2016 Radegast Winners: Hogtown Brewers

2016 Radegast Winners: Hogtown Brewers

July 01, 2016 / News & Events

At the American Homebrewers Association's National Homebrew Con this year in Baltimore, the Hogtown Brewers home brew club took home the 2016 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 Hogtown Brewers 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.

Hogtown Brewers: Established in 1985. At the end of the fiscal year, we tend to have about 250 members. The Hogtown Brewers are located in Gainesville, Florida (Go Gators!)

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?

Hogtown Brewers: As far as mottos and traditions, we have a few including:

  • “Since 1985, more hops than our lawyers advise!”
  • “You can’t buy happiness, but you can brew it”
  • “Your Hogtown Brewers: a merry band of beer enthusiasts, with a home brewing problem”

Our most notable tradition is running the beer booths at our local Medieval Faire. We play it up in period costumes, run it like a pub with high top tables, local musicians playing Celtic music, very special guest kegs in the back just for the privilege of the members, and so much more. It’s quite a spectacle. We have a number of traditional brew events including Moonlight Brew, Knights of the Barleywine, Camp-n-brew, Queen of Beer group brew, and several others. All these have club support by providing stipends for ingredients to encourage brewing. What makes the club stand out is the work that goes into the very respectable fundraising the club engages in. This enables the membership to have unique perks such as having your beer comp entries and shipping paid for (up to 12 per comp), funds for beer education, club equipment, judging and steward stipends to help other judge at other club comps, the aforementioned brewing stipends, and a whole lot more.

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?

Hogtown Brewers: We’re going to need a lot of space to answer that question. Each year during our Hogtown Craft Beer Festival, we tend to donate to about 5 or 6 charities from the proceeds. However, during the year, we regularly discuss each month which charity we will donate $300 to. In our last fiscal year, we donated over $40k. Want to see a partial list of who they were over the last couple years? Ok….

  • Alachua Conservation Trust
  • Rebuilding Together North Central Florida
  • Alachua Habitat for Humanity
  • Peaceful Paths (Center for Abused Women)
  • Hippodrome State Theatre
  • Blessed Hope (Food Distribution to Rural Poor)
  • Gainesville Fisher House (For Veterans’ Families)
  • School Teachers (for the purchase of classroom supplies)
  • Retirement Home for Horses, Inc
  • Friends of the Crisis Center
  • Grow Radio
  • Adopt-a-Family-for-Christmas (Four Families)- Hippodrome State Theatre
  • Blessed Hope (Food Distribution to Rural Poor)
  • Gainesville Fisher House (For Veterans’ Families)
  • School Teachers (for the purchase of classroom supplies)
  • Kanapaha Botanical Gardens
  • Lubee Bat Conservatory
  • Stop Children’s Cancer

Yes, it’s a lot.

YCH HOPS: What inspired your club to get involved with those particular charities? Do some of your members have a personal connection?

Hogtown Brewers: All charities, big and small, were brought to the attention of the Hogtown Brewers by a member who somehow had a connection to that charity. So there was a passion on some level within our membership for each and every charity.

YCH HOPS: Organizing charity events is no easy feat, especially those as large as the Hoggetown Medieval Faire and Hogtown Craft Beer Festival. What are some of the key components that have helped in pulling off these successful charity events?

Hogtown Brewers: You must have a happy team running the event. The event must be fun to work on, else participation on it spirals down the drain. Other components include having members on your team that have a passion to work on big things in the community. It also helps to simply have a really good (and practical) idea for an event that gives you a platform to try out creative ideas, because, it’s fun to have that. For example, in addition to the Medieval Faire and Craft Beer Festival, we also do a beer/food pairing event where the beer and food are completely home made. We do this in partnership with a charity, and the event provides a forum for club members to show off, not only their brewing prowess, but also their culinary chops to an adoring public that does not normally get access to what we create. (after all, home brewers not only make great beer, they tend to make great food too)

YCH HOPS: What have been some of the most rewarding aspects of being involved in various charity foundations?

Hogtown Brewers: The simple answer is the satisfaction of being part of a group that positively affects the community around us, and knowing your little hobby can be parlayed into something bigger than just simply a tasty 5 gallon batch, but can do a lot of good in your little corner of the world.

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?

Hogtown Brewers: One of the most unique ways we promote brewing is via a regular monthly radio/podcast, Homebrew Talk on GrowRadio.org, hosted by two of our members (Ron Minkoff and John Denny). This show has been running for several years and had garnered a wide following of listeners and fans, both locally and across the nation, with some international fans too! Past podcasts are also available on www.homebrewjockey.com. Another creative way we have promoted homebrewing is through beer poetry. Each year we solicit new poems to stir the soul to seek out and make good beers! This is such a fun activity and many have written some pretty good poems!

Hogtown Brewers host AHA Learn-to-Homebrew events with demonstrations of a variety of brewing techniques for beer, mead, and cider. We also invite anyone interested in homebrewing to our AHA Mead day events as well as an annual club organized Cider day. The club also has homebrewing demonstrations at the annual Gainesville Medieval Faire, and our club run Hogtown Craft Beer Festival.

In addition to demonstrations, we have found one the best ways to promote homebrewing is to serve homebrew! At our Hogtown Craft Beer Festival, we invite several Florida homebrew clubs to serve their beer (~1600 attendees per year) and are on hand to field questions about homebrewing. We recently began serving free samples at a local Oktoberfest that has several thousand attendees as well. Finally, this past year, we successfully hosted two homebrew and food pairing fundraisers that had ~300 local attendees. Some of our homebrewers have had the opportunity to have their recipes brewed on larger systems, which has resulted in such great promotion for the craft of homebrewing. This past year, club President Ron Minkoff had his “Homebrew Grown,” a coffee-vanilla brown ale, brewed at Swamp Head brewery. It was quite popular and was distributed to many sites outside of Gainesville.

YCH HOPS: In general, what do you believe is the biggest benefit of being involved in a homebrew club?

Hogtown Brewers: The one word that best sums up the many benefits of homebrew-club membership is community. A homebrew club is a community in the truest sense. At its best, it is a welcoming, engaging group of eclectic individuals who share a love of brewing, discussing and drinking great beers. Members tend to be interested in becoming better brewers, helping others improve their brewing skills and spreading the gospel of great beer styles, while giving back to their community. Our club captures this perspective in the motto: Brewing, Sharing and Caring.

Monastic orders in the Middle Ages were composed of a “community” of Monks who brewed their own beers for themselves and their surrounding community. Today, it is commonly known that many of these monastic breweries, particularly the Trappists, brew beer to fund their works and charitable causes. One criterion of the International Trappist Association is that the brewery is not intended to be a profit-making venture. The income covers living expenses and maintenance of the grounds and buildings. Whatever remains is donated to charity for social work and to help persons in need.

The most awesome homebrew clubs adhere to these Trappist tenants. Such clubs truly are a community of brewers, who do more than just brew beer. Together, they make the world a better place in which to live and drink great beers. Being a part of such a community is the biggest benefit of being in a homebrew club, a club such as Hogtown Brewers. Cheers!

YCH HOPS: Hogtown Brewers is a pretty large home brew group, with over 200 members. What methods have you found helpful for maintaining strong communication and involvement among all of your members?

Hogtown Brewers: Yes, keeping everyone informed can be quite the challenge! We use many methods to communicate with our members. Our primary communication is via our Hogtown listserv and website. New members are added to the listserv after they join and you must maintain membership to continue to be on the listserv. We use this email to announce meetings and events (linked to our Google Calendar), talk about club business, and as a forum to discuss brewing ideas and issues. Members can opt to receive emails in real time or get a daily digest. Active members also get the password to our website. This protected area has our entire membership list, complete with current contact information for each member, which also helps with communication.

We also maintain an active presence on social media. Our Facebook and Twitter pages announce club events but also share other posts relevant to homebrewing and local events/news that may be of interest to our members. We share plenty of photos of our events and shenanigans too, so that everyone knows much fun we are having! We have also decided to delve into Instagram recently, so we should have most social media platforms covered! I will note that we try to spread the responsibility around so that not just one member is controlling all the social media updates. This also makes sure that updates seem fresh and unique and that each platform is being used in the most effective way.

YCH HOPS: What do you hope is the one thing that each member takes away from being involved in your club?

Hogtown Brewers: Being a home brew club in a college town, we will often come across new members whose time is relatively short before they must move on. A good percentage of those that move on stay in touch with us long timers and often reflect at how they miss their time while being a member of Hogtown. Most give us the comment that, in their new city, they joined the local brew club, but it’s nothing like the Hogtown Brewers, which is where their heart still lies. So the take away is that the experience of being in Hogtown is not just a mere group you hooked up with because of your hobby, but it is an active, communal group where you made friendships that will always stay with you (as well as kicking up your homebrew kung fu). It’s not unlike a college fraternity or sorority that has a history, culture, pride, and bonds between its members that last a lifetime.

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?

Hogtown Brewers: Network with local community groups, which can inspire creative ideas for involvement. For example, the Hogtown Brewers recently did a couple homebrew beer and food pairings that raised almost $5,000 for one of our local non-profit organizations. The event promoted homebrewing, food pairing appreciation, the homebrew club and the non-profit that benefited from the event’s donations. Win-win-win.

YCH HOPS: Looking towards the future, what’s next for the Hogtown Brewers? Do you have any upcoming events in the works?

Hogtown Brewers: The event calendar for the Hogtown Brewers is packed year round. We have a hard time squeezing anything new and sizeable into it. In the winter and early spring we have the Medieval Faire beer booth fund raising, Camp-n-Brew, Moonlight brew, Gainesville Beer Week, and our Hogtown Craft Beer Festival. Late spring and summer brings Big Brew, the Hogtown Brew-off competition, Queen of Beer group brew, Mead Day, Regatta canoe trip, and pub crawl. Fall and winter brings the Haile Plantation Oktoberfest, Cider Day, Teach a friend to homebrew day, and Knights of the Barleywine. In between these annual events we sprinkle in BJCP judge class, beer education labs, beer/food pairing charity events, Thanksgiving eve bon fire, collaboration brews, solera project, AHA national conference and more. Not to mention the monthly general membership and executive membership meetings. So it’s all upcoming, and always exciting!

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