By Efrain Villa
Doing things the easy way has never been part of the Diablo Order of Zymiracle Enthusiasts’ (DOZE) 25-year history, as exemplified by the homebrew club’s mouthful of a name. Fortunately, those wonderfully heady words usually get shortened to their acronym for the benefit of those of us who are not Scrabble champions.
In a year marked by difficulties, the Bay Area club rose to the many challenges of running a community-centric organization worthy of being crowned the American Homebrewers Association’s (AHA) 2021 Radegast Club of the Year.
Because in the brewing world names usually come with stories, it is worth noting that Radegast is the Slavic god of hospitality and creator of beer. Despite the namesake, the Slavic divine being did not sponsor the award; that honor went to Yakima Chief Hops.
The award was first established eight years ago to recognize exceptional clubs that embrace diversity, engage in philanthropy, promote homebrewing as a hobby, teach brewing to the public, and epitomize overall awesomeness. To keep a level playing field for entrants, the clubs’ achievements are judged relative to each club’s size and age by an impartial panel of judges from the AHA Governing Committee.
This year’s winner did not just go the extra mile. In one particular case of brewing heroism, DOZE’s vice president, Max Brown, and member, Jim Bergmann, went well over 1,000 miles across four state borders.
Jordan Reed, DOZE’s president tells the story of the incident they dubbed The Great Colorado Run: “To ensure that all of our club’s 167 (2021 National Homebrewing Competition – NHC) entries made it to judging safely, two of our members drove all 42 cases of beer bottles from the Bay Area to the AHA sorting site in Colorado. They encountered a whiteout blizzard in Wyoming that almost stranded them. The sheer weight of all those full bottles of beer (over 1,000 lbs.) well exceeded the maximum cargo load of the small SUV they were driving. Many folks at the AHA, including John Moorhead, welcomed the guys as they delivered our entries and were blown away by DOZE’s determination and chutzpah. The devil may be in our name (from our Mt. Diablo Valley home) and maybe ‘in the details,’ but DOZE won’t let that sinister character, or anything else, stop us, not even a global pandemic!”
In that same spirit of “self-reliance,” DOZE launched its No Entry Left Behind Initiative, which allowed the region to be the first NHC region to complete judging of all of their nearly 700 first-round entries in 2020. This was made possible due to the creativity and initiative of DOZE members, who came up with a system to safely evaluate entries in their own homes while comparing notes over video conference.
“We had so many folks in our club that took pride in saying, ‘Hey, we’re going to go ahead and judge these and make it work, we’ll figure out the technology to honor what these people spent all this time and hard work making and sending to us,’” recalls Reed. “That was something that was a real highlight of last year; being able to celebrate and have some sense of a normal cycle of competition and that big NHC buzz. I know people who sent their beers in from around the region and country really appreciated it, too. We couldn’t help but look at the NHC online ceremony and think, ‘Huh, that looks kind of like what we did regionally,’ and it made us proud.”
Meeting the award requirement to commit to diversity was relatively easy for DOZE since embracing diversity is codified in its bylaws.
“There are all kinds of ways in which people get shut out of things because of their beliefs, ethnicity, gender, gender expression, and DOZE doesn’t want to be part of doing that for any reason,” says Reed. “We just accept anyone who digs what we’re doing.”
Moving forward, the club will continue to use some of the new tools they picked up during the pandemic. Reed says that although in-person meetings are optimal, he sees a hybrid system of virtual and in-person meetings working well to expand the club’s reach. Earlier this year, for example, they hosted a guest speaker live from Peru, and club members got to taste his creations simultaneously by brewing a recipe that had been circulated prior to the teleconference.
As part of the award, the club will receive $500 in cash and an additional $500 to donate to a charity of its choice. Reed says that although the club has not yet decided which of the many organizations they support will receive the funding, they are thinking of donating in memory of longtime club member Mike “Tasty” McDole and several other friends and club members who have passed away recently.
About the Author
Efraín Villa is a photographer, actor, writer and global wanderer whose endless quest for randomness has taken him to more than 50 countries in five continents. His writing has appeared on NPR’s Weekend Edition, the Good Men Project, TravelWorld International Magazine, Zymurgy, as well as Spanish language publications. While not running his consulting firm in Albuquerque, he is busy devouring exotic foods in faraway countries and avoiding adulthood while wearing the least amount of clothes possible. His travel stories dealing with the messiness, humor, and beauty of cultural collisions can be found on AimlessVagabond.com.