Although there has been some public discontent regarding the number of drinking establishments in certain areas of the city, there are other options for like-minded beer enthusiasts. One increasingly popular way to get your hands on some craft beer is to brew your own. The number of homebrew clubs is growing and still, there just aren’t enough.
There used to be two main groups in the Sacramento region, The Greenbelt Brewers Association and the Gold Country Brewers Association. These two clubs even had taps at some of the local beerfests the past few years, including the California Brewers Festival at Discovery Park and the Capital Beerfest during Sacramento Beer Week. (Unfortunately, due to stricter enforcement by Alcoholic Beverage Control, homebrew clubs are no longer able to pour at public beer festivals.)
Recently, I heard some rather amazing news about the growing size of homebrew clubs. The Greenbelt Brewers Association, which meets at Sudwerk the third Tuesday of every month, is now so big that they have to use a microphone during meetings—not exactly the situation at your stereotypical homebrew club meeting.
Despite the large number of members, Greenbelt is still an alluring club to join. They have unbelievably organized monthly meetings and an up-to-date website. Their schedule is set months in advance, just so you know whether this month you will be learning about cask ales or the characteristics of water used for brewing. The topics really are this specific; their meeting notes alone are worth checking out. Greenbelt also hosts a competition each year in collaboration with Berryessa Brewing Company and the Elk Grove Brewers Guild.
What if you’re not interested in large, conference-style homebrew meetings and want to have someone there with you to take you through the first time or two? What is one to do?
Well, the same thing that other enthusiastic brewers in the area have done—create your own club.
The UnderGroundBrewSquad did just this. This group of brewers – some veteran, some just digging in – meets to brew, taste and hang out.
“The UnderGroundBrewSquad’s foundation is based on three elements: educating, creating, and having fun while participating,” said co-founder Rodg Little. “Sticking to the foundation provides comfort.”
According to co-founder Mike Brennan, things are going well and they will soon be registered as an American Homebrewers Association (AHA) club.
“Our club truly centers around enthusiasm for the craft. Not only do we arrange brew days and tasting days at each others’ houses, we try to immerse in west coast beer culture. We have our meetings at a different microbrewery each month, and our members blog about their visits to breweries around California and Oregon,” Brennan said.
UGBS is planning to make their next meeting a “Big Beers” day. They will all be brewing high-gravity beers with an original gravity of over 1.072 – meaning that the beers will have a fairly high alcohol content, upwards of 8 or 9 percent ABV, possibly higher.
“Many of these styles age well,” explained Brennan, “and some of them will become the beers we’ll pour for the holidays. I’m looking to procure a used red wine barrel and have a group of us brew the same beer and cask age it.”
The UnderGroundBrewSquad works closely with BFD (Brew Ferment Distill) for equipment, ingredients and advice. A strong connection with a brewing supply store is always a good sign and the mark of a good homebrewing club. The group is small, tight-knit, and as Brennan mentioned, maintains a nice blog. Note of caution, you’d better have a good, beer-related alias ready if you’re planning to join up with the UnderGroundBrewSquad.
Another homebrew club that has become quite established is PUBS, the Placer Ultimate Brewing Society. This group works closely with The Brewmeister in Roseville and even did a brewing demonstration there during Sacramento Beer Week earlier this year. The group meets at the Owl Club on the third Thursday of the month at 6:30 p.m. There just might be a discount on beer involved as well.
The Elk Grove Brewers Guild meets on the third Friday of the month. Contact the club to find out where they will be meeting that month. Wondering how far homebrewers go? One member of the Elk Grove Brewers Guild, Steve Churning, has a website that could easily be confused with a brewery website. I can’t wait for this award-winning brewer’s tap room to open.
The Gold Country Brewers Association and their brewboat (yes, a boat) has been known to travel about the city—especially during Sacramento Beer Week. The GCBA has monthly meetings at the Unitarian Church the second Tuesday of each month.
MASH Homebrew Club, a club that claims to have been “Making Yuba-Sutter water drinkable since 2010,” is yet another group in the region. Another little known homebrew club is the Hangtown Association of Zymurgy Enthusiasts. HAZE also hosts a homebrew competition each year, this year in October. This particular club really emphasizes education and also has a mounted brewing system that leaves Placerville on occasion. They claim that many of their members are BJCP (Beer Judge Certification Program) certified judges and they have members that are published beer writers and regular judges.
HAZE has an excellent website complete with recipes, an archive of their monthly newsletters and even the occasional public service announcement. Their beer tours page is also particularly entertaining.
For those who are hesitant to go it alone or who would like to try a homebrew before going through the brewing process, clubs are a great option. Most clubs will gladly invite you to sit in on a tasting or brew session.
A few of you might wonder, is this a good thing—all these people making their own beer? Why, yes, I would argue. It’s amazing that so many people love beer so much that they wait weeks for it to be ready.
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