Book Clubs for Beer

By: Ken Cross | September 20, 2012

Home brewing and craft brewing has been steadily growing in popularity since the 70s, despite the fallout following a mid-90s boom. In fact, according the The Brewers Association, there are more craft breweries operating in the United States now than there were before Prohibition.  And they predict the numbers to continue to steadily rise. Currently, Michigan ranks #5 for the number of breweries, microbreweries and brewpubs in the nation.  That doesn’t even take into consideration the amount of “beer brewing hobbyists” that inhabit our fair state. If those numbers were included, Michigan would more than likely be #1 in the country.

Just like with any other hobby, chances are someone, somewhere has formed a group to celebrate it. If there are local scooter clubs, and clubs for foodies, car clubs, sports clubs, and Oprah’s book clubs, then you can bet the bank there are local home brewing and craft brewing clubs. I just had no idea how many there were!

While I had many friends who brewed their own beer at home, I just (wrongly) assumed that brewing was a solitary sort of hobby. I asked my friend Jason, who has an entire part of his basement dedicated to brewing, about if he ever thought about joining a brew club, he said it was almost necessary if you wanted to improve your craft. Jason told me that not only do they meet on a regular basis to share and compare recipes, but they also help troubleshoot bad batches, help improve mediocre ones and are there to drink up the good ones. And the best part is the sharing. “You could be making up a caramel IPA while someone could be brewing some crazy Shorts peanut butter and jelly concoction. It’s a good way to sample beer and try out new things – you have a built in focus group.”

Learning the art of brewing beer is a lot of trial and error, strikes and gutters. It’s a science as much as it is a craft, and no great inventor ever truly went it alone. They always had a mentor or a peer that helped push them forward to be bigger, better, smarter than your average bear. And that’s exactly what being in a brewing club does for each other – encouragement, education and a lot of delicious trial and error.

If you’re interested in learning how to brew your own craft beer or are already experienced and want to share your beer with other “homebrew enthusiasts,” I’ve compiled some good starting resources for you to check out.

Michigan Brewers Guild – Founded in 1997, the Michigan Brewers Guild is the definitive guide to the local beer scene. According to their site they “exist to unify the community of brewers, to increase the sale of Michigan Craft Beer, to contribute culturally and economically throughout the state, and to monitor and assure a healthy brewing industry.”

Michigan Home Brewers – While the site doesn’t appear to have been updated since 2011, the home brewing clubs list appears quite accurate and up to date.

Society of North Oakland Brewers – Oh, you silly brewers, the funny acronym of your name isn’t lost on me! The S.N.O.B.s is “a club which is dedicated to the education and mastery of craft beer, mead, cider and wine. Our goal is to provide an organization for people who are interested in learning and sharing information as it pertains to the art of all things fermentable.”

Michigan Beer Blog and I’m a Beer Hound – Two great blogs that not only focus on the art of brewing, but also review local beers and breweries, highlight upcoming events, and showcase great recipes that you can make with your beer (Founders Pale Ale Fried Mac & Cheese? Yes, please!).

Beer Info – A very comprehensive site that has a huge FAQ that can answer any question you may have, no matter your experience level. Anything you ever wanted to know about homebrewing, craft brewing and beer? Go here.

Michigan Beer Guide – A print magazine that comes out 6 times a year featuring news, stories, events and brewing tips about the brewing industry in Michigan and about beer sold in Michigan. It’s available for free at select locations (listed on their site) or you can subscribe directly for $18 for 6 issues a year.