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Homebrewing hobbyists collaborate to share ideas, experience

Rob Qualls and Paul Townsend Lamb talk about founding the Grand Rapids Homebrewers Club, their hopes for the future and what being a member is all about.
Rob Qualls, left, and Paul Townsend Lamb, right

Rob Qualls, left, and Paul Townsend Lamb, right /Emilee Andrews

O'Connor's Homebrew Supply

619 Lyon St Ne 


Club members listen to guest speaker Ben Darcie at July's monthly meeting

Club members listen to guest speaker Ben Darcie at July's monthly meeting /Emilee Andrews

Next Monday in Beer City, USA, 30 paying members and several potential members of this new homebrew club will share in the learning process of not only tasting microbrews but becoming brewers themselves. Members range from those who have brewed beer for years to those who have yet to brew on their own. The group holds collaborative brew days, enjoys discounts at the local O'Connor's homebrew supply store and welcomes everyone - even those who think brewing beer is too difficult a venture. 

Founded in June 2013, the club is one of several that have gained popularity in Grand Rapids in recent years. With the explosion of the craft beer culture, homebrew clubs are becoming a haven for brewers old and new to come together and discuss brewing, get advice and taste the creations of other enthusiasts.

One contributing factor to the rise in popularity of homebrewing and craft beer in general is the idea that brewing at home can help reduce the cost of beer. Unfortunately, says Qualls, this is rarely the case.

“People think, ‘Oh, I can brew this for cheaper,’ but that’s not always the case. Once you start homebrewing, you realize that you spend more for the hobby than anything,” he says.

Grand Rapids’ title of Beer City has also influenced the number of people who have started to learn more about craft beer.

“I think the whole Beer City, USA has really pushed that beer culture into the homebrewers and a lot more people are trying it and really getting into craft beer,” says Lamb. “[People] are really exploring new options and flavors, some good and some not so much.”

Making mistakes is to be expected, whether it’s an experienced brewer or a novice, and part of the mission for the Grand Rapids Homebrewers Club is to help people learn more about beer. They promote a welcoming environment where members are welcome to take a problem or question to fellow members who have more experience.

“We’re here to have fun, do something we enjoy doing and if we learn something along the way, that’s awesome,” says Lamb.

Another educational aspect of the club shows itself in the generosity of members with brewing systems in their homes.

“If it’s your first time, and you want to go hand-in-hand with somebody for your first batch of beer with them standing right next to you [explaining the process], we’re more than happy to do that,” says Lamb.

Too often, potential members and brewers shy away from the idea because their overall impression is that brewing is too hard to do. Qualls encourages those people to come out anyway, just to see what it’s like and maybe meet someone to help with getting started.

In just over a year, the club has grown from a couple people to 30 people and that number is steadily rising. Those interested in joining the club are welcome and encouraged to audit a meeting or two before they commit to being an actual member. Everyone who has taken this opportunity has ultimately become a member.

Membership fees are $20 annually, and that purchases a tee shirt, some educational material and a discount card, allong with joining a community of brewers and gaining a support network.

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