18 Dec Indy Homebrew Club to Feature a Whopping 15 Brewers and 30+ Beers at January 19th Tasting Society Event
by Mark E. Lasbury for Indiana On Tap
Indiana On Tap’s next Tasting Society event is scheduled for January 19, 2018. These craft beer events are different. They’re excellent opportunities to talk one-on-one with brewers to learn what makes their beer tick, and to spend time with craft beer friends of the casual and geek varieties. Usually there are three our four breweries in attendance, each pouring several beers for the crowd assembled (much smaller than a typical festival), with artwork on display and the artists right there, food trucks, and perhaps some surprise extras.
But in January, the event is taking on added significance, because there won’t be 3-4 brewers on hand to talk about their products, there will be twenty or so. This Tasting Society event is devoted exclusively to the beer of the Circle City Zymurgy (CCZ) Home Brewing Club. Thirty to forty different beers will be available for unlimited tasting, everything from caramel peanut Browns to Berliner Weisses (is that the plural of Weiss?), and from Black IPAs to New England versions.
The occasion to drink beer from this home brew club in these numbers is a great opportunity. As I will explain below, CCZ is a young club, but has started to rack up a number of awards for the beers of their member brewers. But even more important, winning awards isn’t their number one priority, its winning hearts for craft beer and making craft beer.
Brewing beer on a home system is a labor of love. Law states that home brewers can’t sell their beer, and it isn’t a cheap hobby by any means. So home brewers usually make beer because they love the process, they love beer, or there are preparing to open a brewery (in which case they better love beer and the process of making beer). Clubs have sprung up all over the country; the recent Brewers Association end of year report indicated that there are over 1.1 million home brewers in the US now. And yet, the opportunities these brewers have to get feedback about, and have people try, their beers are important.
There are a few competitions amongst home brewers, the occasional beer festival that includes a few home brewers (a situation I have taken upon myself to rectify), and perhaps some neighborhood block parties, but these are usually the only outlets for home brewers. In this one evening in January, people will have a chance to taste more home brew than they might during the rest of the year, and the brewers will get more feedback then they would in a fistful of competitions.
A chance to taste home brewed beer is more than just chance to help some brewers – this beer is good! True, many home brewers are new to the hobby, others are not as skilled at creating clean beers, but this is not what people will be tasting from CCZ. Among the beers to be served in January are many award winners, while others will be entered in upcoming 2018 competitions. At festivals where home brews are included, they are commonly some of the favorite beers of the day.
While professional brewers work on such a large scale that ingredient cost and efficiency make a financial difference – home brewers can indulge their whims and the use of more malt, more hops, more flavorings per batch because they are small – all to our advantage. People interested in craft beer will want to speak with these brewers; several will be brewing in someone’s (or their own) brewery in the future. And even if they don’t go pro, CCZ is full of people that care about the quality of the beer they make.
This alone would be reason enough to buy a ticket for the event ($12.50), but there is another interesting aspect to the Tasting Society night in January. Danny Gold, national sales director for Quaff On! Brewing, president and founder of Quaff, Bros. Brewing, and director of Quaff On’s cellaring program, will be on hand to 1) discuss the home brews with the brewers and attendees, including observations and tips, and 2) to give everyone a brief description of Hard Truth Hills, Quaff On’s destination brewery/distillery/cellaring facility/nature preserve in the hills of Brown County.
In a soon to come article on this website, I will tell you more about the interesting history of Danny Gold in craft beer, from opening the former Ei8htball Brewing in Bellvue, KY, to founding the barrel-aging company of Quaff Bros., to the merging of Quaff ON! and Quaff Bros. this past fall. A certified beer judge and all around craft beer evangelist, everyone can benefit from knowing this superstar. Follow him around and see if your impressions of different beers match his, or take this opportunity to buy him a beer (the beers are free with admission, but it’ll still look like you’re making an effort).
Having Danny there is a perk matched by few events, but in the end, this evening is really about the beers and people from CCZ. To that end, it is important to know a few things about the club. CCZ is only two years old, but the club is growing very quickly and has garnered many awards. Jeremiah Tyson is the current president, with Kelsy Groover as chief of social media, Brady Smith as treasurer and Matt & Lauren Wolford handling secretarial duties. These are all volunteer positions, but they have big ideas and aren’t afraid to dive right in.
CCZ is about making great beer, but not only about making great beer. The club sees its primary goal as spreading the gospel of home brewing and bringing as many people as possible. It doesn’t matter if a brewer is looking to go pro or just loves making a couple of batches a year, all are welcome. And what’s more, the experienced brewers understand that it is their duty/opportunity to help out the less seasoned amongst them. There is no competition – in fact, Jeremiah told me that the club is his second family. Members will drop everything to help out another member – from advice, to hauling equipment, to hospital visits and beyond.
It’s nice to know that these people care so much about each other, both inside beer and outside of beer. And anyone can be a part of this family – outreach is the core value for CCZ. They are looking to bring more people into the craft beer brewing tent, and then building a bigger tent. I go to meetings and listen, and I don’t make beer!
CCZ has public meetings, posts that their brew days are open to whoever might like to come, donate to charities, and are getting ready to start a YouTube channel to help with specific brewing issues. They pass beers around and help each other with critiques, and especially pass ingredients, equipment, and money saving tips through the group because, let’s face it, home brewing is an expensive hobby.
Brewing is a bit of a self-limiting activity unless you are independently wealthy, and the more you make, the more it costs. And then what do you have, a whole bunch of beer that you need to drink. Almost as many people stop brewing as people who start. Importantly, even though many people do stop brewing beer, CCZ is still rapidly building its membership, which suggests that the club is doing something right and making it worth its members’ time to keep up their brewing.
By bringing them into more craft beer events, you are making their investment worth it. For those home brewers who intend to open breweries, the exposure is even more important – this is how they build their brand. I talked with Gabe Soukup recently about his/Dave Bellar’s opening of Happy Brewing. Gabe told me (and I will probably write this into the Happy Brewing introductory article too) that since few people know their beer, their location will serve as their brand until the more craft drinkers get to try their product. On the other hand, Jeremiah told me that he hopes to get his beer into many peoples’ hands before he gets ready to open a brewery, so that the beer itself can be his brand.
There is no downside to attending an event like the Tasting Society party in January – great beer you can get no where else, meet the brewers who will be opening breweries in the next 1-3 years, get to help them with feedback and building of their brand, meeting and hearing from Danny Gold, having some good food, seeing and purchasing some great art…….it’s going to be a heck of an evening. And all for just $12.50.