Chasing coveted limited-release beers can be quite the chore. You may stand in long lines in frigid weather, yet still not score the “whale” you’ve been waiting for. I’ve been there, done that, and found myself cursing those who strode triumphantly away with armloads of beers that were denied to me. Surely there’s a better way.
Enter the beer club.
For a fee, you too can be a VIP. Typical benefits include first dibs and first tastes on limited releases; members-only beers, events, swag; and everyday discounts. From clubs with substantial perks and matching fees to free groups, many Virginia breweries offer a way to be just a little more important.
CHOOSING A CLUB
To choose your perfect club, match the price with the benefits and determine how much those benefits are worth to you. Consider:
- Pre-purchase opportunities. If you want limited-release beers without waiting in line, this is the way to go.
- The beers’ value to you. For example, if the beers are milk stouts and you’re lactose intolerant, this is probably not the club for you.
- Members-only perks. If you’re getting beers or swag that anyone can get, VIP status loses its glimmer.
- Convenience and distance. If the brewery is far away, this may not be the club for you, especially if the time for beer pick-up is short.
- On the other hand. If you have a favorite out-of-town brewery, extra-special events and releases provide that perfect excuse.
- Discounts. If you’re a regular, this perk can pay for itself.
- Affinity for the brewery. If you don’t appreciate the brewery and won’t rock the swag, well, enough said.
- Cheap or free. You can join SIP clubs (Sorta Important Person, my term) for little-to-nothing and enjoy special events, mugs for a larger pour, etc., like the legendary Legend mug club, Kindred Spirits’ VIP list, Origin Lab Rats mug club and COTU Satellite Club.
Below are some Virginia clubs, prices (annual, unless noted), and top perks. Many clubs limit number of members and accept new members once a year.
Hardywood Family Tree Beer Club, Richmond (Standard, $245; Premium, $295)
Both levels receive quarterly packages with three 750-mL beers and swag, plus prerelease purchase options for Trickery, Foolery, Ruse, Gingerbread Stout complete set and other popular beers. Premium members receive additional prerelease options and a blow-out party.
Three Notch’d Case Club, Richmond, Charlottesville, Harrisonburg, and Roanoke (Basic, $25/month; VIP, $35/month)
Basic members get a monthly case of beer and discounts at all four locations. VIPs get priority access to limited-release beers in their case, a growler and a weekly Tap That beer (available Fridays in Richmond) plus quarterly School of Brew events in Charlottesville.
Get your own 20-ounce mug, personalized bottle opener/keychain, members-only events and a rewards program.
Brothers Horizon Society, Harrisonburg ($150)
The favorite perk of this longstanding club is unlimited access to purchase popular Resolute Russian Imperial Stout and its variants. Cost includes bottles of Resolute, Drunken Mornings, and others; swag; ongoing discounts; exclusive events and members-only beers.
Adroit Theory Black Heart Society, Purcellville (The Sect, $150; The Legion, $300; enrollment open)
This NOVA brewery is known for powerful beers that push the boundaries of ABV, creativity, and, yeah, everything. All members receive access to four exclusive beers, four parties and discounts. Legion members get custom glasses, a custom growler with fill and a larger discount.
Other Virginia-area clubs include Virginia Beer Co., Williamsburg; Smartmouth, Norfolk and Virginia Beach; O’Connor, Norfolk; Adventure, Fredericksburg; Bald Top, Madison; Aslin Beer Co., Herndon; and The Bruery (a California brewery with a D.C. connection).