As brewers fill increasingly smaller niches in the craft-beer world, one way to engage consumers and guarantee consistent revenue is to form a membership club or society. For craft-beer enthusiasts, it’s a great way to get your hands on limited or exclusive beers, and for the breweries, it’s upfront revenue to fund the expensive art of barrel-aging. We’ve assembled a list of our favorite of these societies so you can start planning your 2016 beer purchases now.
The Bruery Preservation Society, Reserve Society, Hoarders Society
With the largest brewery membership club in the United States, The Bruery has created a blueprint that many other breweries now follow. The program is structured in three tiers and starts with the Preservation Society, which is an auto-renewing subscription service where members are automatically shipped three beers (determined by The Bruery) each quarter. These quarterly allocations typically include one highly regarded sour or stout—think Black Tuesday or Chocolate Rain—and two more common bottles with it. The next tier is the Reserve Society, with a $300 price tag that gets you nine bottles of beers such as Mocha Wednesday, Barrel-Aged 7 Swans A Swimming, and Black Tuesday plus exclusive merchandise, discounts on purchases, and the ability to purchase approximately twenty exclusive bottle releases throughout the year. Membership also gets you access to tickets for The Bruery’s anniversary beer festival, and it’s a testament to the scale of their membership program that they could fill an entire beer festival solely from the ranks of their members. The highest tier on their program is the Hoarders Society, but you won’t find much public information about it, as it’s an invite-only tier for the biggest-spending Reserve Society members.
Price: $58.50/quarter (plus shipping) for the Preservation Society, $300/year for the Reserve Society, $700/year for the Hoarders Society
Duration: Calendar year
Benefits: Exclusive bottles included, access to purchase exclusive bottles, discounts on all purchases, exclusive pours in the tasting room, merchandise, access to anniversary festival tickets, shipping within California for additional cost
Cigar City El Catador Club
If you’re dying to get your hands on tickets to the yearly Hunahpu’s Day event, and five exclusive bottles of such beers as barrel-aged Marshall Zhukov’s Imperial Stout sound appealing, the $150 per year membership to Cigar City’s El Catador Club is a worthwhile investment. There’s no set end date to the current membership cycle or hint about the beginning of the next; it simply ends after the final bottle is released. Cigar City thankfully puts locals first with sign-ups for any available spots on sale in the tasting room, limiting the number of out-of-state beer hoarders in the club, so keep an eye out this fall for news of the next edition of the club.
_Duration: _Flexible, based on bottle-release schedule
_Benefits: Online ordering, 5 exclusive bottles, glassware, discounts, opportunity to buy additional bottles, first access to Hunahpu’s Day tickets_
De Garde Brewing Keepers Society
With a cleverly named dig on beer traders and two different options for those interested in their wild ales or their Berliner Weisses, De Garde’s Keepers Society is a must for PNW sour beer fans. We profiled the small Tillamook, Oregon, brewery in our Fall 2014 issue, and their reputation continues to fire on all cylinders with a nonstop succession of highly-sought-after fruited sours. Each membership includes eight beers, with two released each quarter.
Price:_ $155/year for wild ales, $125/year for Berliner Weisses
Duration: _Calendar year
_Benefits: 8 exclusive bottles per membership, custom glassware, members-only party_
The Rare Barrel Ambassadors of Sour
The brewers at The Rare Barrel started brewing eleven months before they opened the door of their taproom because sour beer takes time in barrels to mature. With that much investment on the line and so much beer brewed and aging patiently, it’s no wonder they’ve launched a club membership with exclusive bottles in exchange for an upfront fee. They make the $300 membership worthwhile by including ten exclusive bottles (two each of five different beers) plus the typical lineup of glassware and growlers, and if you’re a California resident it’s an even sweeter deal since you can have your bottles shipped in-state.
Duration: _Calendar year
_Benefits: 10 exclusive bottles, online ordering of regular releases, discounts, custom growler, two pieces of glassware, option to pick up or ship_
Fifty Fifty Brewers Intent
Tucked up in the Sierra Nevadas in the mountain town of Truckee, Fifty Fifty Brewing is best known for Eclipse Barrel- Aged Imperial Stout. To build a larger audience for their creative barrel projects, they launched the Brewers Intent program where, for $175 per year, members are guaranteed six bottles, most exclusive and not distributed, plus a growler, merchandise, and discounts on additional purchases. Beers available through this program, such as their Cognac Barrel-aged Masterpiece, make the price a veritable steal.
_Duration: _Calendar year
_Benefits: 6 bottles, growler, merchandise, discounts, access to purchase additional exclusive bottles_
Schramm’s Mead Mazer Club
If mead is more your speed, Schramm’s Mazer Club is the best way to get ahold of their highly coveted bottles such as Heart of Darkness and Statement Reserve. No bottles are included in the $100 membership, but membership does give you discounts on purchases and the right to reserve those hot releases before they open to the public. For the truly hardcore mead fan, $750 will buy you membership for life.
Price:_ $100/year first year, $75/year to renew, $750 for lifetime membership
Duration: Calendar year
_Benefits: _Guaranteed access to purchase limited bottles, discounts on purchases, access to exclusive events tickets_
Perennial Artisan Ales Societe du Chene
Perennial’s 2015 club was so popular it required a lottery to decide who could buy in. Lucky members paid $240 to receive ten bottles of Perennial’s sour and mixed-fermentation barrel-aged beer, a custom glass, discounts in the tasting room, and access to a members-only party. As the only way to get bottles of beers such as their delicious Funky Wit series (pictured, at left) or their Solera-aged Brett Pale Anniversaria, the society is worth the price of admission. While they don’t promise it, the membership details do mention the possibility of purchasing spirits-aged beers such as Barrel-Aged Abraxas, Sump, or 17 if they mature during the membership period, making the membership all the more valuable.
Duration: Calendar year
Benefits: 10 bottles, custom glass, discounts, access to exclusive party and additional bottles_
Many of these membership club programs change from year to year, so watch each brewery’s social media accounts for up-to-date information about 2016 programs. Enrollment for the following year typically begins each fall, but the details and timelines for each brewery’s program are as diverse as the breweries themselves.