Members of the Masonic Craft Beer Society explain how their passion for ale and socials led to the first fully-fledged beer Lodge. We join them in conversation
The Masonic Craft Beer Society (MCBS) grew out of the first lockdown. Some of us belong to a WhatsApp group, which we used to stay in touch and to keep each other sane. Every Friday night we met on Zoom and we’d start by talking about the different beers we were drinking. There was a lot of interest and we saw this could become a thing. We launched on Facebook with the initial idea of creating an online database of all the beers we’d been trying, with a description and rating. Within 24 hours, we had around 300 members who were keen to get involved.
What is craft beer? That is a contentious question but we take a general view that the brewery should be relatively small and innovative.
Part of my thought process was that we were all drinking slightly different styles. My dad in his Lodge in Brighton is a best bitter guy, while I was drinking over-the-top super-hoppy IPAs, and, of course, there is so much stuff in between. I felt we could build on this as there is so much to appreciate with the different types of beer. All it takes is some sharing and open-mindedness, which for me is what Freemasonry is all about. It was a social way to take our mind off lockdown while sharing, educating and opening the mind.
Soon, we had about 2,500 people in our Facebook group. We began to contact a few breweries to see if they were interested in sitting down with us on a Zoom call and we’d go through their selection in a sitting, bringing the taproom into the home. The first was Thornbridge, and they sold boxes to our members and then talked us through a virtual tasting. So we helped out the brewery, and our members had a great evening. We’ve done four or five more since then. We realised that if people were doing it on Zoom we could transition to in-person.
One of our members is the Beadle at Wax Chandlers’ Hall and he offered us the use of the building for an event in summer 2020. That social had about 70 of us with three beers brewed by a member who is a commercial brewer. Two had Masonic names. We had a stout called 9pm Toast; we had Sunken Dreams, which was a New England IPA; and we had Lesser Light, which was named for the Wax Chandlers. We raised £500 for charity and everybody felt like friends. It was a lovely, relaxed day and a real highlight after that first lockdown.
We were then approached and asked if we were interested in taking over a failing Lodge. We were introduced to Horus 3155, which has a fantastic history but which was going to struggle to stay open post-COVID. May 2022 will be our first meeting and we will be balloting for more than 100 members. The MCBS has members from Durham, Lancaster, Kent, Dorset, Scotland, Ireland, Spain, Bolivia, Canada and Ghana. And one of our members from the US hopes to come to the meeting in May.
We are planning two meetings a year. The idea is to get together at Freemasons’ Hall in Lodge Room 10, the Egyptian Temple, which suits the Horus name very well. We will have a Festive Board in the gallery suite and the anteroom will be our cash bar for the different breweries that we will invite to participate. There will be tastings after the meetings, so it will be an event, something our members will really look forward to. We want to be an e-Lodge so will have a fantastic website, all subs will be paid online and we have newsletter called the Horus Herald.
N TA We have talked about brewing our own beer, but one of our goals is to celebrate existing breweries. We want to support those craft breweries rather than commercialise the society and we are really keen to support what is already out there. We can do that through the Lodge. We will bring in a different brewery at every meeting.
AB We will continue the fortnightly Zoom meetings and tastings independent from the Lodge. The aim is to be as open as possible, and always offer a range of tastes at any meeting, so we cover the full spectrum of flavours and variety. People only need to try a third of a glass, enough to get a taste and experience it in a safe and fun environment.
GS Lots of new beers have been discovered through the MCBS but we may also have inadvertently created one. When we arrange tastings we email different breweries to see if they are interested. One brewery, S43, which some of us really like, didn’t get back to us. Then a few months later they released a beer we inspired that’s like a coffee stout. Some of the members have tried it and say it’s very nice, but I am saving mine. Another beer, Secret Handshake, was made by Steam Machine Brew Co and was released commercially.
N TA We are the first beer Lodge and people might think that is very raucous and boozy and a bit disrespectful. But that’s not what will happen. Our aim is to celebrate beer and treat it very much like wine-tasting. Every member has a serious interest in beer and brewing and the craft behind it.
AB One thing we are very proud of is the charity aspect. Early on, we created some MCBS badges. We sold 99 of them but kept back badge 100, which was then sold in a raffle raising more than £1,000 for charity. We are keen on maintaining those Masonic values through raising money.
JW At the time we were presented with the opportunity to take on the Lodge, we thought long and hard about how to brand Horus. We had ideas for various names based on beer and brewing but Horus is a Hallstone Lodge and one former member is on the Roll of Honour. We felt there was too much history so we kept the name and created a new badge that has retained the original elements of the Horus badge. Our virtual happy hour will still continue in parallel with Horus. But Horus is now our official home.