The Rum River Wort Hogs homebrew club has been going strong for nearly 20 years.
Yvonne Curran loves being a Rum River Wort Hog. Never mind that the primary purpose of the venerable club - crafting handmade beers - holds little interest for her. "Some people have no intention of brewing, like me," Curran said. "I just taste."
And that's part of the beauty of the club, which is open to anyone who's interested in brewing and fine beers. That includes the beginner to the professional, extract and all-grain brewers and vintners, who come from the north metro and beyond.
Every month, the club meets at Billy's Bar and Grill in Anoka, its longtime home base, to talk shop and sample each other's handiwork.
Over the years, the group, which goes back to 1995, before the craft beer boom started, has grown steadily. Today it has nearly 50 members, according to Curran's husband Tim, a founding member who serves as its treasurer.
Often, the club, which relies largely on word-of-mouth, recruits family members. A number of couples, like the Currans, who live in Ramsey, attend meetings together. Dues are $10 per household each year.
The club's name, a wordplay on a local river, "wort," a technical beer term, and the animal known as the wart hog, conveys the sense that members don't take themselves too seriously.
"We try to be encouraging," said Tim Curran. "Some beers are a little less than perfect. I've heard other clubs are more snooty."
Blending art, science
For Greg Kern, a resident of Big Lake Township, it was the lack of craft beers around that got him into home-brewing in the first place, when he started out in the 1990s.
"Now it has really changed," said Kern, who has also been with the group since the beginning. "We've caught up with the Pacific Northwest."
The fact that craft beers are readily available today, however, hasn't dampened his enthusiasm for making his own.
Kern, who holds the unofficial title of "weiss president," has a knack for crafting German-style wheat beers.
"It's a fun blend of art and science," he said. "It's like cooking, but not."
Further, having a bigger craft beer selection to choose from at bars and restaurants or liquor stores is part of the fun.
"Some of us are beer hunters, constantly seeing new things," he said.
Club members often return from vacations bearing beer for the group.
Anoka resident Owen Strand, another founding member, said he's come a long way since his first batch of beer, which was undrinkable.
He usually prefers to work with basic ingredients, including malt, hops, yeast and water, which he combines in different ways.
Whether the beer is light or dark, "It almost always turns out OK and sometimes really nice," and "sure to be tastier than standard commercials."
It's the veterans such as Strand that member Koli Fyten-Swap, who is the club's co-president, along with her husband Cory, has come to rely on over the years.
Fyten-Swap, a farmer and food truck entrepreneur, joined the club six years ago. She likes to experiment with the apples, berries and rhubarb she has growing in her yard.
But it's not just the technical expertise that makes the club worthwhile.
"Our whole lives revolve around the people we met through this club," she said. "It's a social network. We've met so many amazing people."
The Rum River Wort Hogs is among the 37 homebrew clubs statewide registered with the Boulder, Colo.-based American Homebrewers Association.
In some ways, the club's longevity is a testimony to the popularity of craft beer and home brewing, which has taken off locally and nationally, especially over the past decade, said Michael Cot, who heads the Minnesota Home Brewers Association.
The clubs run the gamut from the social to the competitive. Here, many craft beer startups have their roots in home brewing.
"We have a lot of talented brewers and we're expanding into the world of mead," or honey wine, he said.
"The growth is pretty phenomenal."
ANNA PRATT IS A TWIN CITIES FREELANCE WRITER.