By Matt Bolling, AHA Events & Membership Coordinator
The growing number of Big Brew sites registered with the AHA every May demonstrates that National Homebrew Day truly is a special day for homebrewers in the US and abroad. With more than 480 registered Big Brew celebrations last year, it’s clear that no event is the same. Some sites report attendance in the hundreds for their Big Brew days, while many others simply consist of one homebrewer, one kettle, and one canine or feline brewer-companion.
No matter the size, all Big Brew events offer an opportunity to share the passion for homebrewing. So, we took the time to speak to a few Big Brew site organizers from around the country about what makes their events special. Here are five tips from these homebrewers on how you can make your Big Brew day truly remarkable.
1) Make your Big Brew day about more than just beer
The PumpHouse Homebrew Shop in Struthers, Ohio has been partnering with The Purple Cat Farm for several years. “The Purple Cat is an organization in our area that employs, houses, and helps adults with disabilities. So, when we host the event at the farm, we ask for a donation for those purchasing public tickets. The Purple Cat receives 100 percent of that money,” said Gregg Wormley, manager of The PumpHouse. “We also do other things that day to entertain attendees, like show the Kentucky Derby, host a brew club basket raffle, hold a homebrew competition, and organize a Big Brew breakfast. Many people also bring fishing poles, and we line up a few food trucks later that afternoon. We also allow overnight camping to the brew club members and have a campfire music jam if the weather cooperates.”
2) Know all of the resources that are available to you
“Your biggest resource will be your club members or shop customers banging the drums so that everyone is aware,” said Chris Frey, who hosted an annual Big Brew event in Ann Arbor, Mich. in the early 2000s that drew more than 100 attendees annually. “But that can only get you so far. You need to be aware of the resources the AHA has available to you, and utilize all of them. Actively promoting your event on social media (download) and inviting the press to cover your Big Brew day will go a long way when trying to recruit new, loyal customers to your shop—or new members of your club.”
Big Brew Promotional Materials
3) Use your local star power
Using the official Big Brew Editable Press Release will hopefully get your local news anchor to attend your Big Brew event, but why stop there? Bert Lightle of ZZ Hops Homebrew Club in Kansas City, Mo. contacted local culinary celebrity and James Beard Award-Winning Chef Celina Tio of JULIAN to attend their Big Brew event at Boulevard Brewing Co. in 2016. “Beer and food are tied so closely together; it was great to bring our two worlds together. There’s lots of good chefs all over the country who like beer and would be interested in partnering with your Big Brew event, guaranteed,” Bert told us. “Don’t be afraid to ask! I got in contact with Chef Tio through Twitter. She loved the event and is now a great friend of the club.”
If you aren’t fortunate enough to live in an area with an award-winning chef, there’s still plenty of people in your municipality that are worth contacting. Local city council members, congressional representatives, and other elected officials have been attendees at many Big Brew events all over the country in previous years.
4) Be visible
Though plans have changed for 2017, for several years Siciliano’s Market partnered with Coldbreak Brewing Equipment to host their Big Brew event in Calder Plaza, an iconic public park in downtown Grand Rapids, Mich. “It took a lot of research into pulling the correct city permits the first year, but that became easier every year we did it,” said Steve Siciliano, founder and owner. “We invited the mayor every year to offer the official toast, and then about 50 brew teams would mash in. We got a ton of exposure because the city really got behind the event and the media loved it. Since it was in a public park, we had to work closely with city officials to ensure that everything was safe and that our water treatment was up to code, but it was a great way to foster goodwill amongst our community and expose our hobby to new people.” Before planning a Big Brew event in a public arena, please be sure to check the legality of hosting such an event with your municipal and state regulatory agencies.
5) Think outside the box.
The official date of Big Brew this year is May 6, but that doesn’t mean your brewers all have to brew on that specific day to celebrate—or even be in the same place! The Frogtown Hoppers of Toledo, Ohio took their Big Brew event to new heights by hosting multiple Big Brew events on different weekends. Club founder Jerry Payton told us that they wanted to turn Big Brew day into Big Brew week. Though the Big Brew sites on both weekends were the capstone events, Jerry encouraged club members to brew throughout the week as well. To read more about The Frogtown Hoppers’ Big Brew day, check out their article Big Brew With Toledo’s Frogtown Hoppers.
To register your own Big Brew event, visit the Big Brew Event Registration page or find a Big Brew event in your area. For more tips on how to make your Big Brew event successful, check out my article, “Relax, Don’t Worry—It’s Learn to Homebrew Day,” which offers valuable suggestions you can adapt for Big Brew.
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Matt Bolling is the Events & Membership Coodinator for the American Homebrewers Association.