I belong to the Arizona Society of Homebrewers (ASH) . Ray Daniels is a Member Emeritus of one the oldest beer societies, the Chicago Beer Society (CBS). Both follow the classic definition of a society in that both are organizations that are formed to support a particular activity or provide education on a particular topic generally working with people from diverse backgrounds. The CBS is, "united by a love for craft beer and the art of brewing" whereas ASH is chartered:
To preserve and promote the time-honored tradition of homebrewing, and to recognize it as a true art form through information, education, and dedicated practice.In both cases, education, outreach and personal interaction are the mission. Both are steeped in beer culture and history. Any monetary transactions are in support of the mission. There are by-laws and boards of directors, meetings, events, social gatherings. It is face-to-face and on the street level.
I make this distinction because it seems vogue these days for breweries to call their purchasing "clubs" a society. There are barrel societies, reserve societies, bottle societies, cellar societies and preservation societies. (It seems to me the best way for a brewery to preserve a beer is not to sell it. I know, crazy.) These brewery societies or clubs are really just purchasing arrangements. In most cases, you get a set of bottles and/or discounts on future bottles. You might get a shirt. In very few cases, there is (seemingly always one and only one) "event", which I'm sure more purchasing can be done. The final "benefit" is a right of first refusal to join next year. Why is that always the last point? Hmmm. I belong to Costco. It's not the Costco Society because I guess I don't have that first refusal clause.
The singular-long term interaction with these brewery societies seems to be crashing their always failing commerce site. People spent more time on port 80 with these breweries than did at one of our Oktoberfests. I'm in no way diminishing anyone that decided to go through with for beer that you plan on drinking and enjoying. It's not about you as a consumer or a fan. No. It's about the breweries.
Please stop calling your commerce model, a society. It's not. It diminishes those that lead and participate in full fledged societies. If the craft beer industry is going to get bent on pushing a craft beer definition, then lay off my society.