Image found at the Worthogs facebook page
I was introduced to craft beer through a homebrew/beer fan club in Minnesota called the Rum River Worthogs. They were a group of older gentlemen, along with their wives & friends, who would meet in the basement of a local restaurant to discuss, share, and talk about beer (homebrewed & purchased). The most popular beers, besides the ones that were shared in great enough quantity so that everyone got to try them, were the ones that were the most well made in the opinion of the gathered beer fans. The brewers of said beers were more than willing to discuss their well received beer: what their malt bill was, what hops were used, what yeast was used, why did the brewer decide to use a single infusion instead of a stepped mash, etc.. The Q & A sessions made the showcased brewer feel capable, and the answers he/she gave made their listening audience better brewers for having paid attention.
The homebrew club is where homebrewers should be able to come together to share their successes and failures, share advice, help tweak recipes, and criticize (hopefully constructively) each others creations. Not all homebrew clubs will be like this, but beer people (brewers, fans, etc) tend to be a collegial bunch. So, this ideal may not be too far off the norm of homebrew clubs around the world.
Also, for people who may not be homebrewers (yet), but are beer fans, it is in the common interest of beer fans around the world to support their local homebrew clubs. This is because it is from those clubs that the most admired brewers around the world first got into brewing in the first place. For example, Mitch Steele (of Stone Brewing Company) was a member of Brew Free or Die (New Hampshire), and Teri Fahrendorf (of the Steelhead Brewing Company) was a member of the San Andreas Malts (San Francisco). So, helping homebrewers become better brewers helps all beer fans.
These days I live in Chicago where I have been fortunate to find a homebrew club in my neighborhood called the Square Kegs. The Square Kegs is composed of homebrewers of varying levels of experience. The club is rather new, but we have a few projects in mind that I think will help strengthen our collective brewing knowledge and brewing habits. To keep tabs on what we are up to, I recommend you visit our facebook page. It can be found here.
Do any of you belong to homebrew clubs? If so, have you enjoyed the meetings? Have you learned anything from attending said meetings? Let us know!
If you do not have a homebrew club in your area, consider checking out the American Homebrewers Association (AHA) website. Specifically, their club resources wiki which can be found here.