Sample Brewing Handbook
Chapter 4 - Starting your own guild
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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.)
- 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
- 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
- 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.)
- 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.
- 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.
- 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,
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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
- Have fun. If you don't enjoy what you are doing, no one else will
enjoy it either.