Technology and social media have replaced a fair amount of the once common personal interactions among folks of all demographics. But there’s still a drink out there — a popular product — that seems to consistently be a calling card for community and, well, for being more sociable in general.
That’s right, we’re talking about beer.
For Danny Benz, 34, of Hobe Sound, Florida, it’s not only about the beer, but also about being queer.
“I wanted to launch this group because of the great need for more LGBTQ-plus community projects and events,” Benz said. “I was looking for ways to connect with my community in the Treasure Coast area. The further north you go from Fort Lauderdale, the less and less there is for people to come together,” he said.
Benz is an amateur home brewer and co-creator of the Meetup group “Queers Makin’ Beers — Treasure Coast.” He works with co-creators Rebecca Sandidge, and Michael James Meier — who is also the group’s more experienced brewer.
Benz said the concept is simple: "We started Queers Making' Beers [in Martin County] to have an LGBTQ-plus social group that is a safe and fun place to get together outside of [the] bar scene and make beer,” he said.
Benz, who has owned a small hair salon in Palm Beach Gardens for three years, helped start the group about two and a half years ago.
“In July 2015 we made our first beer as a group and it was amazing to have more than 20 queers show up,” said Benz. “We want more people to come share in our love of home brewing.”
Meier is co-owner of Ground Floor Farms in downtown Stuart, where the group hosts its brew dates.
“He has an indoor facility where we can brew comfortably at his urban farm,” Benz said.
Benz said Sandidge and Kate Summeril originally started Queers Makin’ Beers in San Francisco, California.
“[The] two lesbians from Florida created the club out of the necessity to have a homebrew beer club that was not dominated by predominately white straight males,” Benz said. “They wanted to create a space by queer people for queer people to learn and explore something outside of the more popular queer scenes and activities.”
Benz describes the mission of the group this way: “It is important to us that we hold a space free of judgment of race, religion, gender, sexuality and anything else that may normally cause division, even in the queer community.”
The mix is part drinking and part education for those who are interested in learning how to brew beer. The group gives its members access to brewing equipment and assistance from those who have experience in brewing it, like Meier.
One beer a month is usually created, said Benz, although they often brew two. The Meetup takes place at a local bar. Besides brewing the beer, the group also makes label art, enters home brewing competitions, makes its own t-shirts and enters homebrew competitions. Expect other “beer-related adventures” as well.
Being a part of the club is free, but Benz said the group raises funds by selling merchandise and accepting donations for supplies and ingredients. He said the San Francisco chapter donated money from their fundraisers to help his group start, and still provide help and support when needed.
“We currently have seven members that attend most events and we usually have a handful of members that come sporadically,” Benz said. “We would definitely like to grow our membership and even have other chapters in Florida.”
Benz said the San Francisco chapter has inspired him. He said they not only make award-winning beer, but also have created a community and give back to local charities.
“I hope that we will have a similar impact in South Florida as well,” Benz said. “I am very passionate about Queers Makin' Beers Treasure Coast and look forward to expanding our reach and community for our LQBTQ-plus brothers and sisters,” he said.
Members can bring a “not-queer plus one or two” guest to any event. All members must be 21 or older. Go to meetup.com for more information and to join the group. There is a Facebook page as well.
The next brewing event is April 15 at Ground Floor Farm, located at 100 SE M.L.K. Jr. Blvd. in Stuart. The last few gatherings included a “Pumpkin Ale Bottling Event,” a “Sassy Saison Bottling Day” and a “Radical Cream Ale Brewing Date.”