The Fayetteville Lovers of Pure Suds – or “FLOPS” for short – celebrated its 21st birthday earlier this month. Founded by the late Dr. John Griffiths, the club focuses on home brewing and the overall enjoyment of good beer. What was once a small but dedicated group of avid brewers has grown in both size and scope. Today club members who have never touched a mash paddle assemble alongside those who do so regularly to raise a pint and celebrate their favorite beverage.
The early years of the club were well documented in newsletters, now archived on the FLOPS website. Those newsletters offered brewing advice, competition announcements, accounts of beer-centric road trips, and other general musings. The first issue contained an entry from then-Secretary/Treasurer and “Minister of First Year Plan,” Stephen C. Rudko, who provided members a rallying cry:
“Comrades, as we compose ourselves in a not entirely undue reverence and slam back one more heady intoxicant (the fruit of last year’s labors), as we look for evermore creative and personalized methods of brewing, as we ready our equipment and secure our provisions, as we pick ourselves up from off the floor or sidewalk (from out of the gutter for some), let us find ourselves singular, united, unanimous in this our most fervent cry, now and forevermore: Let Us Brew!”
The humor in those early newsletters is obvious and in abundant supply.
Fayetteville Lovers of Pure Suds
What: Home brewing club, established in 1993
When: Meets at 7:30 p.m. monthly, third Thursday
Where: Apple Blossom Brewing Company, 1550 East Zion Road in Fayetteville
More: Website / Facebook / Instagram
The club grew from six members in 1993 to almost 50 in just a few short months. Ozark Brewing Company – John Gilliam’s brew pub that would later host monthly FLOPS meetings – opened its doors in 1994 at the intersection of Dickson Street and West Avenue, further sparking local interest in flavorful beer. The club and OBC developed an early partnership. The pub not only hosted meetings, but also organized brewing competitions. Winners were often invited to brew their recipes on OBC’s brewing system. Based on all of the beer-related activity of the time, it’s easy to think of the early 90s as the catalyst for what we are now enjoying in Fayetteville – a bona fide brewing revolution.
The Home Brewery in Fayetteville also played an important role in growing the local brewing community. Owner Andy Sparks was there during the early years of the club, catering to the ingredient and equipment needs of members. The store has at times served as a meeting space for FLOPS, and continues to act as a launching pad for brewing newbies. Club members receive a 10 percent discount on their purchases, which can be an extremely valuable benefit for those brewing on a regular basis. It is the place club members tend to go to talk shop between official meetings.
Today FLOPS meetings are held at 7:30 p.m. on the third Thursday of each month at Apple Blossom Brewing Company. The typical meeting involves a good deal of revelry – along with some education, a few announcements, and reports from the officers. Home brewers bring their best beers to be enjoyed by everyone, along with their less-than-best attempts to be critiqued by more experienced brewers. Significant improvements in home brewed beer can be made by listening to the wisdom of those who have been there before. Fortunately, most experienced home brewers are skilled at delivering critical feedback without breaking the spirits of the novice.
Don’t have any home brew to share? No problem. Commercial beers from across the world are brought by members (and guests) who encounter them on their journeys. It’s not uncommon to find some of the most sought-after beer at meetings – Russian River, Three Floyds, or Cigar City, for example. Limited release and other noteworthy beers found in local stores are also in the mix. And the great thing about beer people is that they love to share! They seem to enjoy sharing and talking about the beer as much as they enjoy drinking it.
Other club activities include monthly socials, the occasional “brew-in,” and multiple competitions throughout the year. FLOPS recently developed an equipment loaner program for those interested in trying the hobby. Boil kettles, mash tuns, immersion chillers, etc. can be checked out at no cost – which is a big deal considering the cost of those items. Newbies can decide if they like the hobby before they invest their money, and extract brewers can borrow a mash tun if they want to do an all-grain batch for the first time. This is proof that one of the club’s original charges –spreading the good word about home brewing – is still being carried out 21 years later.
How has the club changed over the years?
“There are better brewers,” said Ashley Goodwin, current club president (or “Primary Fermenter”). “Because of the improvement in technique and available equipment we have really become much more savvy brewers. We are producing a myriad of styles that we would never have thought possible with the old equipment and ingredients.”
Club demographics have also changed – for the better. “We have become diverse in culture, age, and gender,” Goodwin said. “The age of our brewers, for example, now runs from 21 to 90.” Whereas women were once a novelty at club meetings, they now have a regular presence. Some of the best home brew is, in fact, produced by the women of FLOPS.
You might think beer culture is new to Fayetteville. Momentum is building, sure. A new brewery seems to open in the area every few months, and craft beer can be found at virtually every restaurant and bar. Heck, you can even buy a six-pack of IPA at Walmart these days. But to think Fayetteville just recently developed a taste for good beer is a bit misguided. Folks here have long enjoyed beer made with a flavorful approach. FLOPS is a living testament to this, and recently celebrated a milestone birthday. 21 years ago a group of forward-thinking beer lovers formed a club.
So raise a pint and welcome FLOPS to its legal drinking age!