Club of the Week: Arizona Society of Homebrewers
Name: The Arizona Society of Homebrewers (ASH)
Location: Primarily the South East Valley of Metro Phoenix, Arizona. Our clubhouse is located at 2515 N. Scottsdale Rd Scottsdale, AZ 85257
Mailing Address: P.O. Box 24440, Tempe, AZ 85285
Website/Social Media: AZHomebrewers.org Twitter: @azhomebrewers Facebook: facebook.com/AzHomebrewers
Club Motto: To preserve and promote the time-honored tradition of homebrewing, and to recognize it as a true art form through information, education, and dedicated practice.
Membership Dues: $30. It hasn’t changed very much since 1995.
Membership: It varies from year-to-year. Usually our paid membership is around 500. Our website is a mix of supporting members and non-members (total 970). We have a email subscription list that exceeds 1,000. This year our paid membership topped out at 457.
Who we are and how we got started/why we got started.
ASH (we often refer to ourselves as ASHers and the more pejorative ASH Holes) began with a handful of eager homebrewers in 1995. It was a rough and tumble group of individuals that helped shape the early craft beer scene in Arizona. Our casual vibe is popular with both the amateur and professional brewers in Arizona.
We grew rapidly based upon our Oktoberfest Festival. Before there was the crazy “event every weekend mentality” in the craft beer world, our Oktoberfest was the thing to do. We still draw around 400 people and the great beer-picnic atmosphere is still a major part of the festival.
ASH is a big club made up of smaller “clubs.” There are a number of small groups that get together for brewouts or meet at our clubhouse for Beer Judge Certification Program (BJCP) study. Sometimes the affiliation is based upon your neighborhood in the Valley or interest group.
We tell everyone we know that we are the largest homebrewing club in the U.S. We’re always in a position to back up our numbers. From a member’s perspective, we always want the experience to feel like a small club. I’ll be the first to admit that once you get above 60 members, it’s not an easy thing to pull off. At 500 it’s really tough, but we must be doing OK! To help facilitate the larger membership, we switched from a static website to a socially interactive one where any of our members can create topics, ask questions, coordinate brewouts or just catch up. We also hit social media pretty hard and we use a bulk webmail service. We’ve had some longevity with our board members and we’re fortunate that our Communications Officer, Tom Boggan, has done a great job.
I must mention that we do allow non-brewing members, but we’ve done a spectacular job in making them brewers or judges. In past years, a majority of our members joined just for Oktoberfest. We’ve really turned that around to where I can confidently say that an overwhelming majority have brewed or frequented brewouts. We’re also very proud of our female membership, which comprises just shy of 20 percent of our membership. We had half a dozen women medal at our Oktoberfest, and two of them were first time entrants. Three went on to win medals at Queen of Beer.
Our Board of Directors treat the club as a small business. We are insured with a full alcohol rider and our Board has D&O insurance. We’re currently meeting in a small grocery store and have plans to move into a restaurant space at the beginning of the year. You can’t do that on $30 dues alone. We’re pursuing some fundraising events next year and we hope to have a Capital Campaign toward building ownership someday.
Right now a good portion of our operations budget comes from working with sponsors in the craft beer industry. We have a Ninkasi Sponsor, Four Peaks Brewing, and we have sponsorships from homebrewing stores, bars and restaurants that we love. Members are issued hard plastic ID cards (we gave one to Charlie Papazian) that was based on a sponsorship from World Class beverages. The card gets our members discounts, and sometimes businesses have events that benefit the club.
All-in-all it’s centered around homebrewing but extends and exerts itself into the Phoenix beer culture. We’re gaining notoriety as a beer judging training center. That extends from BJCP but also into BA judging. ASHers judged the last two Ameri”CAN” Canned Beer Festivals.
We have our monthly general meetings on the third Tuesday of each month. We have weekly happy hours too. Because we have a clubhouse these days, we’d like to offer regular club activities most days of the week. Our meetings typically start with a calibration beer where we discuss style and process as we sample the homebrewer’s beer. We also have featured guests from the industry or homebrewers speak on a relevant topics. Throughout the meeting, we usually have between 25 and 60 homebrews to sample. Members often do a considerable amount of networking and idea-sharing.
Our premier competition is our Oktoberfest Competition. We have been fortunate to have Odell Brewing Co sponsor the competition and supply the Best of Show prize the last two years. Doug Odell offered his 5BBL system and a trip voucher to come brew with him. This year’s Pro-Am Competition beer—a dubbel from ASHer Mik HeerBrandt—will be served at the Arizona Strong Beer Fest in February 2013. It’s not uncommon for two or three Pro-Am beers to come out of our Oktoberfest.
Well, all of them! Of course our Oktoberfest, which I mentioned. We were even ranked as having a Top 10 Oktoberfest in the state. Coming up, we’re having our holiday party at the Four Peaks Production facility. That they’d be willing to shut down for us should tell you something. In the past we’ve had it in the Walter Bus Hanger. Walter is the largest VW Bus in the World.
Another fun thing we organize is an in-state bus trip to Flagstaff. In 2013 we’ll also be traveling to Tucson and Prescott/Sedona.
Finally, I should mention that we’ve made a great showing at the National Homebrewers Conference in both San Diego and Seattle. Our raucous past came out in Seattle as we #occupiedNHC. Yes, we were the loud sign-carrying group at Club Night. You either loved us or hated us, but you knew who we were.