Starting & Maintaining a Homebrew Club

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Starting a homebrew club can be as casual and informal as a few friends getting together for a bottle share in a garage. Or, it can be a fully formed organization with a mission statement, membership guidelines and a board of members with specific roles. The great thing about starting a homebrew club is there are no rules! You can model your club after an existing club or you can completely make it up as you go. Whatever you decide, starting a homebrew club is a lot of fun and can come with many perks.
As a founding member and current Vice President of the SoCal Cerveceros, I can share how we got started and what we do to maintain and grow our homebrew club. Like so many first time homebrewers, I found myself searching online forums and visiting numerous sites trying to learn whatever I could. I bought a starter kit online and jumped right into brewing 1 gallon batches in my kitchen. With the exception of an ex-coworker from a decade earlier, I had never met another homebrewer. No one in my inner circle homebrewed and I had no one to turn to with questions. As I continued reading forums and checking out blogs, I realized there weren’t any Latino homebrew clubs around. In fact, there wasn’t a homebrew club in my area at all. Soon after, I became friends with a homebrewer named Agustin Ruelas, who is a member of the brewing collective, Brewjeria Company. Agustin shared the same observation and together we decided to start a homebrew club. Today, our club is in its third year and by default we are the biggest Latino based club in California, if not the United States. Full disclosure; we are not strictly a Latino homebrew club. We aim to promote diversity and acceptance of all interested brewers male and female. Our mission is to promote the art of homebrewing with a focus on local Latino communities.

Getting Your Homebrew Club Started


First, determine why you want to start a club. This will help you going forward and you’ll know how involved you really want to be. If you’re looking just to hang out and share beers occasionally, then you can mention that when recruiting others. By having an idea of what kind of club you are interested in, it will help you to recruit like-minded brewers. Some people might be interested, but not want to commit to anything beyond sharing some beer. That’s great for a bottle share type of club. The SoCal Cerveceros was started to fill a void in the local homebrewing community and to act as a hub for brewers to develop and learn their craft. With that in mind, we had a clear idea of the kind of members we wanted to attract.
Once you’ve found a friend or two, who are interested in starting a club, begin recruiting. Start with those closest to you and go from there. The more people you ask the better your chances of finding recruits. When first starting SoCal Cerveceros, my one brewer friend and I took to Facebook and Twitter to get the word out. We posted a question asking if anyone was interested in joining a homebrew club or if any friends knew anyone who might be interested. It didn’t take long for us to find a few people. In our case, Facebook was most effective for our early recruitment. Word of mouth starts to spread once you have a few members. Visiting your local homebrew supply shop is a great resource as well. You can let the brewers who work there know you’re recruiting and you might be able to post a flyer promoting your soon to be club. If you don’t frequent any homebrew shops, you might try recruiting potential members at your favorite local pub, bar or craft beer hang out. If that is not an option for you, then social media will still work out fine.

Planning Your First Meeting


Once you have your first 2-3 people, set a date and time to hold your first meeting. Our first meeting was held in the garage of our future club president and had seven people attend. Most of the meeting was making introductions and getting to know each other a little better. We were lucky enough to have a member who had been in a club a few years prior. He shared some of the things that club did and it helped us shape some of our expectations and focus for the group. It’ll be helpful to go around and ask what each person is looking to get out of a homebrew club and what expectations anyone might have. Treat the first meeting like an ice breaker and try to get a sense of where everyone is at in their brewing skills and knowledge. This will give you a better idea of what kind of group you might have. The SoCal Cerveceros’ first meeting had a few seasoned brewers, a couple newbies (like myself) and a couple guys who didn’t brew, but who were craft beer aficionados.
A great piece of advice for meetings is to stay consistent. Select a day of the week and meet that same day every time. The SoCal Cerveceros hold meetings every third Friday of the month. During the first year we would each host a meeting and the host was responsible for finding the location. Most of the early meetings were held at people’s homes. We now hold meetings in public spaces like bars, restaurants and taprooms. On occasion we’ll meet up at someone’s home or a non-public space. You can do whatever works best for the club. Many clubs find a permanent home in a local tap room and always meet there. That’s great too!

Picking a Name



This took us longer to decide then we anticipated, but it will be helpful if you first determine what kind of homebrew club you are looking to establish. If it’s something casual like a few buddies having a bottle share once a month, then your name probably doesn’t have to be anything you spend too much time on. If your vision is to establish a club that’s more serious and involved, then you’re going to want take your time to come up with something unique. A few things to consider when naming your club; Is the name available on social media platforms (i.e., Facebook, Instagram, Twitter)? Is the domain name available to build a website? Can the name be easily used on marketing materials like stickers, coasters, t-shirts etc?
We decided on SoCal Cerveceros for a few obvious reasons. The name lets people know where we’re located and using the Spanish word for brewer speaks to the identity of our mostly bilingual members. Plus, the name was available across all main social media pages, including the domain name for our website. Think of it like naming one of your homebrews. Get everyone involved with suggestions and have fun picking out your new name. If you need a little inspiration for a name, you can visit the homebrew club directory under the “Community” page on the American Homebrewers Association website. That wraps up part one of Starting and Maintaining a Homebrew Club! Thanks for reading, and may your wort always ferment!


Check out this article on brewing competitions »


A little over a year ago I jumped into this awesome hobby of homebrewing. Now, twenty some batches in, I’ve moved from extract to all-grain, gotten a temperature controlled fermentation chamber, a handful of kegs, and all sorts of other fun gear. What I hadn’t done, was enter a competition. Sure, the local homebrew club had some monthly comps that I brought a bottle or two for, but I hadn’t gone ‘public’… yet. I was only 3 batches old last year when my Local Homebrew Store (LHBS) had their second annual people’s choice “brew off” that coincided...
 
Ray Ricky Rivera

Comments

Is your club registered with the AHA? Do you have liability insurance? Do you have a bank account and/or a tax id number? What about club bylaws, are there any?
 
I would strongly encourage any club starting out to not only register as a club with the AHA, but to reach out to them. They have become a phenomenal resource for homebrew clubs now! Sign up for the Club Connection newsletter: https://www.homebrewersassociation.org/community/clubs/
Also, consider spending a few buck and get some 'starter' business cards with your club information, and make sure to pass them out to your club members so that they all can recruit anywhere they go. (Save some space on the card so that the members can write down details not on the card.)
 
AHA membership, bylaws, and bank/TIN are easy enough but I *am* interested in what clubs are doing for liability insurance. Meeting at our local brewery is easy enough, although I do need to see if they have liability insurance, but what about meets at member's homes? My homeowners insurance covers a lot but if I have people over for a brew day and someone gets injured, leaves after a few too many and has an accident, burns my house down.. How are other clubs handling this sort of thing?
 
Bob,
The SoCal Cerveceros HBC is registered with the AHA and we have club insurance, via the AHA. We are currently in the process of filing for non-profit status. As of now, official bylaws are being drafted and we currently have four official reps: President, Vice President, Treasurer and Chief of Competitions.
As for liability, the homebrew club insurance AHA offers covers brew days, meetings and events your club is holding. I
 
Thanks Ray RIcky! I'm in an informal homebrew club (no officers or bylaws but we have a Facebook page) which meets monthly at a local restaurant for tastings and about twice a year does a brewday at member's houses or at our LHBS. We also serve homebrew at a large regional beerfest every year. Our lack of liability insurance has always worried me.
 
We are Monmouth County New Jersey's only AHA sanctioned and insured homebrew club. Get yourself organized, print some membership cards, club logo stickers, tee's and hoodies too. We meet with local area craft breweries every other month, to give our members exposure to different brewing operations. We also partner with them to host 'brewing competitions'. Its a lot of fun and a great way to meet like minded brewers who enjoy delicious beer.
http://www.mcha.club
 
Yes Chaos is a non-profit. All money from memberships goes back into the club rather it be for general operations, improvements,supplies or repairs. We have a solid group of board members & volunteers that keep the club running. Those people are granted special privileges for their extra efforts
 
Hey Steve,
We are planning on filing for nonprofit status and could definitely use some insight/tips about the process.
Can I email you and ask some questions?
Ray
 
Ray I wasn't involved in founding the club but I can contact those that run it and get you some answers. Go head and shoot me an email with whatever questions you have
 
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