So you've thought about home brewing...
A lot of us have thought about making our own craft beer but Dave Parry has gone one step further and set up a brew club in his garage.
Does this sound like you?
You quite like homebrewing and you have your own set up at home that you are very proud of. You can only drink a certain amount of beer so you brew maybe every month or two. You talk to your friends about brewing and they are vaguely interested, but it’s something that you do and they don’t. Maybe once or twice they have joined you to brew together and have enjoyed the experience but aren’t taking it further.
If so, read on and discover the story behind the founding of a brew club, the Beer Foundry, plus tips on how to start your own!
It’s where I was about a year ago and I was having discussions with some of those friends to work out how could they get more involved. I considered setting up a commercial brewery and even researched the tax and other registration requirements of doing that. Having looked into it though, it’s very hard to make it work on a small scale. It’s sort of misses the point anyway because my friends wanted to take part in the brewing of beer as much as they wanted a share in the produce.
After a couple of iterations, we settled on a model that we call a brew club, more of a cooperative really of like-minded people who all share the same brewing equipment.
The brewery is set up in my garage and consists of a three-vessel all-grain system with an electrically heated hot liquor tank, a mash tun with Herms system and a propane gas heated kettle with 25-litre conical fermenters. It’s not exactly a glamorous set-up, but neither is it the sort of thing that a casual wanna be home-brewer would necessarily start with.
I was thinking through how the model works and the first conclusion I came to was that if I increased the amount we collectively brewed, I didn’t want to be bottling for everyone. It’s the part of the process I like the least. A condition of being involved therefore would be purchasing a 5 L mini keg from Dark Farm with a tap dispenser and CO2 gas system. This costs just over £100 and is enough to flush out someone who casually expresses an interest but then doesn’t commit, but not so much that it excludes people who would like to get involved. Not only that, but when people see their new mini keg they get very excited about the whole idea.
We held our first session just after the summer holidays in 2019 and have brewed around twice per month since then. The members all enjoy having their own beer on tap, which is always a talking point when friends visit the house. They have also been able to talk about being a brewer are having their own brewery. There is a real sense of pride in our collective efforts. The members have also contributed pieces of equipment to upgrade the equipment in the Brewery.
We are keeping the finances very simple and obviously compliant with HMRC. If a member turns up to a brewing session then they pay £10 each to cover the costs of the ingredients, the fuel other consumables and pieces of equipment. Everyone is aware that they are not buying the beer and nor are they able to sell it. This is strictly for domestic use. I have rung HMRC and checked with them and they are happy that this fits the definition.
So after six months in full-scale operation, we are now up to 11 members and have already upgraded so that we can brew 50 L batches so that everyone can have a share if they want. It can make the garage a bit crowded at times, but we always need someone to make the bacon sandwiches or order the takeaway.
So if you want to follow our fortunes then you can find us on Instagram @beerfoundryuk, and feel free to get in touch If you want to set up something yourself. We’d be happy to share any tips.