The UBCC is a very unstructured club, with no official minutes or by-laws or elections or any of that stuff. We never discuss club business during meetings, we don’t tend to get involved in big AHA-sponsored events (Teach A Friend To Homebrew Day, for example), and we can never seem to get our butts organized enough for club-sponsored lectures or pub crawls. So what do we do?
Monthly Meetings — Beer Judging
Mostly what we do is judge beer. The club was founded as a judging circle (see the club history page) and remains intently focused on that. We probably put more time and effort into beer judging than almost any other club. Many of our members are BJCP judges who graciously offer their knowledge and experience to the rest of us.
Why? Judging helps a brewer refine his or her palate, teaches him or her about classic beer styles, and provides a format for giving him or her constructive criticism and suggestions for improvement. For members planning to enter homebrew competitions or take the BJCP exam, it offers “trial runs”. And it gives us an excuse to drink each others’ beers and the beers of the world’s best craft breweries.
So eight or nine times a year, usually at 7:30pm on the third Wednesday of the month, we gather at a member’s house. We arrive clutching our samples for sharing, either homebrew of any style or commercial beer in the style of the month’s theme. We do our best to judge “blind” and to offer constructive criticism on each homebrew. We might also, occasionally, actually talk about brewing, but most member-to-member teaching is done during co-brews.
Weekend Activities — Co-Brewing
Many of the club members like to brew together. This is the primary way that brewing knowledge is passed around the club. Sometimes it is a grizzled veteran trading wisdom for labor. Other times, two or three brewers might brew a common wort but ferment it in a different way to see how it turns out. Weekend co-brew sessions are common and easy to arrange.
Fun Stuff — Parties and Pubs
Regular meetings are fun but do not always allow enough time for chatting. We also like to include spouses in our activities from time to time, if only to prove that we aren’t just in this for the drinking. So, twice a year the normal monthly meeting is replaced by a party.
The Holiday Party in December features a potluck dinner and the Silli Biere competition, where glory goes to the “brewer” of the oddest, funniest, or most imaginatively packaged beer. Spouses are encouraged to attend and have been known to upstage club members at the competition.
The Summer Picnic in August is even less structured. This is a family event; both spouses and children are invited. There is potluck lunch and much shared homebrew.
Club members also gather informally at area bars on occasion. The most common gathering spot is My Place restaurant in Newtown. But we’ve also been known to show up at Prime 16, City Steam, The Ginger Man, and other places, especially if a member who has “gone pro” is having some sort of tasting.
Getting Serious — Competitions
What good is all that judging if we don’t have a few serious competitions? The club runs two structured competitions each year.
We hold The Chief Pale Face And Ale Competition, an in-house event (club members only), in place if the regular June meeting. The Best Of Show winner gets his name on the club trophy and has bragging rights until the following year.
We also host the Southern New England Regional Homebrew Competition (SNERHC) each fall, usually on a Sunday in October. This is a full-bore, BJCP-sanctioned event open to all, with real prizes for beers, meads, and ciders in all categories. Points awarded count toward the New England Homebrewer Of The Year. More information on SNERHC is available elsewhere on this site.
Cider — The Beardsley Pressing
Most of the members love cider too. Each year, in early November, we arrange a pressing at Beardsley’s Cider Mill in Shelton. The Beardsley boys press a special mix of heirloom apples just for making hard cider. In gratitude, we share with them, and each other, the results of prior years’ pressings.