At the American Homebrew Association's National Homebrew Con this year in Minneapolis, the Heart of the Valley (HOTV) home brew club took home the 2017 Radegast Award. This prestigious award is given to a home brew club that is recognized not only for their dedication to home brewing but to their local community as well. Earlier this month, we chatted with the members of HOTV about their incredible involvement with local charities, the awesome events they host each year, some tips for fellow home brew clubs and more!
YCH HOPS: Tell us a little bit about your homebrew club.
HOTV: We are a relatively small club, by comparison to some. We draw our membership from homebrewers in Oregon’s Willamette Valley, hence our name, Heart of the Valley Homebrewers. We often refer to ourselves as HOTV, for short. Most of our members live in either Corvallis or the nearby town of Albany, although we have members that regularly come to our meetings from as far away as 40-50 miles. Our membership reflects the community, Corvallis being a university town, boasting a highly respected Fermentation Sciences program at Oregon State University (OSU). Our members include students (including some studying fermentation sciences), staff & faculty; homebrew storeowner & commercial brewers; professional workers & tradesmen; all contributing ideas and to the club’s success
YCH HOPS: Every home brew club has their own unique flare. What do you think makes your home brew club stand out? What special mottos or traditions do you guys have?
HOTV: The things that most bring us together as a group are our shared commitment to our homebrew competition, which is one of the oldest continuous competitions in the country, and to our annual beer celebration, Septembeerfest, now an iconic part of Corvallis Beer Week, and our major fund raiser for charities. (That is in addition to our commitment to brewing good beer, of course).We are unique in having a close relationship with the Fermentation Sciences program at OSU. We regularly participate in brewing sessions at the Pilot Brewery at the university. This is a special privilege allowing our members to benefit from the knowledge and experience of faculty and staff in that unit.
Although we realize its convenience, we long ago decided not to always meet in the same place. Instead we meet in the homes of members. This reinforces our sense of camaraderie and allows members to show off their homebrew setups etc. This arrangement also suits that fact that our members live over a relatively widespread area. Again to reinforce camaraderie, we sponsor the Oregon Homebrew Festival (our brewing competition, mentioned already) and have regular brewing sessions at the homes of members or occasionally at local craft breweries. Finally, we have recently created a monthly “social” where we meet, typically at one of the local quality beer venues, for pure friendship and to chat about beer and brewing, without club business. Recently we held one of our socials at the home of one of our more outlying members, where club members were invited to camp overnight and to participate in a club brew the following day.
YCH HOPS: Your outstanding involvement with a variety of charity groups has also helped your club stand out. Which charities have you worked with over the years?
HOTV: In our charitable giving we try to emphasize brewing education, as well as the needs of the needy in our community. In the context of education, we support the training of future brewers through our OSU endowment, which supports scholarships for students in the Fermentation Sciences Program. Furthermore, we support the Glen Hay Falconer Foundation, itself dedicated to brewing education. As far as support of community charities goes, we have been major supporters of local foodshares. We have supported a number of smaller charities, as well, but those are the main ones.
YCH HOPS: What inspired your club to get involved with those particular charities? Do some of your members have a personal connection?
HOTV: We chose to support the OSU endowment and the Glen Hay Falconer Foundation because we strongly support the education of future professional brewers. Our philosophy is that well educated brewers will make good beer, from which we can all benefit. We particularly want to support OSU because of the support that they give us. Some of our members indeed have connections to some of the foodshares, besides which we are sympathetic to the needs of disadvantaged and needy people in our community.
YCH HOPS: What are some of the key components that have helped in pulling off these successful charity events?
HOTV: Without a doubt, Septembeerfest is our major fund raiser, with most of the profits being donated to charities. Club members come together to help organize and carry out this event, which is an ambitious one for a smallish club to undertake. We reach out to other service organizations and groups, such as Kiwanis and the Student Chapter of the American Veterinary Medical Association, local members coming from the College of Veterinary Medicine at OSU. In turn, we recognize these groups in our charitable giving.
YCH HOPS: What have been some of the most rewarding aspects of being involved in various charity foundations?
HOTV: In a few words, the sense of being able, as a homebrew club, to give back to the community and to those who support us.
YCH HOPS: Promoting the hobby of home brewing is also a large criteria for the Radegast Award. What are some of the creative ways that your members promote and educate others about home brewing?
HOTV: One of the major ones is by providing a booth at Septembeerfest where attendees can get free samples of beers brewed by our members. We try to stress, by that means, that homebrewers can make beers that compete with commercial examples. It gives us the opportunity to talk to interested individuals about how we brew, equipment needed, and methods, etc. We also participate in more traditional ways, such as Big Brew Day and Learn to Homebrew Day. Recently we held one such event iin a parking area next to our local brewing supply shop, with the aim of interesting passersby in the hobby. Of course, this was beneficial as well to the owner of the HBS, who is a member of our club. We want to support our local HBS because its success is beneficial to us too.
YCH HOPS: In general, what do you believe is the biggest benefit of being involved in a homebrew club?
HOTV: Camaraderie, being able to share knowledge and sharing homebrews, which allows us to educate one another in beer styles, brewing methods, etc. Besides which, who is not going to enjoy an evening tasting good homebrew.
YCH HOPS: What methods have you found helpful for maintaining strong communication and involvement among all of your members?
HOTV: We feel that it is important to have regular meetings and to make those accessible to everyone by rotating them through different members’ houses. We stay active on social media, which allows both members and non-members to stay informed about club activities and events. Importantly, we try to avoid volunteer fatigue by sharing the load amongst members as much as possible.
YCH HOPS: What do you hope is the one thing that each member takes away from being involved in your club?
HOTV: That it is possible for anyone to brew good beer, mead or cider.
YCH HOPS: What is some advice that you would give other home brew clubs looking to increase their club’s community involvement and overall awesomeness?
HOTV: To identify a local community services project to support, then start small, avoiding the temptation of attempting something that your club can’t achieve. As your club and experience grows, you can enlarge upon these efforts.
YCH HOPS: Looking towards the future, what’s next ? Do you have any upcoming events in the works?
HOTV: For simple camaraderie we are looking forward to our club picnic, which is an opportunity for members to enjoy one another’s company, to informally talk beer, and to engage in some fun games, and so on. Of course, we are also in the throes of organizing, and looking forward to, our 10th annual Septembeerfest.
YCH HOPS: Homebrew Con is coming to Portland this next June. Do you have anything exciting planned being that it is so close to home?
HOTV: We are planning to show up in force. We have some exciting ideas to highlight our club at the event, but it’s a little early to share details. We hope to connect with members of other clubs there too.