistro (a local Belgian Beer Bar) to commit his location for our meetings.  It's a win-win because I've seen how our group can drink.  More revenue for him.  He was excited and had ideas for Group Brew Days at the bar, etc.  The Homebrew Shop was excited about it, and I got another brewing friend to commit to actually attend the meetings.  It was all set, and the Brew Club of Seminole County was about to launch.

Four Fliers were distributed to two locations and a Facebook Group was created.  Within 48 hours we had over 20 members ask to join the group.  By the time of our first meeting (Aug 1, 2013, IPA Day) we had close to 40 members.

18 people attending the first meeting.  Another 18 were at the second meeting, but a different group of people (at least about half of them).  The third meeting saw 23 brewers in attendance.  The meetings start with some brief introductions and news about upcoming events, etc.  (It's important to get the news and meeting portion of the meeting done prior to starting to drink.)  We would shift into breaking out the homebrews and sampling each others beers and then talk about them.  People get to know each other, learn from each other.  We really become "better when we brew together."

Team Wit.  One of the 4 teams brewing that day.
We scheduled our first Group Brew day right away in in August (not a great idea in Florida to be brewing outside in the afternoon in August by the way.)  Three people brewed and we had a handful of people show up and hang out for awhile.  Our second Team Brewday was just the other weekend in October.  We had 4 different teams brewing, with close to 20 club members at the event.

A friend of mine posted some additional details and photos from this event.  I'll point you now to Gary at  Bionic Brewing for more on the latest Team Brewday.  Check it out.

What is next?  I'm glad you asked.  The club has a table at the upcoming Sunshine Challenge Beerfest, part of the Central Florida Homebrewers annual brew competition and festival.  After that in Sanford there is a Couch Race and Beer Festival, featuring racing couches created by different bars in the area.  At both events we'll have a table to serve our homebrewed beer and talk about the club.  In December, there is a tour of homes for the holiday in the historic Sanford area.  Holiday lighting is the key feature for this even (I think) and we'll be able to serve beer at this location and talk about the club as well.  And them we'll participate in the Deland Craft Beer Festival and the Mad Monk's Mash-up homebrew competition in February.  (Did I tell you who won the Valentine's Inspired beer competition last year?)

And this is just the beginning.  Do you brew?  Are you in a club?  Brewing can be fun and rewarding, and you can multiply that enjoyment by about 5 times when you are part of a brewing community... part of Brew Club.

Cheers!
Darren U