As you may have gathered by now, beer is my biggest hobby. I brew it, I enjoy it, I love it. However, there is more to it than that. Yes, beer is a beverage. Possibly the most significant invention in early medical history, but there is more to this than that. On July, 19th, the Dudeletter staff (ok, Scott, my wife, and I) went to The Wrecking Bar to see what the Covert Hops society was all about.
As a homebrewer, I have been at it about 11 months. I got into it from a mixture of one of my heroes, Alton Brown, and one of my friends, Patrick Sullivan. Since my early days of kits to my modern day of designing recipes, I have been self-conscious about my beers. I have one recipe that has made the mini-best of show rounds, but for the most part, my beers have been rated poorly by judges and only enjoyed by friends. So, in 11 months, after just infecting a batch of beer, I dove headlong into a meeting of one of the biggest homebrew clubs in the south.
In my varying research, the Georgia brewing club that came up over and over was the Covert Hops Society. Compared to other slightly more local groups, they are highly active and meet regularly, the third Tuesday of the month. As a sign of their passion with the hobby, the Covert Hops society gets its name from the fact that the act of homebrewing was only legalized in 1995 in Georgia and this previous spring I entered beer in their 18th annual competition; the Peach State Brew Off, a southern regionally recognized competition, (you can do the math). Their 248 members seemed to emanate skill, history, and talent. They ask incredibly complex questions on their mailing list. So I stood in the door way, with a rapidly warming six-pack of homebrew, looking with trepidation at the growing group of beer people, seeing in them the older, more mature knowledge of beer and dove in.
I am glad to say, for the most part my expectations for the meeting were wrong. The leadership, most of the members, and the environment, were all kind and polite. The congeniality of the beer culture is what grows at a homebrewing club. People were generous with information and generous with their beer. They answered honestly; they shared advice, and were willing to answer questions. They were welcoming and open. In fact, once I got a beer in me and loosened up, I realized that my questions were what was farcical. I was trying to pose questions and get silly quotes and obvious creation myths. “How did you get into brewing?” “What beer converted you to homebrew?” “What did you drink in college that was so bad?” “So….I interviewed Wild Heaven and Jailhouse…”
However, after I put down the list of questions and notepad and just started to listen, my article changed. People poured me two ounce samples of their beers, I shared mine; they gave me comments, I gave them comments. This created the give and take of a good hobby. People asked for seconds of my beer and shared thoughts and comments; most were positive.
What I learned from the Covert Hops Society is that beer is a philosophy as much as a culture. The vocabulary of food and scent is unique, but the words are understandable. Homebrewers want to understand what makes beer great and share it. They want to learn all they can and taste all they can. They want to beg, borrow, and steal great ideas. They want to make beer culture a positive place. I saw no one get drunk, no one be outwardly hateful, and everyone be outstanding. There is sublimity in the selflessness of Covert Hops. I will go again and next time, without the notepad.