Sample Brewing Handbook
Chapter 4 - Starting your own guild

Ivy Border

When starting up a new guild, there are a lot of things to consider, not the least of which was their question of "Should I run away now?" I would have to say that anyone who actually tries to make a guild thrive and survive should be sent in for psychiatric evaluation, but that doesn't mean they shouldn't do it.

I have put down some suggestions that I have for someone thinking about starting a guild. Since people and groups are out there thinking about starting new guilds, I thought I would share this with one and all who are thinking about starting up a guild themself.

The following list is far from complete regarding what to consider, but it certainly is well past the basics if and when thinking about it seriously. Some of the examples are specific to brewing but can be easily translated to the appropriate art or science involved.

  1. Make the meetings at the same location and time, as well as being central to the people likely to show up regularly. This will be much more difficult in large Baronies (ie. Steppes/Elfsea/Stargate), but still try to get someplace that at least isn't in the far outskirts.

  2. Plan on at least 3 hours for the guild meeting, especially if you are planning on doing something. Although we can get away with 2 hours some nights, if newcomers show up and ask questions (as they should) it takes at least 50% longer to do anything.

  3. I recommend that the person whose house the guild is run at to be the Guildmaster. This is not a requirement, it just makes it easier. The reason for this is the fact that it can require a lot of work outside of the meetings to do prep work.

    At minimum, the Guildmaster will have to do the prep work at home and then bring things. This can be difficult when you are talking about carrying carboys (not to mention damaging to the beverage) around and what not. If the Guildmaster can get "regular" access to the house the meetings are located at, then it could work out.

  4. Do something each month besides discussing brewing: make a mead; beer, cider, etc; bottle an earlier batch; try some period recipes; tastings; etc. My experience is that if you just get together and talk, it quickly degrades and eventually people aren't motivated to promote the art the guild is designed for. (This may or may not be a phenomena central to Bryn Gwlad.)

  5. Try to have work weekends where you try something different, such as all-grain brewing. With expert help, it can be done in about 4 hours, but plan on 6-8 so newcomers to the style can help as well as ask questions.

  6. If you do activities, the Guildmaster must be ready to do a lot of the prep work. Most months, we don't have the time to clean the carboy or bottles and then do the rest of the "real" work. My kitchen isn't large enough for cleaning and brewing to happen at the same time. (Although we have had as many as 12 people in there at once, it's not good for being productive.)

  7. The Guildmaster must decide to do this for one full year before canning it. If after a couple months, only 1 or 2 people are showing up, they'll want to throw it away. Here, it's the simple fact that a lot of people won't even try it out until the guild has been going awhile. They finally go "Oh yeah, I've been meaning to do that. Let's go try it."

    For the first year, we had typically only 1 or 2 people besides the Guildmaster. After that it slowly increased. Although we still have months where it might only be 2 people, we have a lot of months with 8 or 10 people now. (Particularly when we tried to do tastings of different things. Lots of people want to learn that.)

  8. Try to set goals for 6 months to 1 year in advance. If you do this, people will keep motivated. If there are no goals to work towards, people tend to just waffle and the guild falters.

  9. Keep a record book of the recipes you do. We didn't do this for about the first year, and I regret it. The recipe book allows you to reproduce the good stuff, avoid the bad stuff, and give out recipes to those interested. (We will eventually produce a small recipe book to give out to people.) You *might* want to keep meeting notes, but I found that didn't work for us.

  10. Make sure you have enough climate controlled storage for the active brews and bottled batches. We typically have 10 or more batches going at once with varying amounts of bottled stuff around. Similar considerations are valid for other guilds, such as cooks, herbs, etc.

  11. Make sure you have a steady supply of exhaustible equipment/supplies, such as bottles. When you go through many batches and you give them away as gifts, prizes, or do a tavern, you never get as many back as you had when you started. How many is enough? I have no clue.

  12. Make a label or insignia for the guild products. Make sure it attributes it to the guild and group. The guild needs to be recognized, and this is a good way of getting it done.

    As well, if people do personal stuff, make sure they label it with their own personal label or insignia so they get appropriate recognition for it.

  13. Remember to help all of those new people. They are usually too uncertain or shy to ask questions. Help them out by trying to answer them before they ask. Even then, you need to talk to them and try to bring out their questions.

  14. For brewing, remember that no SCA moneys can be used for purchasing or making alcohol or the equipment and supplies needed to make it. Although I doubt this is a problem since I've not seen much of this happening with guilds, sometimes people forget to check the rules.

  15. Have fun. If you don't enjoy what you are doing, no one else will enjoy it either.

Ivy Border