Once a month or so I meet up with a group of beer geeks and taste a range of tough-to-find brews. It’s not like I only see these guys once a month of course, I see them all the time. And our What’s App group has exchanged almost 15,000 messages in the past year (though probably only about 3,000 of those have anything to do with beer. Beer people have a lot of time on their hands, apparently). But when we get together for our official meetups, the SSBSS (Southern Suburbs Beer Snobs Society) members all bring their A-game. Or should I say, their A beers. Beers that they’ve collected while travelling overseas, weird one-off beers that they’ve brewed at home, beers that they begged visiting friends and family from abroad to smuggle back in their suitcases. We talk about nothing but beer, we taste beer, we discuss beer. We appreciate beer.
It’s not a ground-breaking concept, that of starting your own beer appreciation club, but it can be something that can kind of fizzle out if you don’t put some thought into it. Here are a few tips for starting up your own club – and keeping it going…
Decide how it will work
Will people bring beers along as and when they can? Will you have a kitty and those who have brought pricey brews along get compensated? Are you going to just drink and enjoy or do you want to sit and take tasting notes? Get an idea of how the club will work and it will hopefully prevent any disagreements later…
Don’t meet too often
There’s a difference between meeting your mates for a beer and staging a beer appreciation meetup – I regularly do both. You need to have a decent supply of beers to make a club like this work, I think. At most, we meet once a month but more realistically we have an official get-together more like every two months. If you’re meeting weekly you’re either going to be drinking the same beers every week, or you have access to a never-ending supply of fascinating brews (in which case you are invited to join the SSBSS!!)
Don’t have too many members
If you’re bringing back a sole bottle of Pliny from the States, the last thing you want is to share it with 15 friends, however awesome they are, and get only a sip of the beer you were so excited to taste. so either keep the numbers below 10, or make sure you bring back a four-pack of everything!
Keep things interesting
Above all, you want to taste beers with your friends, but it’s nice to do something other than just sipping every now and then. Plus there will be “dry months” when no-one has been able to collect any out of the ordinary brews, so you have to get creative when tasting stuff you’ve all had before – have everyone bring their beers in a (clean) sock and make it a blind tasting, pick a sole style and get everyone to find something in that style, print off some BJCP score sheets and grade the beers you taste, or maybe make it a pairing evening, where everyone brings a block of cheese to pair with their chosen brew.
Don’t take it too seriously
At the end of the day, beer is for drinking, so please don’t spend so long looking at it, sniffing it and dissecting it that the beer your pal has carried across continents gets warm before you actually drink it. And also get t-shirts made. They’re very cool.
And if you perhaps don’t have enough energy to start up your own club, or enough beer-obsessed friends to make it work, you can always join a public group. Beer Club SA meets once a month at bars and breweries in Cape Town or the Winelands. You pay a fee, usually around R200-250, for which you get food, beers – generally including some limited edition brews, a formal(ish) talk and plenty of chat with like-minded beer geeks. Their next meet-up is this Saturday at Banana Jam Cafe – join the beer geeks on the deck at 6.30pm for beer, beer chat, beer food and probably some more beer (limited availability, R200 per person).
Are you part of a beer appreciation club? Do you have any tips on how to run one? Or feel free to use the comments section to gather together a like-minded bunch of geeks and start one from scratch!