GRAND RAPIDS — Club Night. An extenuation of the Beer City Social Club, homebrew groups from all over the country use the evening to highlight who they are, what they are about and, most importantly, the beers they brew.

Club Night is THE party — some of the best, award winning homebrewers are in attendance and the vibe of the event is all fun. Booths are centered around a theme-be it silly, creative, innovative or off-the-wall, it captures the spirit of these brewers and the spirit of their beer.

Wrestlers, gnomes, chickens, mobsters and monks — you never knew who would serve you your beer. MittenBrew stopped, drank and chatted with some of the crews — homegrown and from across the country.

Primetime Brewers — Grand Rapids

We caught up with Josh Johnson from Primetime during the Beer City Social Club. Tasting a few of their specialty brews like the Spooky Fruit (who doesn’t like to say ‘spooky’ when ordering a drink?) — a sour apricot ale and 4 Tree Cider, an English Cider with sweetened with maple syrup, French oak aged with spruce tips added.

“We’ve got a very experienced amount of guys. Jeff Carlson, our founder, is a multi-award winning cider maker of the year, Eric Fouch, our President, loves to make very experimental beers, has lots of innovative ideas. John Applegarth, who has won lots of Belgian competitions — there’s a breadth of experience within this group. The expo has been super fun. As a beer nerd, you walk around and get to see gadgets, all sorts of stuff. It’s like being in a Lego store for a kid, it’s a nerdy alcoholics paradise. I’m looking forward to tonight with club night. It’s gonna be fun — what can 4,000 different minds create beyond the bounds of regular beer?”

GRIST (Grain Results In Something Tasty) Brew Club — Arlington, Va.

Rick Rawlings, president of this Northern Virginia/DC area club packed the wife, kids and eight sweaty, smelly dudes into an RV and made the 13 hour trip to Michigan. I found them when he yelled across the room, “anyone wanna get laid?” A camouflage print lei safely on my neck and a sample in my hand, we talk.

“We’ve got a great club culture, from really junior guys who have brewed their first beer two to three months ago with kits, and then very senior members who’ve brewed for the past 20 years. A real big breadth of experience. We’ve got lots of guys who like to compete, locally and nationally, and two guys who made it into the AHA National Homebrew Competition finals this year.”

A session IPA, black IPA, a honey Sasion and a Hefeweizen (which took third place in a DC homebrew competition) were some of the beers on tap. 

Michigan, as a topic of conversation, comes easily. Rick’s mom is from Michigan, and I’m a NOVA native. And, apparently, the word about our brew culture is getting around. “We’ve got a lot of folks who have an affinity for Michigan because of the beer. Clearly, Michigan’s brew culture is big enough that we know about the culture here. All of our people are well in tune with what’s happening. It’s a really great place, and we’re really enjoying it.”

Society of Oshkosh Brewers (SOBs) — Oshkosh, Wis.

Lumberjacks and logs, these fellows incorporated their Wisconsin roots into their beers, plus brought some specialties on the side. Established in 1991, Jeff Eden, the group’s current Vice President in red and black flannel, shares his experience of his first AHA conference.

“It’s been good. I love Michigan, it’s been fun. We’ve had a good time.”

These SOBs brought beers highlighting maple and oak, plus some fun ones like Pumpernickel Rye, a “very unique beer the brewer has been working on for years and the Electric Lollipop “This is probably our wildest beer. Lollipops in the fermenter, hibiscus and some other crazy things.”

Kuhnhenn Guild of Brewers (KGB) — Warren

Meeting at Kuhnhenn Brewing since 2006, Justin Chartier guides this group of varied individuals who brought their ‘A’ game to the AHA conference this year and the last two years as well. With twenty two beers on tap and another keg or two lying around, they brought a wide variety of beer to Club Night.

A whole range of sours featuring different bretta strains and a barrel aged sour blonde that was deliciously perfect were some of our favorites. Six different session IPAs with different hops were made in collaboration with some other clubs in their area, changing the flavor profile but keeping everything else the same. KGB even brought a tangerine cremesicle mead — which tasted like a boozy melted ice cream, probably a bit dangerous in anything larger than a sample size cup.

“Our meetings have topics, and we try to do an event here and there,” said Chartier. “We do a lot of different festivals, and we’ll be at Michigan homebrew Fest in August. We also do a small group monthly brew at a member’s house to see their set up. It’s nice because you can see how people are doing different things. Everytime we do that, I pick up something new, so it’s pretty cool.”

616 Brewing — Grand Rapids

What do you say to Macho Man Randy Savage and Hulk Hogan? You say — ‘give me a beer.’

Scott from 616 Brewing and his cohort of 80s wrestling fanatics are at their first AHA Conference. A fairly new group, starting last fall and based on the Westside of the city, They are here, learning to improve their techniques, learn more about the craft, and most importantly, have fun — as their costumes can attest.

“We like to get new people into brewing as well. After this event, we will start some style competitions, stuff like that. Today, one of the beers we brought is a Belgian blonde, a collaboration with the GR Homebrewers. They did a Belgian dubbel, so we’ll do a black and tan with them. We also brought some IPAs, a KBS clone, and some other stuff. We are always taking new members, and I think we’re a pretty fun club.”

Oh yeah.

Glass City Mashers — Toledo, Ohio

This group brought a beer tree. Yes, a tree. With all cask condition ales, gravity fed, they hang, upside down, waiting for your glass.

Shannon, sporting an extremely lovely mohawk, brewed a Honey brown and a Belgian Wit for her first AHA Conference. “It’s awesome. It’s been really great. It’s kind of overwhelming, you walk around and are like — ‘ooh! Ah! What do I do?’ There are lots of friendly people. Our group tries to educate and teach and learn from each other. We’ve got a little bit of everything. I’m really enjoying the conference, and I really enjoy being a part of this group.”

Gravel Bottom Craft Brewery