Everyone’s Zoom-savvy now, but the problem with a bunch of smiling, drinking faces on the Internet is the lack of a shared beverage. Our club, the Maltose Falcons, solved that—and helped our local breweries stay afloat—by arranging group buys of mixed cans and crowlers.
Each week we’ve worked it out with a different brewery. Members sign up for a pack and pay for it—all online—and then someone picks them up at the brewery. A veritable Beer Express distributes the cans across Los Angeles to ensure that everyone who ordered is ready to have a happy (two) hour(s).
On Friday, everyone—including the brewer—jumps on the call, and we taste and talk about the beers. Ironically, thanks to this system, I’ve probably spent more time talking to my club than ever. Meanwhile, we’ve so far purchased nearly 1,000 packs from our locals.
We gleefully stole the beer-share cooler idea from the Society of Barley Engineers in San Diego.
We’ve set up a cooler in our homebrew shop’s clubhouse—that’s the central deposit box. When members leave a beer, they also make a note in a shared Google Sheet to let people know what they’ve left and what sort of feedback they’d like. It’s as simple as take a beer, leave a beer. (Some groups use a rubric to judge whether it’s fair for you to take a triple and leave a mild, but we’ve succeeded running on the honor system.)
Our homebrew shop has been kind enough to serve as a rally point. During the summer, the clerks swapped ice packs in and out to keep them cold. Other clubs have set up drops at people’s houses, with coolers publicly available. The sanitizer should be handy, too.
We’ve also been using the beer-share cooler to stock up our monthly (virtual) club meetings. Before, people would bring a six-pack to share with everyone. Now they can leave some beer and still get notes. It’s all about keeping the “homebrew” in the homebrew club.
When COVID-19 first hit, we were just gearing up for our 42nd-ish Mayfaire—one of the country’s oldest homebrew competitions. Rather than break our streak, the club waited to see what would happen, and finally we broke out the Zoom meets again.
Like many other competitions this year, Mayfaire is going virtual. Some pods of judges are getting together in person, appropriately distanced. The rest of us are getting online and judging. Entrants had to ship a bit extra, to allow each judge a bottle, and we limited the number of entries and of categories—our old-school styles Hoppy, Light Ale, and Unusual—but we’re getting it done.
A shout-out goes also to clubs such as D.O.Z.E. in the Bay Area and Q.U.A.F.F. in San Diego, which single handedly judged their AHA National Homebrew Competition First Rounds, giving feedback to the entrants. That’s the sort of hardcore homebrew support I love to see.