[Above: Members of the Horsemen of the Hopocalypse donate to the Tarrant Area Food Bank in Fort Worth, Texas. Image provided by the Horsemen of the Hopocalypse.]
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By Kristen Kuchar
Each year, one homebrew club is awarded the Radegast Club of the Year, named for the Slavic god of hospitality and the creator of beer. The recipient is a club that does fantastic things in addition to brewing great beer, such as finding creative ways to promote the hobby and joys of homebrewing, engaging in philanthropy efforts, and focusing on the community. This year, The Horseman of the Hopocalypse have been given this honor.
The North Texas club’s monthly meetings each take place at a different local brewery. To help spread the word of homebrewing, members wear club shirts and hats, and inevitably brewery patrons come ask about it. It’s a great way to introduce homebrewing and the club to beer lovers who are likely already passionate about craft beer. The club also has brew days at the local homebrew store in Fort Worth, BrewHound. Members are on hand to be an asset to new brewers and talk about the club and homebrewing in general.
There’s a priority on encouraging first-timers to the group to stick with homebrewing. “We really work to engage our new members,” says Charlie Scudder, chief information officer for the club. The goal is to bring them into the fold and help them improve their brewing and elevate their work.
A monthly newsletter (with a high open rate) keeps people involved with a calendar of events, a technical column on a brewing topic, a Q&A to spotlight a member (including a recipe), and more. They’ll also periodically host a new member meet-up where fledgling members can gather at the homebrew shop so it’s a familiar, comfortable place. “We want to be able to meet people where they are and help them improve where they are,” Charlie says.
New members are matched with the best club resources for their skill and interest level. If a new member is an extract brewer, for example, they’ll be pointed in the direction of members who are winning medals with extract beers.
Club secretary Rachael Brasovan has felt the positive impacts of those new member efforts. Rachael wanted to get into a hobby after graduating college in 2020 and a friend told her about brewing. During a visit to BrewHound, the shop suggested she check out the club, so she went to a meeting on a whim.
“Everyone was super nice and welcoming,” she says. For Rachael, the club is a source for useful information as well as camaraderie, and someone always is there with an answer. “I get tips and tricks that I wouldn’t have figured out on my own,” she says.
When she wanted to make the switch to all-grain brewing, a member invited her to come over and brew one together, to get a hands-on experience. “Doing it on your own is fun but having other people that share your hobby and love what they do and love to try your beer is really nice and encouraging,” she says. Rachael, who loves brewing IPAs and pale ales, won the IPA division at the Spirit of 76 competition last year.
As for giving back, the club has raised funds for the Brotherhood of the Fallen and Ukrainian humanitarian aid. They also rallied around the BrewHound store owner (also a fellow club member) when he lost his wife to a sudden illness. Members raised money through a GoFundMe page, helped him at the shop to lessen his workload, and planned a homebrew community event to provide additional support.
Education is a continued priority. One of the members won a five-gallon drum of high-quality honey, so the club hosted a mead day in which members learned how to make mead. Participants tried honey varieties, and everyone went home with honey to make their own batch of mead.
“It’s a really collaborative environment,” Charlie explains. “But we’re also very competitive.” There is a lot of encouragement for members to compete as much as possible, and having so many BJCP judges in the group helps guide what the judging process is like.
The club hosts a handful of competitions throughout the year. Club-only competitions are held seasonally—in February, members make a Valentine’s Day beer; in April, everyone brews a recipe from a pro brewer, and Halloween-themed beers in October are complete with spooky décor. They also host the Belgian Draft Horse and Spirit of 76 competitions, which are open to all homebrewers.
It’s not only about acknowledging the award-winning brews, Charlie explains, but acknowledging all brewing strides. “Even if it’s not the greatest beer, if it’s the best beer you’ve made, we want to celebrate it.”