Who is #beerclub?

Over on twitter, I’ve accumulated several beer related nicknames. I’ve been called the leader of #beerclub, it’s been stated that I’m the sensei of the club, and I’ve even been called the #beerlord. I’ve been around and around with @Einley about the #beerlord title, so I’ve learned that I just have to accept that one, but I want to discuss my role in #beerclub, and the vision I have for the group.

I discussed some of the history of #beerclub on for it’s one year anniversary so I won’t rehash that story here, but I’ll give a little more history into who I am and my own beer journey, and where I’d like to see #beerclub go in the future.

I’ve never really liked the American adjunct light lagers that are mass marketed to the world. When I started drinking beer, I looked for something better. At first that meant drinking Killian’s, Blue Moon, or Leinenkugel’s instead of Miller Lite. I understood that these were beers with a little more flavor than the lite beers that commercials were telling me “tasted great.” Then, I moved to Milwaukee, and was introduced to Sprecher.

Here, in the Sprecher Amber, was a beer that didn’t taste like other beers.  It had so much flavor in comparison to even the “premium” macro brewed beers that I had been drinking up to that point. I started understanding that beer was a much bigger entity than I had experienced to that point. However, I still didn’t drink good beer on a regular basis. That transition happened a few years later.

A group of friends and I started a monthly pilgrimage to Lakefront Brewery for their tour. It was a great place where we had lots of fun, got good beers for cheap, and learned a little something to boot. Those tours turned me into a craft beer lover. I filled a dorm sized fridge in my basement with craft beers, and started my voyage to becoming a craft beer lover.

Fast forward a few years more, and I had done the Lakefront tour some 30 times, and found myself in a rut. I was drinking craft beers, but primarily beers from Sprecher, Capital, Point and Lakefront. I still love those breweries, and they make great beers, but I wasn’t actively going out and trying new beers. I remember thinking that I needed something to inspire me to go out and try new beers, little did I know that I would start something that would lead me to some of my best friends, or that I would learn so much about the world of beer in the process.

So, now that I’ve discussed my personal beerpiphony (Genevieve wrote about her own beerpiphony back in the early days of this blog), let’s talk about #beerclub. I didn’t realize when I started writing this post that I would share my own story, but it seems like it’s an important piece of the puzzle to explain the vision of #beerclub.

While I’ve learned a lot about beer, the ingredients, the history, and the culture, I know I’m no expert. I’m learning right along side of everyone, and that’s why I feel like calling me the “leader of the club” is not the right word. I prefer to think of myself as a moderator.

I strongly believe that #beerclub is US. Everyone who participates and those who don’t speak up, and yet follow the hashtag on Monday nights. You are all so important to the success of the club and the direction we take that I don’t like to think about it as being under my control.

That brings me to the inspiration for this post. A discussion on twitter about picking an “Official Beer” of #beerclub came up. It was suggested that Oskar Blues Dale’s Pale Ale become the official beer of the club. During the discussion it was proposed that it would be my duty to decide on the official beer of the club. I balked at this idea for a few reasons:

  • I wholeheartedly disagree that it would be my call. Like I discussed this is the club’s decision to make, if the majority of club wants an official beer, then we’ll have an official beer. It’s not my place to make any proclamations like this. We are currently running a survey to pick #beerclub’s favorite beers, and if we were going to declare one beer as the official beer, I would say that it should be the result of some democratic method like picking the beer that rates as the top beer on that survey.
  • However, the idea of an “Official Beer of #Beerclub” flies right in the face of what I think #beerclub is all about. If we endorse one single beer as THE beer, we’re encouraging people to be in a rut. Beer has so many styles, breweries, and variants that I don’t know how we could limit ourselves to one single beer.
  • Finally, as @Einley tweeted, if I was to pick an official beer of #beerclub, my personal vote would be for something local. I love Dale’s Pale Ale. It’s one of my all time favorite beers, but I’ve never met the head brewer of Oskar Blues, and they aren’t as committed to me as a Wisconsin drinker as other beers we could choose. I’ve met Jim McCabe of Milwaukee Brewery, I’ve met Randy Sprecher of Sprecher Brewery, I’ve met Kirby Nelson of Capital Brewery, and I’ve met the Klisch brothers of Lakefront. These local brewers live and breathe the Wisconsin beer scene. They chose to start their breweries here, and are committed to Wisconsin first. As a primarily Wisconsin based group, I’m inclined to support these brewers first. We’ve even seen participation from the official brewery’s twitter accounts from several of the local Wisconsin breweries.

This begs the question, if we don’t have an “Official Beer of #beerclub” what are people supposed to drink when they can’t get the beer of the week? My typical answer to that question is to try to drink another beer in the style. For example, this week we’re drinking a sour, so if you can’t find the Brux, go out and find a sour beer that you have never tried. Failing that, if you can’t find a similar beer, drink a new to you beer of any style. #beerclub aims to be as inclusive as possible, and we’re not going to turn anyone away for drinking a beer that’s not “official.” I’m working on compiling a series of questions that may or may not be related to the beer of the week, so if you don’t have the beer, you can still add to the conversation.

This spirit of inclusion means that we’re not a Wisconsin only club. We’ve had participation from across the country. From Virginia, Nebraska, Minnesota, Washington, California, and other places that I don’t even remember. We’re focused mostly on Wisconsin, simply because that’s where the majority of our members reside, and since it’s very difficult to find craft beers that are distributed nationwide, we had to draw the line somewhere. If you’d like to participate from outside of Wisconsin, we welcome you. Talk to me and maybe we can work something out.

Inclusion means that we’re not even strictly speaking tied to twitter. We started on twitter, have a facebook group (mostly abandoned), and we’ve done a Google Plus hangout (check in on Monday for a #beerclub afterparty hangout). Heck, we don’t even exclude you from joining us on the #beerclubfieldtrip if you don’t have a social media account. We’ve had participation on the field trips from several people who don’t have twitter accounts, or have never participated in a single #beerclub.

In the spirit of collaboration, and the spirit of #beerclub, I want to finish this post by saying that if you have suggestions, comments, questions or even a blog post you’d like to share with the club. Just contact me and I’ll do everything I can to make it happen.

Cheers! Happy Drinking! Happy International Beer Day, and don’t forget to fill out the survey. I’ll be closing the poll on Monday night, and compiling the results, so if you want your voice to be heard, now’s the time.

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One Response to Who is #beerclub?

  1. I’ve been thinking about the “Official Beer of #beerclub,” and here are some of my thoughts:

    I called Dale’s Pale Ale the unofficial beer of #beerclub as a half joke since those people I know in #beerclub the most seem to always have it on hand. I then thought that if enough people are fans, perhaps it could become the official beer. I’ve been think about this more over the weekend, and think an official beer may be problematic since this is a social network based club versus a group of friends who meet at a bar each week.

    If there is to be an official beer, I think it needs to meet one significant criteria, the beer must be generally available across the country. If the #beerclub is meant for more than just people in WI/MKE, then it would be unfair to choose something like Spotted Cow, as that eliminates people in 49 states from easily obtaining the beer.

    I’ve been thinking that instead of an official beer, the #beerclub comes up with perhaps a hall of fame. If #beerclub is about finding new beers, perhaps we should celebrate the great beers that have lasted the test of of time, but also are loved by #beerclub members. The club could start with a half dozen or so hall of fame beers, and then add a new one or two each year like a sports hall of fame.

    With the craft beer renaissance going on, there are so many amazing new beers coming out each month. I love the idea of having a club that pushes me to find new beers each week. However, I think with all these new beers being released, we sometimes forget our old friends. I had an Anchor Steam three weeks ago. It had been years since I enjoyed one, and I forgot how much I enjoy it. I’ve been spending the past few weeks trying older craft beers that I have neglected. I enjoyed a Fat Tire, aSierra Nevada Pale Ale, and a Sam Adams Boston Lager since then, and I want to seek out more “classic” craft beers I have not enjoyed in years.

    We have IPADay, Stout Day, etc. Perhaps we should have a Good Friends We’ve Forgotten Day/Week.Month. September is back to school time, so why not make it back to basics craft beer month? I would love to see something like this go beyond just me, #beerclub, or my circle of beer friends. I want this to go nation-wide. A lot of the craft beer drinkers I know have forgotten their roots. If it isn’t an Imperial Oak-aged Sour Double IPA with an ABV over 10%, it’s a worthless beer. If the #beerclub, is receptive to a hall of fame, perhaps we could spend a month looking at these classic craft beers for a month, and see if a return to the classics is something we might want to promote on a larger scale. Mitch mentions a Sprecher Amber above; I have never had that beer, but if it brought Mitch into the world of craft, I would like to enjoy one with him.

    One other random thought: The #beerclub has its own Twitter handle, have you ever considered creating an Untappd account for the club to track what the club enjoys beyond the Google Doc?

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